(Updates with reactions.)
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Legendary film star Paul Newman, whose brilliant blue eyes, good looks, cool style and talent made him one of Hollywood’s top actors over six decades has died at age 83 after a long battle with cancer.
Newman died on Friday night at his farmhouse near Westport, Connecticut, surrounded by his wife of 50 years, actress Joanne Woodward, and other family and friends.
“His death was as private and discreet as the way he had lived his life, a humble artist who never thought of himself as ‘big,’” said a statement released by his family on Saturday.
Paul Leonard Newman, known as “PL” to his friends, appeared in more than 50 movies, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.” He earned nine Oscar nominations for acting and won the best actor honor for 1986’s “The Color of Money.”
A director and race car driver as well as an actor, Newman was also known for his extensive philanthropy. He created Newman’s Own food products, which funneled more than $250 million in profits to thousands of charities worldwide.
“He quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity,” his five daughters said in a statement. “Always and to the end, Dad was incredibly grateful for his good fortune. In his own words: ‘It’s been a privilege to be here.’”
“There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend. My life - and this country - is better for his being in it,” said actor Robert Redford, Newman’s friend and co-star in “Butch Cassidy” and “The Sting.”
Former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton said in a statement that they will miss their “dear friend.” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called Newman the “ultimate cool guy” who was “one of a kind.”
Born in a Cleveland suburb on Jan. 26, 1925, Newman was a Navy radio man in the Pacific during World War Two. He went to Kenyon College in Ohio on a football scholarship, but took up acting after he was cut from the team over a barroom brawl.
He helped run the family sporting goods store, then headed to the Yale Drama School and ended up in New York, winning a Broadway role in “Picnic” in 1953. His first major movie role was as boxer Rocky Graziano in “Somebody Up There Likes Me.”
In 1958, Newman starred in “The Long Hot Summer” with Woodward, whom he married that year shortly after divorcing his first wife, Jacqueline Witte.
He played an alcoholic loser in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” opposite Elizabeth Taylor, and pool shark Fast Eddie Felson in “The Hustler.” Other hits were “Hud” and “Cool Hand Luke.”
Newman was also recognized for work behind the camera, earning a best picture Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for best director for “Rachel, Rachel,” starring Woodward, which he produced and directed.
Although his movie career slowed in later years, Newman picked up Oscar nominations in 1994 for “Nobody’s Fool” and in 2002 for “Road to Perdition.”
He returned to the stage the same year in “Our Town” at a Connecticut playhouse. The show moved to Broadway and Newman was nominated for a Tony award. He won an Emmy, U.S. television’s highest honor, for its 2003 broadcast.
In 2005 he won another Emmy for best supporting actor in the mini-series “Empire Falls.” His last film part was a voice-over role in the 2006 animated “Cars.”
Newman resisted the glare of Hollywood’s spotlight.
His long marriage to Woodward ran counter to Hollywood’s tradition of fast weddings and quick divorces, and the pair lived in a 200-year-old Connecticut house, far from the heart of the entertainment industry.
Asked the secret of his marriage, Newman once said there was no reason to roam, asking: “I have steak at home. Why should I go out for a hamburger?”
He started auto racing because he said he was bored with acting, but won respect in that field, coming in second in the Le Mans 24-hour competition in 1975. In 1995 at age 70, he became the oldest driver on a winning team at the 24 hours of Daytona race.
Newman tried to advance many social causes, at times in the political arena. A supporter of liberal Democratic presidential nominee Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Newman ended up on President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list,” which he termed “the highest single honor I’ve ever received.”
Still, Newman said his deepest satisfaction came from philanthropy.
Particularly close to his heart were his Hole-in-the-Wall Camps for seriously ill children. Today, there are eleven around the world that have helped over 135,000 kids, all free of charge.
Newman is survived by Woodward, five daughters, two grandsons, and his older brother, Arthur. Newman also had a son Scott, who died in 1978.
Writing by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Patricia Zengerle