A New Book Revisits the Impeccable Style of Paul Newman
Talking with James Clarke, author of “Paul Newman: Blue-Eyed Cool”
It’s never a bad time to revisit Paul Newman’s life and work, and this summer offer multiple opportunities to do just that. Ethan Hawke’s documentary The Last Movie Stars, about Newman and longtime romantic and professional partner Joanne Woodward, is set to air on HBO Max this month. For those seeking a purely visual record of Newman’s career, James Clarke’s new book Paul Newman: Blue-Eyed Cool (published by ACC Art Books earlier this summer) offers an invaluable look at Newman on and off screen, including a few beatifically candid moments.
Newman’s work on film isn’t the only aspect of his life that Clarke’s book covers; there are also several images that stem from Newman’s time racing cars. The photos are accompanied by images reflecting the context from which they emerged, which have the added bonus of providing an excellent primer for Newman’s career. We spoke with Clarke to learn more about the process of putting the book together, as well as getting some of his own thoughts on what makes Newman such an enduring figure.
InsideHook: Was it a challenge to find photos (and photographers) who represented all aspects of Paul Newman’s life?
James Clarke: Happily, it wasn’t a particular challenge to find the photographs that could represent various aspects of Paul Newman’s life in that I was working with a photo archive in London (Iconic Images) that holds a wonderful range of stills by a number of major photographers whose work has enjoyed a global reach. If there was a challenge for me, it was, perhaps obviously to say, in bringing additional interest to the photographs. What readers will see when they open the book are dazzling black and white and color images that I have endeavored to add background information that might provide context for a particular photograph or set of photographs.
What prompted you to organize it by photographer, rather than (say) chronologically?
JC: Organizing the book by photographer was motivated by it being a showcase not only of Newman but also of the photographers themselves. In writing the text , I was balancing information about the film or event (car racing) with the stories of how each photographer worked with Newman. The book is for Newman fans, for sure, but it’s also for fans of the photographers whose work we feature. I guess that it’s fair to say that it’s a book about a movie star and it’s a book about a number of stars of the stills-photography world.
Do you have a particular favorite Paul Newman performance?
JC: For me, Paul Newman is an actor whose work I’d always been drawn to and maybe, in part, that came from my dad’s enthusiasm for his performances. I do love Newman’s performance in The Hustler (not a film that we include in the book, I have to say) and, as a lifelong Western fan, I do very much enjoy his performances in the two Westerns that are included in the book: Pocket Money and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.
Was there anything in this array of photos that surprised you?
JC: From the array of photographs that we were able to work with for the book, what I was happily surprised by was the wealth of candid images of Newman, either on set or, very notably, at home. These images of Newman at home were photographed by Eva Sereny in the early 1980s and there is a real sense that you really are right across the table from him and far, far away from the artifice of filmmaking. The warmth that Eva’s images capture is an important part of the book and it’s a quality that runs right through the work of each photographer. They really do provide a close-up on Newman whether he was preparing for filming, or prepping to get into his race car or just hanging out with fellow actors. One of my favorite photographs in the book is of Newman and Clint Eastwood standing together, having coincidentally met whilst they were both filming on their own respective projects. In that image, all of the movie stardom in a way falls away and it’s just a picture of two friends.
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