December 12, 2008

Actor Van Johnson, '40s heartthrob, dies at 92

In this Jan. 7, 1985 file photo, actor Van Johnson is shown backstage at the
In this Jan. 7, 1985 file photo, actor Van Johnson is shown backstage at the Palace Theatre in New York.

NEW YORK – Van Johnson, whose boy-next-door wholesomeness made him a popular Hollywood star in the '40s and '50s with such films as "30 Seconds over Tokyo," "A Guy Named Joe" and "The Caine Mutiny," died Friday of natural causes. He was 92.

Johnson died at Tappan Zee Manor, an assisted living center in Nyack, N.Y., said Wendy Bleisweiss, a close friend.

With his tall, athletic build, handsome, freckled face and sunny personality, the red-haired Johnson starred opposite Esther Williams, June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor and others during his two decades under contract to MGM.

He proved to be a versatile actor, equally at home with comedies ("The Bride Goes Wild," "Too Young to Kiss"), war movies ("Go for Broke," "Command Decision"), musicals ("Thrill of a Romance," "Brigadoon") and dramas ("State of the Union," "Madame Curie").

During the height of his popularity, Johnson was cast most often as the all-American boy. He played a real-life flier who lost a leg in a crash after the bombing of Japan in "30 Seconds Over Tokyo." He was a writer in love with a wealthy American girl (Taylor) in "The Last Time I Saw Paris." He appeared as a post-Civil War farmer in "The Romance of Rosy Ridge."

More recently, he had a small role in 1985 as a movie actor in Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo."

A heartthrob with bobbysoxers — he was called "the non-singing Sinatra" — Johnson married only once. In 1947 at the height of his career, he eloped to Juarez, Mexico, to marry Eve Wynn, who had divorced Johnson's good friend Keenan Wynn four hours before.

The marriage produced a daughter, Schuyler, and ended bitterly 13 years later. "She wiped me out in the ugliest divorce in Hollywood history," Johnson told reporters.

As a young actor, Johnson had a brief run with Warner Bros. and then got a screen test and a contract with MGM with the help of his friend Lucille Ball.

After a bit in "The War Against Mrs. Hadley," Johnson appeared with Lionel Barrymore as "Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant," as Mickey Rooney's friend in "The Human Comedy" and as a Navy pilot in "Pilot No. 5."

His big break, with Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy in the wartime fantasy "A Guy Named Joe," was almost wiped out by tragedy.

On April 1, 1943, his DeSoto convertible was struck head-on by another car. "They tell me I was almost decapitated, but I never lost consciousness," he remembered. "I spent four months in the hospital after they sewed the top of my head back on. I still have a disc of bone in my forehead five inches long."

"A Guy Named Joe" was postponed for his recovery, and the forehead scar went unnoticed in his resulting popularity. MGM cashed in on his stardom with three or four films a year. Among them: "The White Cliffs of Dover," "Two Girls and a Sailor," "Weekend at the Waldorf." "High Barbaree," "Mother Is a Freshman," "No Leave No Love" and "Three Guys Named Mike."

Though he hadn't lost his boyish looks, Johnson's vogue faded by the mid-'50s, and the film roles became sparse, though he did have a "comeback" movie with Janet Leigh in 1963, "Wives and Lovers."

Also in the 1960s he returned to the theater, playing "Damn Yankees" in summer theaters at $7,500 a week. Then he accepted a two-year contract to star in "The Music Man" in London.

He explained why in an interview: "Because the phone didn't ring. Because the film scripts were getting crummier and crummier. Because I sat beside my pool in Palm Springs one day and told myself: `Van, you'll be 45 this year. If you don't start doing something now, you never will.'"

For three decades he was one of the busiest stars in regional and dinner theaters, traveling throughout the country from his New York base. In the 1980s, Johnson appeared on Broadway in "La Cage aux Folles," late in the run of the popular Jerry Herman msuical.

"The white-haired ladies who come to matinees are the people who put me on top," he said in a 1992 in Michigan, where he was appearing at a suburban Detroit theater. "I'm still grateful to them." Television provided some gigs ("The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island" and "McMillan & Wife"), and he also became a painter, his canvases selling as high as $10,000. In a 1988 interview, he told of an important art lesson:

"I was on the Onassis yacht with Winston Churchill. He got his canvas out and so did I. He was working away, and he growled at me, `Don't just sit there and stare! Get some paint and splash it on!'"

He was born Charles Van Dell Johnson on Aug. 25, 1916, in Newport, R.I., where his father was a real estate salesman. From his earliest years he was fascinated by the touring companies that played in Newport theaters, and after high school he announced his intention to try his luck in New York. He arrived in 1934 with $5 and his belongings packed in a straw suitcase.

Johnson's tour of casting offices landed him nothing but chorus jobs. He went to Hollywood for a bit in the movie of "Too Many Girls," then was signed to a Warner Bros. contract.

"First the zenith, then the nadir," Johnson recalled. "Warner Bros. dropped me after `Murder in the Big House.'"

The discouraged young actor was about to return to New York when Ball, whom he knew on "Too Many Girls," invited him to dinner at Chasen's restaurant.

"Lucille tried to cheer me up, but I just couldn't seem to laugh," he said in a 1963 interview. "Suddenly she said to me, `There's Billy Grady over there; he's MGM's casting director. I'm going to introduce you, and at least you're going to act like you're the star I think you will be.'"

November 13, 2008

Irene Dunne - "Sing, My Heart" from Love Affair

October 28, 2008

The Donna Reed Show - First Season Available on DVD

This set was long overdue, and it's fabulous! My compliments to Arts Alliance America for a whole season release at a very reasonable price. While mostly a family sitcom, with Donna Reed having so much influence on the show, many subjects not dared touched by others were sensitively portrayed. She was an Academy award winner who did a wonderful cross over to television.

October 25, 2008

Penn St. scores last 10 to win, 13-6

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penn State, unbeaten and unbowed, proved it belongs in the middle of any national championship talk.

Pat Devlin came off the bench for injured starting quarterback Daryll Clark in the fourth quarter and leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives, sneaking in for the go-ahead touchdown to give No. 3 Penn State a 13-6 victory over No. 10 Ohio State on Saturday night.

“When Pat came in we weren’t missing a beat at all. We believed in him and he did a good job,” Penn State receiver Derrick Williams said in an interview with ESPN.

The win put the Nittany Lions (9-0, 5-0) in command in the Big Ten and severely crimped the chances of the Buckeyes (7-2, 4-1) grabbing an unprecedented third consecutive outright league title and a piece of their fourth conference championship in a row.

Penn State, with coach Joe Paterno coaching from the press box for the fourth straight game, solidified its position as a national championship contender and also erased the ugly memories of an 0-7 mark in Columbus since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Penn State’s previous victory in Columbus came in 1978.

Defenses controlled most of the game before an Ohio Stadium-record crowd of 105,711.

Ohio State had the ball and a three-point lead when Terrelle Pryor fumbled, defensive back Mark Rubin using his left hand to knock the ball away as the freshman quarterback carried on a third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman fell on the loose ball at the Buckeyes 38.

“From where I stood, he saw a couple gaps or penetration and tried to slide outside and someone hit the ball,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “It was unfortunate.”

Immediately, the Nittany Lions were at a disadvantage as Clark remained on the sideline. He was meeting with team doctors. Paterno later said that Clark had a minor head injury, although the coach said he had not spoken with his medical personnel.

In stepped Devlin, who had seen action in seven games but had only been on the field for 45 plays.

He led a seven-play, 38-yard drive that took 4:13 and ended with his touchdown giving Penn State a 10-6 lead.

The big play in the march came on third-and-2 at the Ohio State 6 when Royster skirted right end, tiptoeing along the sideline for a 4-yard gain and the first down.

Three plays later, Devlin scored on his second straight keeper and Kevin Kelly converted the point-after for a 10-6 lead with 6:25 left.

Penn State’s defense then forced an Ohio State punt, and with Royster carrying most of the load, the Nittany Lions almost ran out the clock. Royster went for 3, 10 and 9 yards on his first three carries before Devlin sneaked for a first down at the Ohio State 24.

While the Buckeyes were using all their timeouts, the Nittany Lions continued to stick to the ground. Finally, they let the clock run down until Kelly converted a 35-yard field goal with 1:07 left to push the lead to 13-6.

Ohio State had one last chance to tie it. Taking over at their own 20, Pryor hit Ray Small for gains of 23 and 14 yards to the Penn State 43 with just over 30 seconds left. But Pryor’s long pass to the goal line was intercepted by cornerback Lydell Sargeant with 27 seconds left.

Asked if the Nittany Lions belonged in the national-title discussion with No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Alabama, Williams flashed a wide grin and said, “We belong with them.”

Paterno couldn’t celebrate with his players. At least not right away.

Penn State’s coach for the past 43 years, the 81-year-old Paterno came up from the team locker room about 15 minutes before the opening kickoff, using a cane and with a Penn State athletic administrator following him in case he needed assistance.

“Penn State played hard and didn’t make a bunch of mistakes,” Tressel said.

Pryor, the nation’s most heralded quarterback recruit last spring, completed 16-of-25 for 226 yards with the one interception. He ran for 6 yards on nine attempts. Chris “Beanie” Wells managed just 55 yards on 22 carries against Penn State’s stout defense.

Clark completed 12-of-20 passes for 121 yards before leaving. Royster had 77 yards on 19 carries.

Kelly, who became the Big Ten’s all-time kick scorer a week ago, came into the game 12-of-14 on field goals. He converted one of 31 yards in the first half.

But with the Nittany Lions trailing 6-3, he hooked one wide right on the second play of the fourth period that would have tied it. At the time, it looked like a costly miss.

But that was until Devlin stepped in and came up big.

October 18, 2008

No. 3 Penn State breaks Michigan hex, 46-17

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Thousands of white pompoms fluttered and 100,000 Penn State fans broke into a sing-along as night fell on Beaver Stadium.

Joe Paterno’s greatest nemesis was about to be vanquished by the third-ranked Nittany Lions and the 81-year-old coach had a bird’s-eye view of party time in Happy Valley.

Yep, JoePa’s getting a really good look at his latest national championship contender.

Behind the running of Evan Royster and a few momentum-shifting plays by the defense and special teams, the Nittany Lions withstood the Wolverines’ early flurry and snapped a nine-game losing streak to their Big Ten rivals, 46-17 Saturday.

Paterno wasn’t on the field to enjoy his record 380th victory, relegated to working from the press box for a third consecutive week because of a sore hip and leg.

“My being upstairs—it’s funny, I’m not sure that’s not the best place for a head coach,” he said. “I mean you really get a view of things, I get a better view of football games from up there than I ever do on the sideline.”

What he’s seeing is a team that should be no worse than third in the BCS standings when it heads to Ohio State next week.

“Am I starting to like it up there? I’ll never like it, it doesn’t mean that the team might be better off with me up there,” Paterno said.

No team had ever won as many in a row against Penn State during Paterno’s 43 seasons than Michigan. But if ever there was an opportunity for the Nittany Lions (8-0, 4-0) to break the streak it was now. The Wolverines (2-5, 1-2) have struggled mightily in their first season under coach Rich Rodriguez.

“It’s a fact, you take it year by year, game by game, we lost to them last year, and coach has made a great point this week, that this Penn State team has not lost to this Michigan team,” center A.Q. Shipley said.

Michigan came in a 23 1/2 -point underdog. Never before had the Wolverines been so lightly regarded by odds makers.

The Wolverines looked like a good bet early, their spread offense clicking as they sped to a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.

But Penn State (8-0, 4-0) deciphered the spread, got its own high-powered version of Rodriguez’s offense rolling and delivered the knockout punch with a safety, a partially blocked punt and a forced fumble on consecutive second-half Michigan possessions.

“Oh, we executed for a while and then we didn’t,” said Rodriguez, whose team needs to win four more games to avoid Michigan’s first losing season since 1967. “That’s what happened. We executed, we moved the ball a little, and when we didn’t, we didn’t.”

Jared Odrick gave Penn State its first lead at 19-17 when he dragged down backup quarterback Nick Sheridan in the end zone with 4:39 left in third quarter.

The free kick set the Nittany Lions up at midfield, Royster’s 21-yard run put them at the 1 and Daryll Clark sneaked in at 3:04 to make it 26-17.

Royster ran for 174 yards on 18 carries, with a 44-yard TD run in the first quarter.

A minute later, Nathan Stupar got a hand on Zoltan Mesko’s punt deep in Michigan territory and Penn State turned the short kick into Kevin Kelly’s 32-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth.

A little more than 60 seconds after that, Aaron Maybin sacked Steven Threet, who fumbled, and Penn State took over at the Michigan 19. A sore elbow forced Threet to miss some series.

Clark’s second 1-yard sneak turned the final 12 minutes into a Beaver Stadium bash, with Penn State fans singing along to “Sweet Caroline” and enjoying their team’s first victory against Michigan since 1996.

The Wolverines tormented the Nittany Lions over the last 12 seasons, handing them a few lopsided losses and several heartbreaking defeats. In 2005, the last time Penn State was in the hunt for a national title, Michigan scored a touchdown on the final play to hand Paterno’s team its only loss of the season.

The Nittany Lions finally answered with their highest scoring game ever against Michigan.

This one couldn’t have started better for Michigan. After a three-and-out for Penn State, Michigan put together its longest drive of the season. The 14-play, 86-yard march featured all the best of Rodriguez’s spread offense. The option cleared running lanes for Threet and Brandon Minor, who surpassed his season high on the drive with 42 yards rushing.

Minor finished it off with a 5-yard TD run.

“But we’ve been seeing little glimpses of that all season,” Minor said.

A Penn State fumble led to a 27-yard field goal by K.C. Lopata and the Nittany Lions faced their largest deficit of the season.

After Royster’s 44-yard TD romp, Michigan was on the move again.

Another near-flawless drive by the Wolverines, this one 78 yards, was capped by Minor’s 1-yard plunge and it was 17-7 early in the second quarter. Minor had 117 yards on 23 carries

Even Penn State fans must have been wondering if the mere sight of those winged helmets had their team mystified.

Michigan had 185 yards in the first quarter, but only 106 the rest of the way.

“We really stayed calm, we knew Michigan was going to come in and try to play us hard, they do it every year,” Royster said. “We just needed to adjust to it.”

When Clark found Jordan Norwood for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in the half to make it 17-14, it seemed as if Penn State had come through the worst of it and grabbed control of the game.

October 12, 2008

Penn State ascends to No. 3

As expected, Penn State has vaulted to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 poll released today.

The Nittany Lions, 7-0 for the 11th time under coach Joe Paterno, trail No. 1 Texas, which upset previous number one Oklahoma Saturday. Alabama is No. 2.

Penn State, which beat Wisconsin, 48-7, Saturday, received three first-place votes.

It is Penn State's highest ranking since the team closed the 2005 season at 11-1 and ranked No. 3.

It also was announced today that Penn State's 4:30 p.m. game with Michigan Saturday will be telecast on ESPN.

September 27, 2008

Paul Newman, a Magnetic Titan of Hollywood, Is Dead at 83

Paul Newman, one of the last of the great 20th-century movie stars, died Friday at his home in Westport, Conn. He was 83.

The cause was cancer, said Jeff Sanderson of Chasen & Company, Mr. Newman’s publicist.

If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.

He acted in more than 65 movies over more than 50 years, drawing on a physical grace, unassuming intelligence and good humor that made it all seem effortless.

Yet he was also an ambitious, intellectual actor and a passionate student of his craft, and he achieved what most of his peers find impossible: remaining a major star into a craggy, charismatic old age even as he redefined himself as more than Hollywood star. He raced cars, opened summer camps for ailing children and became a nonprofit entrepreneur with a line of foods that put his picture on supermarket shelves around the world.

Mr. Newman made his Hollywood debut in the 1954 costume film “The Silver Chalice,” but real stardom arrived a year and a half later, when he inherited from James Dean the role of the boxer Rocky Graziano in “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Mr. Dean had been killed in car crash before the screenplay was completed.

It was a rapid rise for Mr. Newman, but being taken seriously as an actor took longer. He was almost undone by his star power, his classic good looks and, most of all, his brilliant blue eyes. “I picture my epitaph,” he once said. “Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.”

Mr. Newman’s filmography was a cavalcade of flawed heroes and winning antiheroes stretching over decades. In 1958 he was a drifting confidence man determined to marry a Southern belle in an adaptation of “The Long, Hot Summer.” In 1982, in “The Verdict,” he was a washed-up alcoholic lawyer who finds a chance to redeem himself in a medical malpractice case.

And in 2002, at 77, having lost none of his charm, he was affably deadly as Tom Hanks’s gangster boss in “Road to Perdition.” It was his last onscreen role in a major theatrical release. (He supplied the voice of the veteran race car Doc in the Pixar animated film “Cars” in 2006.)

Few major American stars have chosen to play so many imperfect men.

As Hud Bannon in “Hud” (1963) Mr. Newman was a heel on the Texas range who wanted the good life and was willing to sell diseased cattle to get it. The character was intended to make the audience feel “loathing and disgust,” Mr. Newman told a reporter. Instead, he said, “we created a folk hero.”

As the self-destructive convict in “Cool Hand Luke” (1967) Mr. Newman was too rebellious to be broken by a brutal prison system. As Butch Cassidy in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) he was the most amiable and antic of bank robbers, memorably paired with Robert Redford. And in “The Hustler” (1961) he was the small-time pool shark Fast Eddie, a role he recreated 25 years later, now as a well-heeled middle-aged liquor salesman, in “The Color of Money” (1986).

That performance, alongside Tom Cruise, brought Mr. Newman his sole Academy Award, for best actor, after he had been nominated for that prize six times. In all he received eight Oscar nominations for best actor and one for best supporting actor, in “Road to Perdition.” “Rachel, Rachel,” which he directed, was nominated for best picture.

“When a role is right for him, he’s peerless,” the film critic Pauline Kael wrote in 1977. “Newman is most comfortable in a role when it isn’t scaled heroically; even when he plays a bastard, he’s not a big bastard — only a callow, selfish one, like Hud. He can play what he’s not — a dumb lout. But you don’t believe it when he plays someone perverse or vicious, and the older he gets and the better you know him, the less you believe it. His likableness is infectious; nobody should ever be asked not to like Paul Newman.”

But the movies and the occasional stage role were never enough for him. He became a successful racecar driver, even competing at Daytona in 1995 as a 70th birthday present to himself. When he won his event, he made the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest winner in his race class.

In 1982, as a lark, he decided to sell a salad dressing he had created and bottled for friends at Christmas. Thus was born the Newman’s Own brand, an enterprise he started with his friend A. E. Hotchner, the writer. More than 25 years later the brand has expanded to include, among other foods, lemonade, popcorn, spaghetti sauce, pretzels, organic Fig Newmans and wine. (His daughter Nell Newman runs the company’s organic arm.) All its profits, of more than $200 million, have been donated to charity, the company says.

Much of the money was used to create a string of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, named for the outlaw gang in “Butch Cassidy.” The camps provide free summer recreation for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. Mr. Newman was actively involved in the project, even choosing cowboy hats as gear so that children who had lost their hair because of chemotherapy could disguise their baldness.

Several years before the establishment of Newman’s Own, on Nov. 28, 1978, Scott Newman, the oldest of Mr. Newman’s six children and his only son, died at 28 of an overdose of alcohol and pills. His father’s monument to him was the Scott Newman Center, created to publicize the dangers of drugs and alcohol. It is headed by Susan Newman, the oldest of his five daughters.

Mr. Newman’s three younger daughters are the children of his 50-year second marriage, to the actress Joanne Woodward. Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward both were cast — she as an understudy — in the Broadway play “Picnic” in 1953. Starting with “The Long, Hot Summer” in 1958, they co-starred in 10 movies, including “From the Terrace” (1960), based on a John O’Hara novel about a driven executive and his unfaithful wife; “Harry & Son” (1984), which Mr. Newman also directed, produced and helped write; and “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge” (1990), James Ivory’s version of a pair of Evan S. Connell novels, in which Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward played a conservative Midwestern couple coping with life’s changes.

When good roles for Ms. Woodward dwindled, Mr. Newman produced and directed “Rachel, Rachel” for her in 1968. Nominated for the best-picture Oscar, the film, a delicate story of a spinster schoolteacher tentatively hoping for love, brought Ms. Woodward her second of four best-actress Oscar nominations. (She won the award on her first nomination, for the 1957 film “The Three Faces of Eve,” and was nominated again for her roles in “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge” and the 1973 movie “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams.”)

Mr. Newman also directed his wife in “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” (1972), “The Glass Menagerie” (1987) and the television movie “The Shadow Box” (1980). As a director his most ambitious film was “Sometimes a Great Notion” (1971), based on the Ken Kesey novel.

In an industry in which long marriages might be defined as those that last beyond the first year and the first infidelity, Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward’s was striking for its endurance. But they admitted that it was often turbulent. She loved opera and ballet. He liked playing practical jokes and racing cars. But as Mr. Newman told Playboy magazine, in an often-repeated quotation about marital fidelity, “I have steak at home; why go out for hamburger?”

Beginnings in Cleveland

Paul Leonard Newman was born on Jan. 26, 1925, in Cleveland. His mother, the former Teresa Fetzer, was a Roman Catholic who turned to Christian Science. His father, Arthur, who was Jewish, owned a thriving sporting goods store that enabled the family to settle in affluent Shaker Heights, Ohio, where Paul and his older brother, Arthur, grew up.

Teresa Newman, an avid theatergoer, steered her son toward acting as a child. In high school, besides playing football, he acted in school plays, graduating in 1943. After less than a year at Ohio University at Athens, he joined the Navy Air Corps to be a pilot. When a test showed he was colorblind, he was made an aircraft radio operator.

After the war Mr. Newman entered Kenyon College in Ohio on an athletic scholarship. He played football and acted in a dozen plays before graduating in 1949.

Arthur Newman, a strict and distant man, thought acting an impractical occupation, but, perhaps persuaded by his wife, he agreed to support his son for a year while Paul acted in small theater companies.

In May 1950 his father died, and Mr. Newman returned to Cleveland to run the sporting goods store. He brought with him a wife, Jacqueline Witte, an actress he had met in summer stock. But after 18 months Paul asked his brother to take over the business while he, his wife and their year-old son, Scott, headed for Yale University, where Mr. Newman intended to concentrate on directing.

He left Yale in the summer of 1952, perhaps because the money had run out and his wife was pregnant again. But almost immediately, the director Josh Logan and the playwright William Inge gave him a small role in “Picnic,” a play that was to run 14 months on Broadway. Soon he was playing the second male lead and understudying Ralph Meeker as the sexy drifter who roils the women in a Kansas town.

Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward were attracted to each other in rehearsals of “Picnic.” But he was a married man, and Ms. Woodward has insisted that they spent the next several years running away from each other.

In the early 1950s roles in live television came easily to both of them. Mr. Newman starred in segments of “You Are There,” “Goodyear Television Playhouse” and other shows.

He was also accepted as a student at the Actors Studio in New York, where he took lessons alongside James Dean, Geraldine Page, Marlon Brando and, eventually, Ms. Woodward.

Then Hollywood knocked. In 1954 Warner Brothers offered Mr. Newman $1,000 a week to star in “The Silver Chalice” as the Greek slave who creates the silver cup used at the Last Supper. Mr. Newman, who rarely watched his own films, once gave out pots, wooden spoons and whistles to a roomful of guests and forced them to sit through “The Silver Chalice,” which he called the worst movie ever made.

His antidote for that early Hollywood experience was to hurry back to Broadway. In Joseph Hayes’s play “The Desperate Hours,” he starred as an escaped convict who holds a family hostage. The play was a hit, and during its run, Jacqueline Newman gave birth to their third child.

On his nights off Mr. Newman acted on live television. In one production he had the title role in “The Death of Billy the Kid,” a psychological study of the outlaw written by Gore Vidal and directed by Arthur Penn for “Philco Playhouse”; in another, an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Battler,” he took over the lead role after James Dean, who had been scheduled to star, was killed on Sept. 30, 1955.

Mr. Penn, who directed “The Battler,” was later convinced that Mr. Newman’s performance in that drama, as a disfigured prizefighter, won him the lead role in “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” again replacing Dean. When Mr. Penn adapted the Billy the Kid teleplay for his first Hollywood film, “The Left Handed Gun,” in 1958, he again cast Mr. Newman in the lead.

Even so, Mr. Newman was saddled for years with an image of being a “pretty boy” lightweight.

“Paul suffered a little bit from being so handsome — people doubted just how well he could act,” Mr. Penn told the authors of the 1988 book “Paul and Joanne.”

By 1957 Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward were discreetly living together in Hollywood; his wife had initially refused to give him a divorce. He later admitted that his drinking was out of control during this period.

With his divorce granted, Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward were married on Jan. 29, 1958, and went on to rear their three daughters far from Hollywood, in a farmhouse on 15 acres in Westport, Conn.

That same year Mr. Newman played Brick, the reluctant husband of Maggie the Cat, in the film version of Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” earning his first Academy Award nomination, for best actor. In 1961, with “The Hustler,” he earned his second best-actor Oscar nomination. He had become more than a matinee idol.

Directed by Martin Ritt

Many of his meaty performances during the early ’60s came in movies directed by Martin Ritt, who had been a teaching assistant to Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio when Mr. Newman was a student. After directing “The Long, Hot Summer,” Mr. Ritt directed Mr. Newman in “Paris Blues” (1961), a story of expatriate musicians; “Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man” (1962); “Hud” (1963), which brought Mr. Newman a third Oscar nomination; “The Outrage” (1964), with Mr. Newman as the bandit in a western based on Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”; and “Hombre” (1967), in which Mr. Newman played a white man, reared by Indians, struggling to live in a white world.

Among his other important films were Otto Preminger’s “Exodus” (1960), Alfred Hitchcock’s “Torn Curtain” (1966) and Jack Smight’s “Harper” (1966), in which he played Ross Macdonald’s private detective Lew Archer.

In 1968 — after he was cast as an ice-cold racecar driver in “Winning,” with Ms. Woodward playing his frustrated wife — Mr. Newman was sent to a racing school. In midlife racing became his obsession. A Web site — — details his racing career, including his first race in 1972; his first professional victory, in 1982; and his partnership in a successful car racing team.

A politically active liberal Democrat, Mr. Newman was a Eugene McCarthy delegate to the 1968 Democratic convention and appointed by President Jimmy Carter to a United Nations General Assembly session on disarmament. He expressed pride at being on President Richard M. Nixon’s enemies list.

When Mr. Newman turned 50, he settled into a new career as a character actor, playing the title role — “with just the right blend of craftiness and stupidity,” Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times — of Robert Altman’s “Buffalo Bill and the Indians” (1976); an unscrupulous hockey coach in George Roy Hill’s “Slap Shot” (1977); and the disintegrating lawyer in Sidney Lumet’s “Verdict.”

Most of Mr. Newman’s films were commercial hits, probably none more so than “The Sting” (1973), in which he teamed with Mr. Redford again to play a couple of con men, and “The Towering Inferno” (1974), in which he played an architect in an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.

After his fifth best-actor Oscar nomination, for his portrait of an innocent man discredited by the press in Sydney Pollack’s “Absence of Malice” (1981), and his sixth a year later, for “The Verdict,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1986 gave Mr. Newman the consolation prize of an honorary award. In a videotaped acceptance speech he said, “I am especially grateful that this did not come wrapped in a gift certificate to Forest Lawn.”

His best-actor Oscar, for “The Color of Money,” came the next year, and at the 1994 Oscars ceremony he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The year after that he earned his eighth nomination as best actor, for his curmudgeonly construction worker trying to come to terms with his failures in “Nobody’s Fool” (1994). In 2003 he was nominated as best supporting actor for his work in “Road to Perdition.” And in 2006 he took home both a Golden Globe and an Emmy for playing another rough-hewn old-timer, this one in the HBO mini-series “Empire Falls.”

Besides Ms. Woodward and his daughters Susan and Nell, , he is survived by three other daughters, Stephanie, Melissa and Clea; two grandchildren; and his brother.

Mr. Newman returned to Broadway for the last time in 2002, as the Stage Manager in a lucrative revival of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” The performance was nominated for a Tony Award, though critics tended to find it modest. When the play was broadcast on PBS in 2003, he won an Emmy.

This year he had planned to direct “Of Mice and Men,” based on the John Steinbeck novel, in October at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut. But in May he announced that he was stepping aside, citing his health.

Mr. Newman’s last screen credit was as the narrator of Bill Haney’s documentary “The Price of Sugar,” released this year. By then he had all but announced that he was through with acting.

“I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” Mr. Newman said last year on the ABC program “Good Morning America.” “You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”

But he remained fulfilled by his charitable work, saying it was his greatest legacy, particularly in giving ailing children a camp at which to play.

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Mr. Newman once told a reporter. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”
Actor Paul Newman dies at 83

The blue-eyed star of 'The Hustler,' 'Cool Hand Luke' and 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' was at home. He had long battled cancer.

Paul Newman, the legendary movie star and irreverent cultural icon who created a model philanthropy fueled by profits from a salad dressing that became nearly as famous as he was, has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday at his home near Westport, Conn., after a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said.

Stunningly handsome, Newman maintained his superstar status while protecting himself from its corrupting influences through nearly 100 Broadway, television and movie roles. As an actor and director, he evolved into Hollywood's elder statesman, admired as much offscreen for his quiet generosity, unconventional business sense, race car daring, political activism and enduring marriage to actress Joanne Woodward.

Annoyed by the public's fascination with his resemblance to a Roman statue, particularly his Windex-blue eyes, Newman often chose offbeat character roles. In the 1950s and '60s, he helped define the American anti-hero and became identified with the charming misfits, cads and con men in film classics such as "The Hustler," "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Newman's poker-game look in "The Sting" -- cunning, watchful, removed, amused, confident, alert -- summed up his power as a person and actor, said Stewart Stern, a screenwriter and longtime friend.

"You never see the whole deck, there's always some card somewhere he may or may not play," Stern said. "Maybe he doesn't even have it."

Newman claimed his success came less from natural talent than from hard work, luck and the tenacity of a terrier.

"Acting," he once said, "is really nothing but exploring certain facets of your own personality trying to become someone else." In early films, he said he tried to make himself fit the character but later aimed "to make the character come to me."

The actor was most proud, friends say, of his later, Oscar-nominated roles in "Absence of Malice," "The Verdict" and "Nobody's Fool," in which he dug deep into the complex emotions of ordinary men struggling for dignity, justice or a sense of connection. In 2003, he was nominated for an Oscar for his last feature film appearance, as a conflicted mob boss in "Road to Perdition." Two years later, at 80, he won an Emmy for playing a meddlesome father in "Empire Falls."

"He's a majestic figure in the world of acting," said director Arthur Penn, who worked with him in his early career. "He did everything and did it well."

Part of a generation of edgy, naturalistic New York actors who changed Hollywood in the '50s and '60s, Newman was often compared with fellow Method actors Marlon Brando and James Dean. Film critic David Ansen once observed that if the trim actor lacked the others' physical or psychic presence, he was more approachable, even when he played a heel.

"Newman," Ansen wrote, "is our great middleweight movie star."

Nominated eight times for Academy Awards in the best-actor category, Newman won only once, for "The Color of Money" (1986), in which he reprised the role of "Fast" Eddie Felson that he originated in 1961's "The Hustler." He also took home honorary Oscars in 1985 for career achievement and in 1993 for his humanitarian efforts. In later years, however, he boycotted awards shows despite continuing Oscar, Emmy and Tony nominations. He claimed he no longer owned a tuxedo.

In real life, Newman was "the quintessence of class, courtly without being old-fashioned," said Victor Navasky, former editor of the Nation, a liberal magazine in which Newman invested and wrote occasional columns. Private and complex, Newman was also a beer-loving, mischievous prankster and an idealist who took to the streets to protest the war in Vietnam.

He was thrilled, friends said, when he heard that he had made President Nixon's enemies list.

Married since 1958 to Woodward, his second wife, Newman cultivated a distinctly un-Hollywood lifestyle, shuttling between a homey New York apartment and a renovated farmhouse in woodsy Westport, Conn., from which he pursued passions including cooking and auto racing.

Highly competitive, Newman was drawn to the track, he told reporters, because in racing, unlike acting, the definition of "good" is not a murky matter of opinion. Although he began to race at 47, he was ranked among the sport's top 25% of drivers, his team placing second in the prestigious Le Mans endurance contest in 1979. At 70, he became the oldest driver to place in a professionally sanctioned auto race when his team took third in the 24-hour race at Daytona, Fla.

Still racing into his 80s, Newman escaped uninjured from a car fire in 2005 and entered another race a month later.

Since the 1980s, Newman had devoted more time to Newman's Own, a food products company he founded as a lark that grew into one of the nation's largest charitable organizations. The company, which produces all-natural salad dressing, popcorn, sauces and lemonade, has turned over more than $250 million in after-tax profits to hundreds of groups, including his own Hole in the Wall Gang camps (named after the outlaw gang in "Butch Cassidy").

Friends said Newman abhorred what he called "noisy philanthropy." He felt the awards and honors offered him were excessive and once declined a national medal in a letter to President Clinton, calling such recognition "honorrhea."

When people would say, " 'What a mensch you are,' he would always denigrate himself," said friend Alice Trillin. To friends, Newman was open, if vague, about not always having lived an exemplary life. Exceptionally tolerant of others' foibles, he explained, "I used to be a fool myself."

A late bloomer

Friends and neighbors in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights might not have foreseen a future as a sex symbol for Paul Leonard Newman, the late-blooming second son of a sporting goods store owner.

Born Jan. 26, 1925, Newman was too short and scrawny to play football or baseball and once said he regularly had "the bejesus kicked out" of him in school. He was encouraged in the arts by an uncle who wrote poetry and by his mother, who taught him to appreciate music and books and shared details of theater shows she had seen.

Though he acted in elementary and high school plays to the delight of his family, he said his father, a strict, hard-working former journalist, considered him a lightweight and often treated him as if he were disappointed in him.

"I desperately wanted to show him that somehow, somewhere along the line I could cut the mustard," Newman told Time magazine in 1982. One of the great agonies of his life, he said, was that his father died in 1950 without seeing his success.

At 18, he enlisted in the Navy hoping to become a pilot in World War II but was rejected for being color blind. He spent three years as a third-class radio operator aboard bombers in the South Pacific.

Afterward, he enrolled as a 21-year-old freshman at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he spent some of his happiest days, playing second-string football, drinking beer and getting in trouble. After a barroom brawl landed him in jail, he was kicked off the team and he turned to acting.

"I was probably one of the worst college actors at the time," Newman said years later. "I learned my lines by rote and simply said them without spontaneity, without knowing what it meant to act and react."

However, novelist E.L. Doctorow, a Kenyon freshman at the time, recalled that "there was no question about his talent." He said Newman was popular for being the leading actor on campus and for the laundry concession he operated.

"He was always entrepreneurial," Doctorow said.

After graduating with a degree in English, Newman acted in summer and winter stock productions in Wisconsin and Illinois, thinking he might eventually teach speech or drama. By then, he had married Jacqueline Witte, a fellow actor, with whom he would have three children: Scott, Susan and Stephanie. Scott died in 1978 of an overdose of drugs and alcohol.

When his father died in 1950, Newman moved home to run the sporting goods store. A year later, the store was sold and he fled to New Haven, Conn., where he briefly studied drama at Yale University, specializing in directing, before trying his luck in New York.

"I was prepared to try it for a year, and, if I got nowhere, to go back to Yale and get my degree," he told Lillian and Helen Ross in the book "The Player: A Profile of an Art." "I had no intention of waiting around till I was old and bruised and bitter."

In New York, then the center of live television and the home of the famed Actors Studio, Newman picked up lessons in Method acting, a technique that stressed naturalism, while he auditioned for parts and sold encyclopedias to support his family. He later attributed everything he knew about acting to the creative community of actors, writers and directors at the studio. At one point, he was president and, though it was never made public, personally financed the institution's operations for seven years when it fell on hard times.

Described as "gorgeous and intense," the young Newman quickly found small parts in television shows such as "You Are There," as well as a role as a rich college graduate in the Broadway production of "Picnic," in which he and Woodward were understudies. When he asked to play the lead, a sexy braggart, director Joshua Logan said the actor was unsuitable because he lacked any "sexual threat" -- a challenge Newman met by embarking on a lifelong routine of vigorous workouts to stay in shape.

His marriage deteriorated as he began to attract work and positive reviews while his wife's priorities shifted to the children, according to friends. Newman then fell into a period of turmoil in which he and Woodward began an affair.

Once he was arrested for running a red light, driving into a bush and leaving the scene of an accident. The breakup of his marriage was long and drawn out, Stern said, because Newman was so concerned about being fair to his wife and children. His first wife obtained a divorce in Mexico in 1957. A year later, Newman and Woodward married, a lasting match that Newman attributed to "correct amounts of lust and respect." The couple had three children.

Despite later rumors that not all was well in their marriage, Stern said the couple were committed and honored each other's choices in life. Although Woodward once quipped that "a mind is a terrible thing to waste on a Trans Am," Stern said, "They had real reverence for each other's talents and pursuits and idiosyncrasies."

Together they appeared in 11 films, including "The Long Hot Summer," "From the Terrace" and "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge." Newman also directed her in four other movies, including the highly respected "Rachel, Rachel," about a schoolteacher whose fears keep her trapped in a small town.

Stern, author of that film's screenplay, said he sometimes observed Newman watching his wife do something that moved him.

"It was the most exposed face of love I've ever looked at," he said. "You couldn't look at it long. It was like opening the wrong door."

Hollywood studios recruited Newman in 1954, at a time when the film industry, threatened by live television, hired many of New York's most creative actors, directors and writers. According to Penn, Newman "was emblematic of what was coming, the demand for independence that the next generation brought."

At first, however, Newman, the serious actor, could not avoid beefcake roles because his looks were so devastating. When people saw him, Penn said, they "just fell away."

Newman was particularly humiliated by his first film, "The Silver Chalice," in which he was cast as a toga-clad Greek sculptor with stilted lines. When the film aired for a week in 1963 on television, he took out a black-bordered ad in the Los Angeles Times that said, "Paul Newman apologizes every night this week."

Determined not to be just a pretty-boy player for the studio, Newman was among the first actors to buy out his contract with Warner Bros. and later formed his own production companies with colleagues. Newman's penchant for playing a variety of roles reflected "his imagination and his willingness to take a flier," filmmaker John Huston wrote in his memoir, "An Open Book."

The price was a career checkered with miscasting and forgettable roles, such as a jazz musician in "Paris Blues," a turn-of-the-century anarchist in "Lady L" and a double agent in "Torn Curtain."

Critics and audiences loved him, however, when he played moody Southerners in films based on Tennessee Williams' plays "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" and "Sweet Bird of Youth." Newman's scheming pool shark in "The Hustler" began a streak of roles that film historians have hailed as capturing the essence of the postwar American man -- cool, cynical and confident while the known world of traditional values crumbles around him.

Newman became so popular that he complained later that audiences and critics missed the point in "Hud," a film in which he portrayed the amoral, insolent son of an embattled rancher. Instead of seeing Hud as tragically flawed character who cared only for himself, audiences adored him. He became an anti-hero, especially among teenagers. Newman struck another nerve in 1967 with "Cool Hand Luke," in which he played a defiant prisoner on a chain gang harassed by sadistic guards. A memorable scene in which Luke wins a bet by eating 50 hard-boiled eggs triggered egg-eating contests at colleges and among soldiers in Vietnam.

In 1969, when he was Hollywood's most popular leading actor, Newman teamed with Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a movie about two affable bandits who had outlived their time. The highest-grossing Western in motion picture history, the film highlighted the handsome duo's comic timing. Fans loved the pair's jump off a cliff and still associate the song, "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" with Newman's bicycle stunts.

Redford said it was the most fun on a film he had ever had, one that cemented a lifelong friendship between the two actors.

Away from Beverly Hills

If Newman hadn't moved his family away from the glamour and materialism of Beverly Hills to Westport in 1962, he told biographer Eric Lax, he might never have taken up the other things that made his life exciting: politics, car racing and a home-grown business.

"It is only when you're away from California that you cannot take yourself seriously" as a movie star, he said.

Throughout the '60s, Newman took high-profile stands against the war in Vietnam. In 1968, he campaigned for antiwar candidate Sen. Eugene McCarthy and served as a Connecticut delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The following year, he and Woodward joined an antiwar demonstration in front of the American Embassy in London.

Newman knew his actions were not always popular, and told the New York Times Magazine in 1966, "A person without character has no enemies." Friends said he was delighted in 1973 when he was listed as No. 19 on Nixon's enemies list, claiming it elevated him in the eyes of his children. Newman argued politics genially, friends said, and openly admired certain conservatives. In 1994, he helped his brother Arthur, a staunch Republican, wage a successful campaign for a City Council seat in Rancho Mirage.

In the late '70s, bored with acting, Newman fell into a slump that paved the way for what has been called one of the most successful career transitions in movie history.

Intrigued by racing after making the film "Winning" in 1969, Newman began planning film shoots around his racing schedule. His focus, athleticism and knowledge quickly won over skeptics who were used to dilettante actors hanging around the track, said champion driver Mario Andretti.

"If he would have started earlier, he would have been just as successful as his acting, no question," Andretti said. When Newman formed his own team, the Newman-Hass Indy Car, Andretti raced for him for 12 years.

Reinvigorated, Newman returned to acting, exploring character roles with new and unexpected depth. Critic Pauline Kael called Newman's portrayal of a washed-up ice hockey coach in "Slap Shot," a 1977 comedy, "casual American star-acting at its peak." In the 1980s, he became active in the Actors Studio in New York, contributing funds and serving as president of the board.

In 1981, Newman was nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Absence of Malice," as a businessman libeled by Sally Field's gung-ho young reporter, whose story leads to his friend's suicide.

Another nomination followed for his portrayal of an alcoholic lawyer redeemed by his pursuit of justice in 1982's "The Verdict."

When Newman finally won an Oscar in 1986 for "The Color of Money," it was neither his nor director Martin Scorsese's best effort and was seen by some observers as compensation for having been overlooked in "The Hustler."

Wanting to avoid another public defeat, Newman stayed home for the ceremony. Later, he said of the win: "It's like chasing a beautiful woman for 80 years. She finally relents and you say, 'I'm terribly sorry, I'm tired.' "

His real-life role as a model Hollywood philanthropist began just before Christmas 1980 when he and his friend Hotchner made a batch of salad dressing in a bathtub to bottle for friends.

Newman was as much a perfectionist about his cooking as his art, friends said. "He knew the exact amount of fat that goes into the perfect hamburger," Stern said. "In his salads he sliced the celery the exact width."

In restaurants, Newman was known to ask for olive oil, vinegar, chopped celery, salt, pepper and mustard to make his own dressing. On one occasion, when waiters at the legendary Beverly Hills restaurant Chasen's wouldn't comply, he took the salad into the men's room and washed their dressing off. "They brought the stuff he wanted, and he made the dressing," Stern said.

Newman told reporters he never imagined the dressing would be sold nationally, but after the Christmas leftovers were given to gourmet shops, the lark became a challenge.

When it became clear the dressing could make a profitable business, especially with his face on the label, Newman decided to give back some of what luck and the world had given him.

"It was a spur-of-the-moment thing -- 'Let's just do this and give it all away,' " his daughter Nell told the New York Times in 1998.

Newman and Hotchner wrote witty labels to go with the company's motto: "Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good," which later became the name of their book that describes their adventures in business.

The company grew to include a range of products including popcorn, salsas, pasta sauces, marinades and Woodward's "Old Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade."

In 2006, he opened "Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant" to benefit the Westport Country Playhouse, one of Newman and Woodward's favorite projects.

As a result of his business success, Newman donated more than $250 million to 1,000 groups -- including the Scott Newman Center devoted to anti-drug education and several Hole in the Wall Gang camps, designed for children with life-threatening diseases, with locations in France, Ireland and Israel as well as the U.S. Every summer, Newman stayed at the original camp in Ashford, Conn., where he told ghost stories and staged shows with other celebrities for children who knew him only as the face on the lemonade carton.

"If I leave a legacy," he said in 2006, "it will be the camps."

This year, he turned up at a meeting of parents and children at the first camp and reportedly said: "I wanted to acknowledge luck. The beneficence of it in many lives and the brutality of it in the lives of others, especially children, who might not have a lifetime to make up for it."

Rather than hiring grant officers, friends say Newman and Hotchner choose the charities themselves in a casual way. Newman once wrote a check on the spot for someone who knocked on his door saying the local fire department needed a new fire engine, said Navasky, the Nation magazine editor.

Despite his fears that actors risk corruption by placing a "premium on appearance," Newman valued keeping himself fit. He did push ups and ran up and down stairs until he was 80. He soaked his face in ice water or would swim in a cold lake when he could.

Newman played "sexy senior" roles into his 70s with films such as "Twilight" and moved on to cantankerous father parts in "Message in a Bottle" and "Empire Falls." He was nominated for a Tony as the stage manager in a Broadway revival of "Our Town," and an Emmy for a taped TV version.

After "Road to Perdition," he did voice work for the animated film "Cars" in 2006 and narrated the 2007 film "Dale" about the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.

Newman didn't hide his disappointment that filmmaking had abandoned the "theater of the mind" for the "theater of the senses." He lamented that skyrocketing costs had increased the pressure on actors, writers and producers who could no longer afford to make mistakes and be part of a "growing-up process."

In 1997, he hinted he was struggling, explaining to National Public Radio's Daniel Zwerdling that "sometimes you begin to lose your center. . . . You become a collection of the successful mannerisms of the characters you play. . . . What you try to do is get rid of those successful mannerisms, get back to what you are at the core of your own personality."

In 2007, Newman announced his decision to retire, saying he'd lost confidence in his abilities, that acting was "pretty much a closed book for me."

Besides Doc Hudson, the animated Hornet voiced by Newman in the film "Cars," he called the role of Sully in 1994's "Nobody's Fool" the closest he had come to playing himself. Critics called Sully a "classic Newman type" -- an aging version of a witty loner who keeps friends and a family at a distance to protect himself. A bond with his fearful little grandson opens up the possibility of becoming more involved with an estranged son and the rest of the community.

"The most Paul moment," Stern said, "is when he sees the crazy lady down the street and offers his arm and walks her back home as if she were a queen. That's how I'll always remember Paul: dignifying other people."

In addition to his wife, Newman is survived by daughters Susan, Stephanie, Nell, Melissa and Clea; two grandchildren; and his brother Arthur.

His family suggests donations in his name to the Assn. of Hole in the Wall Camps. Information:
Paul Newman, actor who personified cool, dies

WESTPORT, Conn. - Paul Newman, the Oscar-winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" — followed by a second act as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday at his farmhouse near Westport following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman dropped plans to direct a fall production of "Of Mice and Men" at Connecticut's Westport Country Playhouse, citing unspecified health issues. The following month, a friend disclosed that he was being treated for cancer and Martha Stewart, also a friend, posted photos on her Web site of Newman looking gaunt at a charity luncheon.

But true to his fiercely private nature, Newman remained cagey about his condition, reacting to reports that he had lung cancer with a statement saying only that he was "doing nicely."

As an actor, Newman got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Academy Awards 10 times, winning one Oscar and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Verdict," "The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in "The Long Hot Summer." Newman also directed her in several films, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie."

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. "I was always a character actor," he once said. "I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood."

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for "The Color of Money," a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film "The Hustler."

In that film, Newman delivered a magnetic performance as the smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film "Road to Perdition." One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama "Empire Falls" and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, "Cars."

But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed "Rachel, Rachel," a film about a lonely spinster's rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1969 film, "Winning." After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

"Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told People magazine in 1979.

Newman later became a car owner and formed a partnership with Carl Haas, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series. Hiring Mario Andretti as its first driver, the team was an instant success, and throughout the last 26 years, the team — now known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series — has won 107 races and eight series championships.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator.

In 1995, he was nominated for an Oscar for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in "Nobody's Fool." New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting "without cheap sentiment and self-pity," and observed, "It says everything about Mr. Newman's performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way."

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend. He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

"If they're good you get a fat head and if they're bad you're depressed for three weeks," he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford's hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.

"I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane," he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.

"We will miss our friend Paul Newman, but are lucky ourselves to have known such a remarkable person," Robert Forrester, vice chairman of Newman's Own Foundation, said in a statement.

Hotchner said Newman should have "everybody's admiration."

"For me it's the loss of an adventurous friendship over the past 50 years and it's the loss of a great American citizen," Hotchner said.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor "Nell," Melissa and Clea.

"Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special," his daughters said in a written statement. "Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity."

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte. Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman.

He was raised in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, where he was encouraged him to pursue his interest in the arts by his mother and his uncle Joseph Newman, a well-known Ohio poet and journalist.

Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.

He later studied at Yale University's School of Drama, then headed to work in theater and television in New York, where his classmates at the famed Actor's Studio included Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden.

Newman's breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Battler," died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.

Newman started in movies the year before, in "The Silver Chalice," a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in "The Long Hot Summer."

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

"I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore," he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

August 19, 2008

Friends: John Challis Was A 'Fighter'

FREEDOM ― Friends of John Challis, the 18-year-old from Freedom who lost his battle with terminal lung and liver cancer, remember his exuberance for life.

Challis passed away Tuesday afternoon surrounded by loved ones at his home in Freedom.

Steve Wetzel, Challis' coach and friend, was with him.

"I spoke to him. I went in and he was laying there with his eyes closed and I just went in and rubbed his arm - his family let me have my time with him and just told him I loved him and put up a heck of a fight," Wetzel said. "I'm so proud of him and there won't be a day that goes by that I don't think about him and I'm going to continue to spread his message."

Former classmates of Challis were inspired by his courage.

"I prayed every night for him," Freedom High School Quarterback Jeremy Herzog said. "I know many people did but I just couldn't believe how much of a fighter he was."

Challis spread a message of hope while he was alive. His motto: "Courage + Believe = Life."

"Don't look at dying as a bad thing. Look at it as a chance to meet God and just make the best of the time you do have," he said.

Challis graduated high school in June and continued to spread his positive message. That month he was also an honorary manager during a game with the Pirates and he spoke to the team in the locker room.

First baseman Adam LaRoche tells KDKA John's words moved him and he kept in touch with him after his visit.

"If there's a good thing that came out of it it's all the lives that he's touched," LaRoche said. "And the things he had to go through, what he did and didn't get to live life but you know he's going to be ... he'll be looking down from heaven and seeing all the guys that he's changed down here."

His father Scott Challis tells KDKA that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez called John last week to see how he was doing.

Challis also met Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and team chairman Dan Rooney. The team released a statement expressing their condolences.

"The Steelers are greatly saddened by the news of the passing of John Challis. Our thoughts and prayers go out to John's family during this difficult time."

In a statement, the Penguins also send their deepest sympathy to the Challis family.

"John was an extraordinarily courageous young man who touched all of our lives with his strength, passion, dignity and caring for others. Because of his attitude and actions, especially in the last year of his life when he faced so much adversity, his memory will last forever."

The viewing for Challis will be held at Noll Funeral Home in Beaver from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

His funeral is will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Beaver.

Courage For Life Foundation

August 02, 2008

Inspirational Teen Serves As Mayor For The Day

CONWAY ― The inspirational Beaver County teen, who is fighting a tough battle against cancer, was presented with a very special honor today.

John Challis, a recent graduate of Freedom High School, had the opportunity to serve as the mayor of Conway for the day.

"Today, we honor John Challis for the wisdom and the courage he has shared and the courage you have shown," said Mayor David Trombetto, of Baden. "It is our honor to present you the key to the city."

Many people say Challis continues to be a very big inspiration.

"I have two 16-year-old daughters that just adore him," said Karen Roman, a member of Conway's council. "He's an amazing young man and when he speaks, people just take it to heart and listen to him. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk."

And for his very special day, Challis said he wanted to enjoy the experience.

"It's not really my place to say this, but I am technically mayor right now, so I figured just having a good time, don't break anything, just have fun, don't cause trouble and just have a good day," he said.

Then, when asked by some in the crowd if he could lower their taxes, Challis smartly said that he just wanted to enjoy the day's carnival and fireworks.

July 28, 2008

Foundation Inspired By Local Teen Fighting Cancer

FREEDOM ― A teenager from Beaver County who is battling cancer continues to inspire others.

John Challis, from Freedom, was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer. He graduated from high school in June.

Now, the John Challis Courage for Life Foundation, hopes to carry on Challis' message. Its mission is to help high school athletes who have life-threatening illnesses by giving them "life encouraging sporting experiences."

The foundation has scheduled a golf outing at the Chartiers Country Club for August 25 to raise money.

Courage For Life Foundation

June 06, 2008

Inspiring Freedom Teen Fighting Cancer Graduates

FREEDOM ― A teenager from Freedom who is battling cancer has inspired people around the world and now he's marking a major milestone.

John Challis graduated from Freedom High School on Thursday.

Challis maintains a positive outlook on life, despite his fight against lung and liver cancer.

"I act the way that I act because it's the way we wish we could act to each other even a little bit of the time," he said.

His story has grabbed attention of national and international media. ESPN and a Japanese TV show also covered Challis' graduation.

"It's overwhelming. I know that people in a whole other part of the world is hearing my message and watch a movie about me - it's kind of weird," he said.

For John, the most important thing to him is the message he wants all of us to remember.

"Make the best out of any situation and be proud of what you have and realize what you have and realize that God lets everything happen for a reason," he said.

Now that he has graduated, John says he will be starting a foundation with his baseball coach and friend.

May 20, 2008

Freedom Teen Battles Cancer With Positivity

FREEDOM ― A young man from Beaver County is becoming nationally-known for his battle with cancer and the incredibly positive message he has for others.

John Challis, from Freedom, is getting calls from baseball, football and hockey stars. On Sunday night, he was picked up by a limo along with his mother, father and sister, and whisked away to Game 2 at Mellon Arena.

He met Mario Lemieux, Ben Roethlisberger and Art Rooney.

Two years ago, Challis was diagnosed with cancer of the lung and liver. His life is measured in days.

"I ain't gonna lie - I do get scared - but I don't let it bother me," he said. "You just can't let those little things control you life."

No one is giving up, but doctors tell John the cancer is winning right now.

"They say it could be a couple of months - could be a couple of years - who knows it's all in God's hands," he said.

John's room has wall to wall team banners his dad has brought home for him and he's very proud of the scrapbooks his mom is making. Besides proms, there are snaps of sports, hunting and fishing trips, family vacations and famous new friends.

"The only person that I haven't really came in contact with and would love to is Emeril Lagasse - I'm really big into cooking," he said.

But, most importantly, John speaks to your very soul about his mission here on earth and the message he's here to deliver.

"Don't look at dying as a bad thing - look it as a chance to meet God - and make the best of the time you do have," he said.

And John will be ready when it's time to round the bases and head for home.

"Meeting God - that'd be pretty cool - well it gonna be pretty cool," he said.

April 06, 2008

Film legend Charlton Heston dead at 84

LOS ANGELES - Charlton Heston, the Oscar winner who portrayed Moses and other heroic figures on film in the '50s and '60s and later championed conservative values as head of the National Rifle Association, has died. He was 84.

The actor died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills with his wife Lydia at his side, family spokesman Bill Powers said. He declined to comment on the cause of death or provide further details.

"Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played," Heston's family said in a statement.

Heston revealed in 2002 that he had symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease.

With his large, muscular build, well-boned face and sonorous voice, Heston proved the ideal star during the period when Hollywood was filling movie screens with panoramas depicting the religious and historical past.

"I have a face that belongs in another century," he often remarked.

The actor assumed the role of leader offscreen as well. He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute and marched in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

With age, he grew more conservative and campaigned for conservative candidates. In June 1998, Heston was elected president of the NRA, for which he had posed for ads holding a rifle.

Heston famously used to say that the only way his gun would be taken away is "from my cold, dead hands."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan said Sunday in a prepared statement that she was heartbroken to hear of Heston's death.

"I will never forget Chuck as a hero on the big screen in the roles he played, but more importantly I considered him a hero in life for the many times that he stepped up to support Ronnie in whatever he was doing," she said.

The National Rifle Association of America's Wayne LaPierre said, "America has lost a great patriot."

Heston — who once delivered a jab at then-President Clinton, saying, "America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don't trust you with our guns." — stepped down as NRA president in April 2003.

Later that year, President Bush awarded Heston with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil honor. "He was a man of character and integrity, with a big heart," Bush said in a statement on Sunday.

Heston also engaged in a lengthy feud with liberal Ed Asner during the latter's tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild. His latter-day activism almost overshadowed his achievements as an actor, which were considerable.

Heston lent his strong presence to some of the most acclaimed and successful films of the midcentury.

"Ben-Hur" won 11 Academy Awards, tying it for the record with the more recent "Titanic" (1997) and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003). He won the 1959 best actor Oscar as the chariot-racing "Ben-Hur."

Heston's other hits include: "The Ten Commandments," "El Cid," "55 Days at Peking" and "Planet of the Apes."

He liked to cite the number of historical figures he had portrayed, including Moses ("The Ten Commandments"), John the Baptist ("The Greatest Story Ever Told") and Michelangelo ("The Agony and the Ecstasy").

Heston made his movie debut in the 1940s in two independent films by a college classmate, David Bradley, who later became a noted film archivist. He had the title role in "Peer Gynt" in 1942 and was Marc Antony in Bradley's 1949 version of "Julius Caesar," for which Heston was paid $50 a week.

Film producer Hal B. Wallis ("Casablanca") spotted Heston in a 1950 television production of "Wuthering Heights" and offered him a contract. When his wife reminded him that they had decided to pursue theater and television, he replied, "Well, maybe just for one film to see what it's like."

Heston earned star billing from his first Hollywood movie, "Dark City," a 1950 film noir. Cecil B. DeMille next cast him as the circus manager in the all-star "The Greatest Show On Earth," named by the Motion Picture Academy as the best picture of 1952. More movies followed.

Most were forgettable low-budget films, and Heston seemed destined to remain an undistinguished action star. His old boss DeMille rescued him.

The director had long planned a new version of "The Ten Commandments," which he had made as a silent in 1923 with a radically different approach that combined biblical and modern stories. He was struck by Heston's facial resemblance to Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses, especially the similar broken nose, and put the actor through a long series of tests before giving him the role.

The Hestons' newborn, Fraser Clarke Heston, played the role of the infant Moses in the film.

More films followed: the eccentric thriller "Touch of Evil," directed by Orson Welles; William Wyler's "The Big Country," costarring with Gregory Peck; a sea saga, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" with Gary Cooper.

Then his greatest role: "Ben-Hur."

Heston wasn't the first to be considered for the remake of 1925 biblical epic. Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and Rock Hudson had declined the film. Heston plunged into the role, rehearsing two months for the furious chariot race.

He railed at suggestions the race had been shot with a double: "I couldn't drive it well, but that wasn't necessary. All I had to do was stay on board so they could shoot me there. I didn't have to worry; MGM guaranteed I would win the race."

The huge success of "Ben-Hur" and Heston's Oscar made him one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. He combined big-screen epics like "El Cid" and "55 Days at Peking" with lesser ones such as "Diamond Head," "Will Penny" and "Airport 1975." In his later years he played cameos in such films as "Wayne's World 2" and "Tombstone."

He often returned to the theater, appearing in such plays as "A Long Day's Journey into Night" and "A Man for All Seasons." He starred as a tycoon in the prime-time soap opera, "The Colbys," a two-season spinoff of "Dynasty."

Publicist Michael Levine, who represented Heston for about 20 years, said the actor's passing represented the end of an iconic era for cinema. "If Hollywood had a Mount Rushmore, Heston's face would be on it," Levine said.

At his birth in a Chicago suburb on Oct. 4, 1923, his name was Charles Carter. His parents moved to St. Helen, Mich., where his father, Russell Carter, operated a lumber mill. Growing up in the Michigan woods with almost no playmates, young Charles read books of adventure and devised his own games while wandering the countryside with his rifle.

Charles's parents divorced, and she married Chester Heston, a factory plant superintendent in Wilmette, Ill., an upscale north Chicago suburb. Shy and feeling displaced in the big city, the boy had trouble adjusting to the new high school. He took refuge in the drama department.

"What acting offered me was the chance to be many other people," he said in a 1986 interview. "In those days I wasn't satisfied with being me."

Calling himself Charlton Heston from his mother's maiden name and his stepfather's last name, he won an acting scholarship to Northwestern University in 1941. He excelled in campus plays and appeared on Chicago radio. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and served as a radio-gunner in the Aleutians.

In 1944 he married another Northwestern drama student, Lydia Clarke, and after his army discharge in 1947, they moved to New York to seek acting jobs. Finding none, they hired on as codirectors and principal actors at a summer theater in Asheville, N.C.

Back in New York, both Hestons began finding work. With his strong 6-feet-2 build and craggily handsome face, Heston won roles in TV soap operas, plays ("Antony and Cleopatra" with Katherine Cornell) and live TV dramas such as "Julius Caesar," "Macbeth," "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Of Human Bondage."

Heston wrote several books: "The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-1976," published in 1978; "Beijing Diary: 1990," concerning his direction of the play "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" in Chinese; "In the Arena: An Autobiography," 1995; and "Charlton Heston's Hollywood: 50 Years of American Filmmaking," 1998.

Besides Fraser, the Hestons had a daughter, Holly Ann, born Aug. 2, 1961. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1994 at a party with Hollywood and political friends. They had been married 64 years when he died.

In late years, Heston drew as much publicity for his crusades as for his performances. In addition to his NRA work, he campaigned for Republican presidential and congressional candidates and against affirmative action.

He resigned from Actors Equity, claiming the union's refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian role in "Miss Saigon" was "obscenely racist." He attacked CNN's telecasts from Baghdad as "sowing doubts" about the allied effort in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

At a Time Warner stockholders meeting, he castigated the company for releasing an Ice-T album that purportedly encouraged cop killing.

Heston wrote in "In the Arena" that he was proud of what he did "though now I'll surely never be offered another film by Warners, nor get a good review in Time. On the other hand, I doubt I'll get a traffic ticket very soon."

March 27, 2008

‘Night Music’’s Polly Bergen is Back in Baltimore

Sitting down last week with the legendary Polly Bergen ranks right up there with some of the best theatre experiences of my life. I'll admit I was very nervous, and even managed to spill a bottle of water all over the place! She didn't miss a beat, sopping up the water and continuing her story while I bumbled around like a fool. But that incident just speaks to the graciousness of a terrific lady – professional, but very human. The truth is, we hadn't been talking more than a minute and she immediately put me at ease. Spilled water notwithstanding, the interview flew by.

James Howard: Well, here we are the day after opening night! I appreciate your taking the time for this interview.

Polly Bergen: No problem. (She smiles.) It has been pretty exhausting. Twelve hour days leading up to last night! But it was so exciting, wasn't it? I had the best time!

James: It certainly was exciting. So, tell me how did you find your way to your CENTERSTAGE debut and Baltimore?

Polly: (Director) Mark Lamos and I live about 20 minutes apart up in Connecticut, and we met up at a dinner party being given by A.R. Gurney – there's a really small social circle in Connecticut. Anyway, we got closer, seeing each other at various parties and things, and this past Christmas he said, 'Polly, I'm doing A Little Night Music in Baltimore. I think we'd have a lot of fun – it's really just 1 song and a few great scenes!' Well, I am basically retired, from the stage at least, but as a favor… so I said, 'Sure. When it gets closer, if I'm not booked with something, I'll do it.' Next thing I know, he calls, saying my manager says I'm free, and we start soon! (Laughing) I really love Mark, so here I am!

James: So what do you think of Baltimore?

Polly: Baltimore is one of the most beautiful towns, really. And trust me, I don't say that about every place… There is just something so quaint, old and beautiful about this place. I'm so glad to be back. When I was here shooting Cry Baby, I spent three months here. But the hours were 5 PM to 5 AM, so I only saw it at night, but even that was wonderful. I just love it here! Now that we've opened, and things are settling in, I can't wait to get out and see everything in daylight!

James: Tell me about Madame Armfeldt. How does she fit into the story of A Little Night Music? What does she represent?

Polly: Hmm. Her purpose is to explain the reason for the story and why it is happening, all from her wisdom and knowledge. She was a famous courtesan who never went to bed without getting something – a chateau, jewelry – you must get assets! (She smiles.) She is also trying to teach her daughter (Desiree) not to throw her life away and screw just for romance. She is also trying to teach her granddaughter not to be a replica of Desiree. I think she is also the epitome of Sweden – there is no night; she's dying, but won't sleep – no one knows when to during 24 hours of daylight! I think she is a funny, caustic and sad woman. From what I gathered during rehearsals (and from some friends who are real Sondheim fanatics) is that no one else has really played that before. I find that she chronicles her life with joy, but she fears that she threw out the one love of her life because he only gave her a wooden ring. It was foolish, really, because that ring was a valuable heirloom. Apparently no one else has really played her with a touch of sympathy. I think it makes her more interesting that she is unsure.

James: You were Tony nominated for Follies. Congratulations! Why do you think that production was so roughly reviewed.

Polly: Well, I always said, 'a blind dog with three legs could get a standing ovation for singing 'I'm Still Here'!' But honestly, I think that was the first production of that show that actors were cast for acting first, singing second. The director felt that that the acting was more important, so we really acted the songs. Singing was about a continuation of the scene. I thought they were great – none of us were really singers (at least not anymore) – Blythe (Danner), Judy (Ivey), Treat (Williams), none of us. And as you know Sondheim is TOUGH. We all struggled, and you know what? We got better and better and better! God did we work hard. And what a cast, right? You know that was Kelli O'Hara's first time originating a role on Broadway, too. Hmmm. I guess there are just certain expectations for certain shows, especially Sondheim.

James: I have to tell you, I saw the revival of Cabaret eight times, and you were my favorite Fraulein Schnieder. I thought it was so amazing that you got exit applause after your big act two scene.

Polly: You really saw me in it? You are one of like 15 people I know who saw me in that! I LOVED it so much. I wanted it so bad before it opened. I wanted to be seen and they simply would not even see me! Then I did Follies for them (Roundabout) and the next thing you know, they are asking me to do it! I absolutely loved it! I got to work with Raul Esparza, who I just adore. He is so talented, I love everything he does, don't you!? (She laughs.) And I also got to work with my dear friend, John Stamos. You know, I thought he was just the best. I mean really. A lot of theatre people dismiss TV actors, but I say give them a chance to prove themselves, you know? There are many of them who want to do their best work. Johnny was one of them. We had a ball. By that point in the run, we rehearsed with like the 4th Assistant Director or something, so we gave each other notes, too. To start with, he was pretty nervous. [The Emcee] was a rough character, and he struggled. I told him, "Don't worry about whether the audience likes you! Should they like the Emcee?" And it clicked! Boy, was he good. (She laughs.) He told me one day, "Polly, could you bring down your German accent a little? I don't understand a word you are saying!" I did, but it was hard! I really worked at that accent!

James: I remember my entire family sitting in front of the TV glued to The Winds of War. What was that experience like? And how about working with Robert Mitchum?

Polly: Ahh… maybe my favorite role! You know that was 12 hours of television we shot for the first part? Herman Wouk HATED Rhoda (Ms. Bergen's Emmy-nominated role in both Winds of War and War and Remembrance). And I thought, 'No! She's really just a victim of her time. I mean, she follows her husband making a home from scratch everywhere they went. I brought a sympathy to the role, I think. But Mitchum and I – we go back to the original film Cape Fear. We've been friends for years, and his wife and I work for the same charity. Anyway, casting was 100% against my playing the role. I auditioned ten or more times. And they couldn't cast anyone. Everyone turned it down. Later, I was told Mitchum insisted I do it. So there I was at home, cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for thirty-four people! And I get the call. Three days before shooting was to begin on a $50 million dollar movie and I cast. That was a Thursday, we started filming on Monday! Boy, did I tease them when I got nominated for an Emmy for a part they didn't want me for! You know, come to think of it, I think I watched the first episode of the show from a hotel here in Baltimore! I'm pretty sure it was here. That day the East Coast had the worst snowstorm in a century and I couldn't get home to Connecticut. How funny!

James: And now you are Lynette's mother on Desperate Housewives! What is it like on that set? Are you going back now that the writer's strike is over?

Polly: I love to play with Felicity Huffman. She is such a powerhouse! I can honestly say I have never worked with a nicer group. I don't care what the tabloids say – I never saw anything but respect and care from anyone. What a great place to work! I had known Nicolette (Sheridan) for some time, and you know, she is just so warm and FUNNY! Eva (Longoria-Parker) is absolutely delicious! I had invited some friends – who told me the ENTIRE Desperate Housewives story before I got to the set – to the set, and she posed for pictures and was so truly gracious. And Marcia Cross is a simply heavenly woman. I regret that I didn't get to really work with Teri (Hatcher) because I respect her work so much. And of course, they just brought in Dana Delaney, another dear friend, to stir things up! But I worked mostly with Felicity, who is wonderful. She is fun and has a great time, but she (and all of them) are very serious about the work. Even working with the kids was great fun. One time, the littlest girl had to come in go to Felicity then get handed off to me. She would NOT come on! So Felicity noticed she loved the grapes on the food service table. So Felicity grabbed a handful and lured her into the scene. What a pro! And hey, I got to do scenes with Richard Chamberlain, who played my gay husband! You can't beat that. As far as going back, I can't see any reason why they would need to, they've got so much else going on. But it's a soap and they didn't kill me off, so who knows? Would I go back if they asked? In a heartbeat! (Laughing) Tell you readers to write the show – "BRING BACK POLLY!"

James: So what advice do you have for our readers who would love to have a career as long and successful as yours?

Polly: Well, this is such a cliché, but don't become a performer unless you want it more than anything else in your life. Other than that, you need to know that luck plus talent plus making your own luck plus being driven is what really gets you there. And if you are fortunate enough to have them listen to the great teachers and coaches. Wait! About preconceived notions… you need to show the people you are auditioning for that even though you don't fit their idea for a role, you might still work out. Look at what happened with me playing Rhoda! It's funny, but the things I really WANTED, I got, even thought it was so hard to get. It was always the stuff I was 50/50 on or didn't care either way that I never got. Now of course, the minute I "retired" I got more work than ever.

James: Ok. Last question –a two parter. What is your favorite role? And what role do you still want to play?

Polly: Generally, I say that the last role I played was my favorite. But really, it is always the parts that are furthest from me that people think I can't play – like Rhoda or my part in Cabaret. Hmmm I guess any part that Angela Lansbury or Marian Seldes would be up for would be parts I'd still like!

James: (Laughing) Maybe a one-woman Deuce?

Polly: Exactly! No, seriously, I've always wanted to play Big Mama. I've never done Tennessee Williams.

James: Thank you so much Ms. Bergen! Enjoy Baltimore.