Paul Newman, a legendary figure in the world of entertainment, was born on January 26, 1925, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Raised in nearby Shaker Heights, he was the second son of Theresa Garth and Arthur Sigmund Newman, Sr. His diverse heritage reflected his father’s Jewish background, tracing its roots to Hungarian and Polish Jewish emigrants, and his mother’s Roman Catholic upbringing in the Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Early Passion for Theater
Newman’s journey into the world of entertainment began at a young age. At the tender age of seven, he made his debut on the stage, playing the court jester in a school production of Robin Hood. His talent was evident, and by the time he was ten, he was performing at the Cleveland Play House, a notable actor and alumnus of their Curtain Pullers children’s theater program.
Graduating from Shaker Heights High School in 1943, Newman briefly attended Ohio University before being initiated into the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.
Navy Service in World War II
Newman’s life took a dramatic turn during World War II when he served in the United States Navy, primarily in the Pacific theater. He initially enrolled in the Navy V-12 pilot training program at Yale University but faced a setback when his colorblindness was discovered. Despite this, he persisted in his pursuit of serving in the Navy. He eventually qualified in torpedo bombers, becoming Aviation Radioman Third Class Newman. His duties included training replacement combat pilots and aircrewmen, with a focus on carrier landings. He also served as a turret gunner in an Avenger torpedo bomber and was assigned to the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill.
During his service, a tragic incident left a lasting impact on him and later influenced his acting career. His best friend’s death on an aircraft carrier served as an emotional trigger when portraying trauma in the 1956 film “The Rack.”
Educational Pursuits of Paul Newman
After the war, Paul Newman completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and economics at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 1949. Following his graduation, he joined several summer stock companies, honing his acting skills. Subsequently, he attended the Yale School of Drama for a year before moving to New York City to study under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.
Personal Life and Family
Paul Newman’s personal life was just as compelling as his professional one. He was married twice, with his first marriage to Jackie Witte lasting from 1949 to 1958. They had a son, Scott, and two daughters, Susan and Stephanie Kendall. Tragically, Scott passed away in 1978 from a drug overdose, leading Paul Newman to establish the Scott Newman Center for drug abuse prevention.
In 1953, on the set of “Picnic” on Broadway, Newman met actress Joanne Woodward. Their connection was instant, and shortly after filming “The Long, Hot Summer” in 1957, Newman divorced Witte to marry Woodward. The couple shared a deep bond, raising their family in Westport, Connecticut. They remained married for 50 years until Paul Newman’s passing in 2008.
Paul Newman: The Racing Enthusiast
Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Paul Newman had another passion that set him apart: auto racing. His fascination with the world of motorsports began during his training at the Watkins Glen Racing School for the filming of “Winning,” a 1969 film.
Newman’s love for racing was undeniable, and he took it to the next level by agreeing to star in and host the television special “Once Upon a Wheel” in 1971. This program delved into the rich history of auto racing, reflecting Newman’s growing involvement in the sport.
In 1972, he made his debut as a professional racer at Thompson International Speedway, entering races under the pseudonym “P. L. Newman.” This marked the beginning of his illustrious racing career, and he continued to be known as “P. L. Newman” in the racing community.
Throughout the 1970s, Newman competed in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, earning acclaim and eventually clinching four national championships. His dedication to the sport was further evident when he participated in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving Dick Barbour’s Porsche 935 and finishing in an impressive second place.
Even in later years, Paul Newman’s passion for auto racing remained undiminished. In 2000, he reunited with Dick Barbour to compete in the Petit Le Mans, showcasing his enduring commitment to the world of racing.
Paul Newman’s involvement in auto racing added yet another dimension to his remarkable life, demonstrating his versatility and passion beyond the silver screen.