Paul Newman

(1925–2008) spent his childhood in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. After graduating from Shaker Heights High School in 1943 and joined the Navy, serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The son of Terézia Feckova, a Catholic Slovak immigrant, and Arthur Sigmund Newman, Sr., the son of Polish and Hungarian Jews, who ran a sporting goods store. Paul showed an early interest in the theater, at seven playing the court jester in a school production of Robin Hood. At 10, he performed at the Cleveland Play House in a production of Saint George and the Dragon, and was a notable actor and alumnus of their Curtain Pullers children’s theater program.

After the war Newman enrolled in Kenyon College and attended the Yale School of Drama for one year before moving to New York City to study under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. He made his Broadway theater  debut in the original production of William Inge’s Picnic in 1953 and appeared in the original Broadway productions of The Desperate Hours (1955) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959) with Geraldine Page and three years later starred with Page in the film version. During this time Newman started acting in television.

His first credited role was in a 1952 episode of Tales of Tomorrow entitled “Ice from Space.”  In the mid-1950s he appeared twice on CBS‘s Appointment with Adventure anthology series. Newman was cast in two leading film roles originally earmarked for James Dean, as Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun and as Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me, both filmed after Dean’s death in an automobile collision.

Over the next five decades, Newman would star in a series of acclaimed films including The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Torn Curtain (1966), Harper (1966), Hombre (1967), Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Towering Inferno (1974), Slap Shot(1977), Absence of Malice (1981) and The Verdict (1982). He teamed up with fellow actor Robert Redford  and director George Roy Hill for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973) and co-starred in Road to Perdition (2002) opposite Tom Hanks, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 1982 Newman co-founded, with writer A.E. Hotchner, Newman’s Own, a line of food products that started with salad dressing and has expanded to include pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa, and wine—with the provision that all proceeds, after taxes, would be donated to charity. As of 2014, the franchise has donated in excess of $400 million. Newman was one of the founders in 1999 of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), a membership organization of CEOs and corporate chairpersons committed to raising the level and quality of global corporate philanthropy. He was named the Most Generous Celebrity of 2008 by, having contributed $20,857,000 that year to the Newman’s Own Foundation, which distributes funds to a variety of charities.



“Paul Newman and Jeanette Klima in ‘St. George and the Dragon.”
This was a production produced by The Cleveland Play House Children’s Theatre, founded in 1933. The Children’s Theatre specialized in plays for children, featuring child actors. These child actors were known as the “Curtain Pullers”.
Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library