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Thank You, Paul Newman.

WHEW! What a lousy crazy month September was! After a month-long series of daily cataclysmic news about our increasingly troubled economic life, and the revelation of John McCain's "Country First" mantra proven beyond any doubt to be a complete lie by his desperate and inexcusably selfish win-at-any-cost reckless choice of the most intellectually-challenged, thus potentially extremely dangerous, vice-presidential candidate in American history, I experienced one of the saddest weekends in a long time when I heard about the passing of Paul Newman at 83 on Friday, September 26. As most everyone in and outside of the industry would I’m sure agree, he was one of the most respected actors and loved stars ever to shine on movie screens.

As far back as I can remember, whenever I went to see a Paul Newman movie, I was excited with anticipation at seeing a new charismatic character portrayal and always appreciated his unique craftsmanship even if it was not one of his best films or just a “turkey” as he would put it. Not many of those in a celebrated 54-film career where every time he smiled or winked, somehow life seemed more fun and mischievous, and you hoped someday to hang with a ballsy best buddy like Paul…or like COOL HAND LUKE!

And speaking of buddy films, can anyone name two better ones in the history of film than BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and THE STING? From his memorable early films like CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and HUD to his later films like ABSENCE OF MALICE and THE VERDICT, Newman achieved great craft and worked with some of the best directors of our time from Hitchcock on TORN CURTAIN to Scorsese when he won his only Oscar after 7 nominations for THE COLOR OF MONEY. Who else was born to play “Fast Eddie Felson” so memorably in THE HUSTLER made in 1961 that a story reprising the role 25 years later would finally win him an Oscar? Paul’s film legacy is of a true giant of the movie screen, and a beloved legendary star who owned the words “class and charm.”

But Paul Newman was a formidable man who accomplished so much in his life that our admiration for him weighs beyond the movies he starred in and directed. His dedicated interest in car racing late in his life spurred his ultimate courage to have tasted victory and broken age records against all odds including the most grueling races on the planet when he came in second at the 24-hour Le Mans at the age of 54, and the 24-hour Rolex at Daytona when he was 80! Most people couldn’t drive a go-kart at 80!

But finally, his legacy will also be as one of the greatest philanthropists who has ever lived and who touched so many hundreds of thousands of people with his kind heart and generosity for others. The genius of raising funds to the tune of $250 million given to over a thousand charities through the sale of his food products is unique and simply ingenious. In the history of mankind, how many individuals have raised and given a quarter of a billion dollars to charities? Add Paul’s name to that very short list!

His favorite charity, which proved his heart was as big as his mischievous smile that lit so many silver screens for decades, was the summer camp he founded for unfortunate children with major and terminal illnesses – complete with top medical staff - called The Hole in the Wall Gang in Ashford, Conn. Through the years, to get those many thousands of sick kids outside their hospital rooms, and give them an unimaginably happy camp experience where smiles and laughter reigned, exemplifies the deep level of kindness and caring heart this man was about. Paul himself would spend time there every summer telling ghost stories, jumping in the pool to start a group splash, preparing dinners, and staging hilarious shows for the kids.

I can share with you a first-hand true story of what all this meant to a kid…her name is Anique – a very close family friend who was always the life of any party she attended – who was born premature in 1980 and so very unfortunate to receive HIV-infected blood through a hospital transfusion before blood was tested for it. At the age of 7, Anique contracted AIDS. A few years later, Paul heard of her case and visited Anique at her home in LA and invited her to the HINWG camp that summer. Anique attended and loved it so much, she swore she would return the next summer no matter what.

But her condition worsened in early 1992, and her doctors predicted the inevitable end within weeks. To her credit, and to the level of the all-inspiring joyful experience Paul provides those kids, Anique dug deep and amazed everyone with her tenacity to live for months beyond all medical expectations, just so she would get to that camp by mid-June. Even when she was by then too weak to fly, she insisted on arrangements made by her very loving and emotionally resilient Mom to get her there by trailer home with 2 drivers for continuous travel as there was no time to waste. She was so proud - as we all were of her - to have found the strength and determination to survive, and get to spend again two joyful-packed weeks as a happy Hole in the Wall Gang member. Having fulfilled her goal and reason to hang on, Anique passed away within 24 hours of leaving the camp on her travel back to Los Angeles.
That’s what Paul’s camp means to these kids.

Today, there are now Hole in the Wall Gang camps opening in foreign lands for kids in Africa, Israel, France, and Ireland who will continue to do what Paul had designed - to simply help children who need to smile…to result in huge grins. The Newman family has suggested the best way to remember Paul and support his legacy is to donate your gift to the camps at and I urge all of you who are part of the Action/Cut Filmmaking community to do so no matter how small a donation you can make.

Sally Field who knew and worked with Paul said last week “Sometimes God makes perfect people, and Paul Newman was one of them.” I fully agree…thank you Paul, so very much for everything you did in living a fulfilling and joyful life, in achieving so many of your goals including becoming a consummate actor and the ballsiest/oldest race car driver in history, and in giving so much care to so many with such an incredibly noble swagger and classy pals-forever wink. Cheers to them baby blues…and give Anique a big squeeze for all of us who miss her.

Guy Magar
Action/Cut Short Film Competition


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