I remember distinctly the moment adulthood first beckoned. I would remain a kid for years--ask Kate, I kind of still am. But there was an unmistakable auburn burst sometime in the mid-80's when I stopped ordering off the children's menu, and no longer relied on the Hollywood happy ending to make me feel secure. Turner was showing the movie Cool Hand Luke, and aside from the terrific comedy, and that foxy scene where the woman washes the car, I was, not to overtax the adjective, unmistakable in my love for Paul Newman. It was a galvanizing moment, and looking back, a perfectly natural point in time and space, to insert into a boy's life the weirdness of love.
Most of all I remember the ending; I'd seen Old Yeller, Brian's Song, the Fox & The Hound and all that snot-softening drivel Hollywood generates to cash in on young easy tears. This was different. There was a limitlessness in that final scene, in which George Kennedy still adoring, and still entirely reliant, asks Newman, what next. It was terrifying because I felt as if I could say Kennedy's lines in time with him, match him for his devotion, and most importantly need the answer he was searching for as much as he did. Newman's Luke was the searching, pinned in an abandoned church at night with it--that one last negotiation he couldn't seduce his way through. Or wouldn't--pit the seduction of Paul Newman against the adversity of the known universe and I still say the former wins every time.
The ending was fitting. As a viewer I was asked to make peace with an unjust set of circumstances, and a turbulent heart that rose around them in the strangeness of human comedy and devilishness. I remember lying in bed that night thinking I know how it ends, and yes, I still want to be that guy.
ed. You may notice this image goes out from time to time. All the good pics of Paul Newman are owned by The Devil, who never stops fucking me in the ear.