DVD - The Paul Newman Collection
Class never looked so cool..!
Warner Home Video has released an ultimate box with famous classics of one of Hollywood's great actors, The Paul Newman Collection. It's a profile that starts in 1956 with Paul Newman as a young bokser to the second Harper movie in 1975. All movies are beautifully remastered and are presented in a "Letterbox" or "Matted" widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition.
What's in the box..?
Seven lesser-known movies from Newman's heyday, all released on DVD for the first time. The most familiar is probably Harper, based on author Ross MacDonald's famous Lew Archer detective (Newman had the name changed to "Lew Harper" to fit in with his other hit movies - like Hud - which began with the letter H.) He reprised the character nine years later in The Drowning Pool. Other standouts in the set include Newman's breakthrough role as boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There, which was supposed to be James Dean's next role after Giant. The Young Philadelphians is a high-gloss soap opera with Newman as an ambitious lawyer from the wrong side of the tracks. As for the set's extras, most of the films come with commentary from someone connected with the production, but it's too bad that Newman, 82 next month, didn't really participate. You hear him for only 10 minutes - on speakerphone! - talking to director Robert Wise about playing Graziano. Otherwise there are the standard trailers, and one featurette.
About the music...
Paul Newman got to portray middleweight boxer Rocky Graziano when James Dean (who had been originally signed) tragically died. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) chronicles Rocky's wild, law-breaking youth and his evolution from an unpolished street fighter to an unpolished prize fighter. The score is by Bronislau Kaper and Sammy Cahn is responsible for the lyrics of the title song "Somebody Up There Likes Me".
The Left-Handed Gun (1958) is a sympathetic take on William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. This time, the troubled Billy the Kid is portrayed as, more or less, on the side of the angels who seeks justice when his friend and mentor is murdered by a dastardly lawman and his peeps. Alexander Courage's score has never made it to an LP or CD.
The Young Philadelphians (1959) offers up some very good performances, with Newman doing the heavy lifting, acting-wise. It's basically a soap opera tale elevated to the big screen and given a Hollywood sheen. Newman plays a young, gifted lawyer from the poor side of town attempting to scale Philadelphia's elite social ladder. The score is by Ernest Gold and the title theme can be heard on the compilation album Film Themes By Ernest Gold (Artemis CD), originally recorded in 1963 by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ernest Gold.
Harper (1966) is based on Ross MacDonald's classic detective Lew Archer and is an engrossing mystery film. Newman is simply great as the cool and unflappable Lew Harper as he attempts to ferret out a missing millionaire but ends up, as usual with these types of mysteries, digging up more than he bargained for. The cool music is by Johnny Mandel and has been released in 1966 on LP by Mainstream Records and on a 45RPM in Japan.
Pocket Money (1972) is an offbeat modern western-comedy starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin as two cowboys who get bilked in a cattle smuggling scheme by a two-faced rancher played by Strother Martin. For those who enjoy contemplative, off-kilter films without lots of action, this one's for you. The music by Alex North has never been released.
The Mackintosh Man (1973) is a pseudo-Hitchcockian cold war thriller starring Newman as Joseph Rearden, a supposedly convicted criminal who escapes from prison in the company of a spy. Then, things get more murky and complicated. Not a bad gritty flick directed by John Huston. From the score by Maurice Jarre, only a 45RPM was released in 1973 by Warner Brothers.
And finally The Drowning Pool (1975), the sequel to HARPER and decidedly a lesser effort. This time out, Harper goes to Louisiana to get to the bottom of a blackmailing plot and ends up meeting eccentrics. A slow mystery, and, in a way, more of a slice of life type of film. But, if you've seen and enjoyed HARPER, you almost have to see this. Plus, it features a very young Melanie Griffith. The score is by Michael Small and has never been released.
The conclusion is, that who wants to find out what kind of music has been written by such great composers as mentioned here, has to "listen" to the DVD's. But, believe me, it's a pleasure to do that..!
Released by Warner Home Video on November 14, 2006.
Available from Amazon.com.