As one of the finest actors of all time, Paul Newman is remembered by audiences today as a philanthropist, political activist, Hollywood legend, and a legend in the entertainment industry. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for best supporting actor in the TV miniseries “Empire Falls” and an Academy Award for best leading actor in “The Color of Money” before passing away in 2008 at the age of 83. (via IMDb). Old Hollywood fans will always recall Newman’s most noteworthy performances in classic movies like “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Hustler,” and “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.” They will also recall how he appeared onscreen alongside fellow icon Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Even the most famous tales, though, started out in poverty. Paul Newman’s parents had a sporting goods store, according to the actor’s biography by film critic Shawn Levy, “Paul Newman: A Life.” He served in the American Navy during World War II before going on to become an actor. His first reported credit on a TV series called “The Aldrich Family” came soon after when he started working as an actor professionally. Prior to making his screen debut in the 1954 movie “The Silver Chalice,” he steadily worked in TV for a number of years.
In the beginning, Newman detested his debut movie and even ran advertising against it:
A Greek sculptor named Basil (played by Newman) journeys to Rome and Jerusalem in order to create Jesus Christ’s cup that was used during The Last Supper in “The Silver Chalice,” directed by Victor Saville (via IMDb). The extent to which Newman detested the movie when it first came out is covered in length in Levy’s “Paul Newman: A Life.” When I saw the movie, I was frightened and traumatised,” he was reported as saying by Levy. I was certain that the image in which my acting career began and ended was the same. The movie, in Newman’s opinion, holds the distinction of being the worst movie made in the 1950s.
Newman ran an anti-movie ad campaign in 1963 as a result of his long-standing disdain for the movie. Levy claims that Newman paid $1,200 on newspaper ads in Los Angeles informing readers to avoid watching the movie when it played on local television. Contrary to how such efforts often work, Newman’s anti-campaign instead led to increased interest in the movie due to the coverage it garnered. The actor reportedly told readers of the local tabloids, “Paul Newman apologises every night this week – Channel 9,” but the movie nevertheless received good viewership ratings.
Critics pointing out his likeness to fellow praised actor Marlon Brando was one of many possible reasons Newman disliked the film, but it stuck out. Critics pointed out their similarity in facial features as Levy was writing. The reason for Newman’s dislike of the movie could have been related to this.
Newman eventually came to admire creating The Silver Chalice:
“The Silver Chalice” has received unfavourable reviews from critics and viewers, therefore Paul Newman’s dislike of the movie was not unique from the broad consensus among critics. Even so, Levy noted in his biography of Newman that the actor had come to understand how beneficial any press—even negative press—can be to a budding actor in the beginning of their careers. According to Levy’s citation of him, “It’s like juvenile delinquency: if you can be the worst child in the street, you can build a name for yourself.”
But it was clear that Newman wouldn’t have to worry about negative publicity for very long. Although, according to IMDb, he initially kept to TV shows after “The Silver Chalice,” his big-screen star quickly began to soar. He reconnected with his “Silver Chalice” co-star Pier Angeli for the 1956 movie “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” and in 1958, he appeared in both “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” with Elizabeth Taylor and “The Long, Hot Summer” with his wife Joanne Woodward. The career of the Hollywood legend would continue to expand after that.