The Hustler

by |
09/29/2008 10:15 AM |

From the perspective of moral instructiveness it would probably behoove us to remember Paul Newman as above all an inspiring philanthropist, but old blue eyes (I mean, seriously, yowza) was also an actor uniquely suited to embody the self-confidence and insecurities of a postwar nation on the move.

He could be a man on the make, ruthless and driven and self-obsessed, and exactly as charming as he had to be:

He could have a certain snake-oil appeal, playing an irresistible salesman of himself — often in the person of an outlaw, since he had too beautiful a motor to be constrained by society’s speed limit:

And later in his career he brought spark and invention and fatal charisma to characters who were running on empty, and knew it:

(Jesus, everybody watch Slap Shot this week; if there’s a funnier, more profane, truer movie about the look and feel of uniquely American dead ends I don’t know it. And along with his sad-eyed, knowing, compulsively charming third wheel in Butch Cassidy it’s my favorite Newman performance, a one-time hotshot breathing hard to outrun his flaws.)