Paul Newman 1925-2008: By His Works Ye Shall Know Him

Movies

It's become fashionable in right-wing circles to pooh-pooh the social activism of left-leaing actors. "They should just shut up," we hear. Of course when Chuck Norris claims to have done two tours in Iraq, or Charlton Heston advocates for guns, the right says nary a word. But if Brad Pitt decides to hold a contest for building green homes in New Orleans for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina, his motives must somehow be suspect.

Oddly absent from the right's vitriol was Paul Newman. Perhaps it was because he was Hud and Cool Hand Luke and Rocky Graziano and Butch Cassidy and Fast Eddie Felson -- "manly men" that didn't threaten Republicans. Or maybe it was his late-life fascination with race cars, which gave him manly-man cred among the NASCAR set. Or perhaps it was just that aside for his support for Eugene McCarthy, which landed him on Richard Nixon's enemies list, his was a quiet activism, one that later in life manifested quietly, almost stealthily, on supermarket shelves all over America, where even people who watched American Idol and NASCAR might buy a jar of Newman's Own brand salsa to have with their chips on Super Bowl Sunday. It was an activism that manifested in the concept of the Hole-In-The-Wall Camps, named for one of his most beloved films, for kids with serious illnesses.

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