TROUBLE CITY

PAUL NEWMAN PACKS IT IN

Movie NewsRuss FischerComment

 ABC’s Good Morning, America is one of those shows that broadcasts to folks a couple generations ahead of me. People who saw The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in their first runs. This might, in part, explain why Paul Newman chose a relatively quiet appearance on the show last last week to announce his retirement from acting. I had to read it in a fancy rag like The Guardian.

This is a bold move. Most people would just stop without saying anything. We don’t treat our elderly well in America, and there’s no faster road to unwanted sympathy than admitting you can no longer get the job done. Must be an even more difficult thing to undertake when your five-decade career has powerhouse material like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on one end and still commanding appearances like Road To Perdition at the other.

Few actors have retired and stuck with it – Joseph Cotton comes to mind – but Newman is likely a man of his word. Walking away is not an easy thing to do, and no matter how off the cuff his decision may seem (Good Morning America?) this doesn’t seem like something he’d undertake lightly. And, of course, the retirement announcement pertains only to films – Newman is still engaged in his food venture and philanthropic work.

Just a year ago, Newman talked up vague plans for another feature, which even then he identified as his last hurrah. But his comments on GMA make plain that he feels he doesn’t have the chops to make that film happen.

"I'm not able to work anymore... at the level that I would want to. You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention." In case you think he’s not quite serious, his final statement on the subject is plain: "So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me."

If Newman follows through on his intent to step away from the screen, Cars will be left as his final picture, but we’ll always have Road To Perdition as his last live-action movie role, and Empire Falls as a satisfying televised coda.