Paul Newman, 1925–2008


Paul Newman often said that his best films began with the letter H, among them The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963). Two of the H films were directed by Martin Ritt, including my favourite, Hombre (1967), a tough and unsentimental western based on a novel by the tough and unsentimental Elmore Leonard. Hombre is one of the few decent American westerns of the Sixties, with a great script and a first class cast. Newman plays John Russell, a white man raised by Apaches who has to save a group of stagecoach passengers from Richard Boone’s murderous bandits. His performance is a study in emotionless determination, the polar opposite of his far more popular roles as Butch Cassidy and Cool Hand Luke. One of many memorable lines of dialogue comes when Diane Cilento’s character asks Russell why they should trust him to lead them to safety. “’Cause I can cut it, lady,” he says. Paul Newman could always cut it.