Goodbye Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman was--in my opinion--the real James Dean, having portrayed many non conformist roles, but the one role and movie that I believe will always remain his finest work was Cool Hand Luke where he played a a prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to submit to the system. I admire him for also not being a conformist in his personal life as well. Newman said "the highest single honor I've ever received," was when he was placed on Richard Nixon's enemies list after supporting Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Presidential Election and his support for liberal causes.
Paul Newman indeed bucked the system. Possibly there are people that have never seen some of Paul's more famous movies like the 1967 Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Of course many have seen these highly successful movies as well. I remember that Cool Hand Luke was a staple for weekend movie of the week consumption throughout the 197Os. I miss the Movie of the Week that many stations ran out of their own can on Saturday or Sunday. Now everything comes off of network feeds which prefer to run sports like golf or tennis.
There are so many memorable scenes from the movie Cool Hand Luke, I would never be able to touch on them all in this short blog article. There was a fighting spirit in Luke and in Newman as well. In one scene Luke is basically badly beaten in a boxing match on the chain gang's prison yard by larger man, Dragline, played by George Kennedy, and although badly beaten and pushed well past exhaustion--where other men might have quit--Luke refused to give up and, in a last gasp effort, took a final swing that Dragline ducked under picking Luke up, spent, bloody and out on his feet but having won the respect of the man who just gave him the thrashing. Who hasn't somehow been like Luke in their own life, to struggle and strive with a never say never attitude, just to be picked up and carried along by the things we all struggle against? We all may be picked up and carried along with the proposed Wall Street bailout regardless of the outrage that it will cause.
Who in life hasn't heard their own version of "What we have here, is failure to communicate"? It seems like someone else is always trying to tell us what to do and how to be. One judges his neighbor many times without recognizing his or her own shortcomings. Are we any less of a person for not getting that promotion at work or being able to afford that new sports car? And don't we all really have to "get our dirt out of the boss man's hole?" Who hasn't somehow struggled with the systems in this imperfect world in one way or another?
Aren't we all like Luke, all being told that we should conform to someone else's belief that we be a person that we may not be or never can be?
Worldly systems--I have found--teach a conformist point of view which the national media bombards us with constantly, propaganda by which people are EXPECTED to conform. Newman really was Luke because he was a non-conformist. I have always identified with first the character Luke in the movie and then later with the actor himself for the very same reasons.
Newman holds the title of being the oldest man to ever win a professionally sanctioned motor sports race when he was well into his 70s after being inspired to enter racing after participating in some preliminary work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his role in the movie Winning. What made Newman a great actor was his ability to become the character. You can see the determination on his face as he races down the track in the 1969 movie, showing a similar determination to buck the system as Luke.
In this day and age, where people almost always are schooled to become conformist, to tow some kind of party line, wasn't Paul Newman refreshing? He really was the every man's man. I have blue eyes like Paul, and somehow I see the world the way he did as well. I've always disliked anyone telling me how I should be, even when they were right and I was wrong, I might add. Paul seemed to actually possess a rebels spirit which always worked out well for him at the box office and in life. Sadly, a rebel's spirit doesn't always work out so well when it lands hard on the cold hard realities of life.
Just as Cool Hand Luke was forced to get the Boss Man's dirt out of the Boss Man's hole, we all are forced to do just that as well; we all seem to either conform or struggle against the machine.
There seems to be a great repudiation of some of the failed policies of the past recently which Newman opposed. Big business has had its hand in buying their way with our law makers. Through greed they have convinced law makers to get governmental oversight off of their back and have been free to ride their gravy train of profit over the middle class and poor as well. These scoundrels in the banking industry operated their own boiler rooms in their effort to push high risk loans onto anyone believing they were a good way to own or renegotiate their mortgage. The regulators responsible for oversight have been made toothless by political concessions all favoring the scoundrels rather than the citizens who become the barrel of fish for these suits to shoot at. This same lack of governmental oversight allows Amway to operate its money extracting schemes as well and to fund the promotion of political cronyism that many people complain about constantly.
Paul Newman, a long time supporter of liberal causes, was lucky to live long enough to see the repudiation of the Right's support for big business and the rich and the powerful. How long might the people's causes be thwarted in the interest of greed and power? For too long, liberal causes have been painted with a black brush, as if anything "for the people" was wrong, and every thing for these special interest "movers and shakers" was just wonderful.
What truly boggles my imagination is that nothing has been done to make health care more widely available to people struggling to just get by from year to year. Class warfare and discrimination have ruled the roost for too long. We can send Billions to rebuild infrastructure in other Nations like Iraq while we allow our infrastructure and poor in this country to fall by wayside. The leaders can now come up with a complicated bail out proposal in a matter of days or weeks, which if passed, would put the burden on the people to bail out the very people that have been working successfully to repress them for years! We need more Paul Newman's in this country!
Paul, your days here are gone, but you've left a legacy that will live on in my mind at least. Your charitable causes were unselfish, and your political views are timeless, and your loyalty to your wife, Joan Woodward, over your fifty year marriage may be your most enduring legacy. Cool Hand Luke, rest up my friend, there will be no parking meters in heaven, and may we all be reminded that as one more Sunday comes and goes in our life, we too can look up and know that we may have to pay the meter in this life, but there will be no parking meters in the next. A tear falls from my blue eye. Hug someone today because we are all in this life together!