The Letter H is a Good Thing When It Comes to Paul Newman

Guest blogger Monty Hawes writes:

I just realized that Paul Newman did several films that began with the letter H and that they are some of his best films and most successful. And all came out during a time span in the 1960s. So I thought it would be cool to do a post about that.

First up in 1961 is the much-loved and rightly praised The Hustler, which cast Newman as up-and-coming pool player “Fast Eddie” Felson, who challenges top shark Minnesota Fats (played by the Great One, Jackie Gleason). This is one of Newman’s most famous roles. He even did a sequel 25 years later with Tom Cruise called The Color Of Money. The sequel finally landed him an Oscar, which had eluded him for his whole life. Not taking anything away from the sequel, but it’s The Hustler where Newman really shines. The film is one of my favorite films and performances of Newman by far.

Next came 1963’s Hud, with Newman giving another memorable performance as Hud Bannon, a troublesome young man who defies everyone and everything and lives by his own rules. He is described as not having a decent bone in his body. Melvyn Douglas plays Hud’s father and they do not get along at all. Their prickly relationship makes for a powerhouse of a film. Chalk this up as another amazing performance by Newman.

Paul would score again in 1966 with another H-titled film, the whodunit Harper. He’s a cool private investigator named Lew Harper who is hired by a wealthy California woman (hey, it’s my classic movie goddess of the month, Lauren Bacall) to find her kidnapped husband. Based on Ross Macdonald’s best-selling novel series, this almost wasn’t going to be a ‘H’ film for Newman. The character in the books is called Lew Archer, but was changed to Harper and thus continued Newman’s winning ways. And it was so successful that Newman returned for a sequel in 1975, The Drowning Pool.

For 1967’s western thriller Hombre, Newman was cast as John Russell, a white man raised by Apaches on an Indian reservation. Fully grown, he and some passengers on a stagecoach get attacked by  bandits and are left for dead. Russell is called upon to lead them to safety. Newman gives another rock solid performance. He could do no wrong and the ’60s proved to be his greatest decade ever.

Finally comes 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, his crowning achievement. He is Luke Jackson, prisoner on a Southern chain gang who is so cool and unflappable, and just will not bow down to authority. His repeated escapes and then recapture almost become comical, but Newman is just amazing in this role. How he didn’t win a Best Actor Oscar for this is one of the greatest crimes the Academy ever committed.

Honorable mention goes to 1968’s The Secret War of Harry Frigg, which has Newman cast as Private Harry Frigg, who must help fiveAllied generals escape prison during World War II.
So that wraps up this little post about Mr. Newman’s awesome run of H titled films in the ’60s. Hope everyone enjoyed this little exercise of mine.

Who is Monty Hawes? In a nutshell, he is a movie fanatic who loves films…both classic and modern. For more information, visit his blogs All Good Things and Screwball Cinema.