I just read a phenomenal tribute to Paul Newman in Slate Magazine — passionately making the case that he was the rare Hollywood icon who didn’t do charity work for the publicity.
Dahlia Lithwick’s account of his Hole in the Wall Gang summer camp (for chronically ill children) will inspire you to slurp a jar of Newman spaghetti sauce and wash it down with a half gallon of Newman lemonade. Anything to support the cause.
Newman died the other day of cancer. He was 83.
From Lithwick’s appreciation essay, here’s a quote from the actor about why he started the Hole in the Wall Gang:
“I wanted, I think, to acknowledge Luck: the chance of it, the benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others; made especially savage for children because they may not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.”
What surprised me after reading several memorial tributes, including the official one issued by his family, is how one of my favorite movies, “Exodus,” is relegated to a footnote in his on-screen accomplishments.
For me, Newman will forever be Ari Ben Canaan, the temperamental Israeli (then Palestinian-Jewish) hero of Leon Uris’ best-selling novel, “Exodus.”
A little bit of righteous anger fused with a kitschy delivery worthy of Adam West’s Batman series, this movie character offered the perfect combo for me. Ari Ben Canaan was Austin Powers with better teeth and a more legitimate historical cause.
Apparently, Barack Obama, is also a Leon Uris fan. Not to be confused with Barak Ben Canaan, the David Ben Gurion-esque patriarch of “Exodus.”
In a special film commentary for Ha’aretz, I recently made the case why “Exodus” and Newman’s Ari Ben Canaan just get better with age.