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Married couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward play opposite each other in this frothy comedy from the 1960s.  After watching it, I read a few reviews and was quite surprised to see some of the vitriol directed towards this film, with it being described in some places as Newman’s worst film.  I suspect there are a few reasons for such animosity; (1) Anyone who thinks this is Newman’s worst film has clearly not seen The Silver Chalice – which Newman himself was not a fan of! (2) Paul Newman was in some iconic and wonderful films, and any that fall somewhat short of those standards may receive short shrift, and (3) Admittedly, this film is not very Newman-esque.  Anyway….I liked it quite a lot more than I expected to.

Woodward plays Samantha (Sam) Blake, a buyer for a clothes store, who is constantly being mistaken for a man, due to her short haircut and masculine clothes.  She travels with Paris with her boss and colleague in order to look at the new fashions, so that her store can copy them.  Newman is Steve Sherman, a womanising sports journalist who disgraces himself with his boss’s wife, and gets sent to Paris, basically so that he is out of the boss’s way!  They meet each other, and there is an instant antagonism between them.  When Sam has a makeover, Steve fails to recognise her and mistakes her for a call girl, who he decides to interview in order to write a column about her profession.

It’s a nice little comedy, with both stars seeming to have a lot of fun with their roles.  The storyline is pretty bonkers, and not particularly credible, but I’m not sure that it’s supposed to be.  Actually the film reminded me a lot of some of the comedies from the 30s and 40s.  There were plenty of witty lines, and it was colourful and fun, and Thelma Ritter provided excellent support.  I did think that Woodward looked FAR more attractive before her makeover – and whatever the script said, she did not look like a man at all – but the story still kind of worked, because she could not have been mistaken for a call girl before the makeover.  I’m not sure what that says about makeovers – probably, just be careful where you go for one!

Strangely, there was not a whole lot of chemistry between Newman and Woodward, unlike in The Long Hot Summer, where their chemistry was positively sizzling.  However, this may have been because they were antagonistic and untruthful to each other for much of A New Kind of Love.  The ending was somewhat predictable, but no less fun for that.

Ultimately, it is a forgettable film, but it is fun and well worth watching.

Year of release: 1963

Director: Melville Shavelson

Producer: Melville Shavelson

Writer: Melville Shavelson

Main cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Thelma Ritter, Eva Gabor, George Tobias

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Paul Newman was mainly known to the world as a movie star – an icon, really – with a beautiful face, mesmerising blue eyes, and a air of rascality about him.  His long marriage to Joanne Woodward was revered in a profession where marriages often seem to break up almost as soon as the vows are read.  This book is a journey through Newman’s life, from his happy childhood as the son of the owner of a successful sporting goods business, to the start of his acting career, and of course, his Hollywood stardom.  However, just as interesting are the details of Paul’s passion for motor racing, his political activism, and his philanthropy.  The book also covers darker periods of his life, such as the tragic death of his son Scott, and a period when he and Joanne  briefly separated. 

The book was written in a respectful, but not fawning fashion, and painted a picture of a man who was sometimes uncomfortable with his stardom, who was almost obsessive about details regarding his characters and the settings of films, and whose greatest love in life was his wife.  Shawn Levy has taken a huge number of interviews that Paul Newman gave, and put them into chronological order; in this way, although Newman did not participate in any way with the writing of this book, we are still able to see his thoughts on certain times in his life, certain films that he made, etc.  The book does not portray Newman as a saint, but he is treated with the warmth and respect that such a man would deserve.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me was when Newman set up the Hole In The Wall camps – places where sick children could go to simply have fun, play games, forget about their illnesses for a while.  Newman was determined that no child’s family should have to pay for their child to go to the camp, and importantly, as well as giving his money to the project, he also gave his time – he would often pop into the camps on spec, and play games or chat with the children.  I knew that Newman was a generous man, but I was surprised to learn of some of the things that he did, at no benfit to himself.

The book is very readable, and not at all dry – it’s a fascinating read from start to finish.  I actually found myself with a lump in my throat at the end, when reading about the death of this mercurial, precise, rogueish, handsome, kind, intelligent and funny man.  I would urge fans of Paul Newman to read this book.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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