Newman’s Ownly: A Film-and-Food Experience

by Martha Polk

Maybe when you were 13 Paul Newman introduced you to the Southern Gothic tradition and your own sexuality in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Maybe he had you losing friends in high school because after watching The Sting you couldn’t stop saying things like, “I’m a first class grifter on the lam from the FBI and lord knows there ain’t a sucker I can’t gaff!” Maybe Paul Newman made you yearn for a southern jailbird and warmer climes when you re-rewatched Cool Hand Luke during a sexually frustrating and unrelentingly snowy Brooklyn winter. Or maybe you’re addicted to Newman’s Own Butter Boom Popcorn. Any way you cut it, I think we can all agree Paul Newman’s the most important and formative person in your development as a human being and a woman.

In that spirit, I’d like to kindly curate some of your Netflix-Instant watching. (Netflix is neither sponsoring this nor paying me in any way.) We’ll call this program NEWMAN’S OWNLY. There are currently three worthy and underwatched Paul Newman movies on Netflix-Instant, and in each and every one of them Paul Newman acts like such a man! Which means that these movies are especially exhilarating to watch if you do not know or come in contact with any men ever. For the full NEWMAN’S OWNLY experience, here’s what you do:

Talk to your coworkers all day about how excited you are for your Paul Newman plans that night, then race home from work, turn off the lights, and tuck yourself into a warm womb of covers and Newman’s Own products. While pounding Fig Newman’s, Newman O’s, Butter Boom, etc., watch the following three movies in a row, stopping only for bathroom breaks and decrumbing.

In Hud (1963), Paul Newman plays an asshole! The bad boy in a Texas cattle-ranching family, Paul Newman drinks whiskey for breakfast, drives his pink cadillac very fast, and refers to attempted rape as “that little ruckus we had.” He also steals peach ice cream from a puberty-stricken boy and constantly says things like, “Honey don’t go shootin’ all the dogs cuz one of ’em got fleas!” and “We gotta dip the bread in the gravy while it’s still hot!” Actually everything Paul Newman says in this movie applies to both cattle-ranching and his potent virility. Keep your eyes open for the scene where pre-teens do the twist competitively. Keep keeping your eyes open for the good ole fashioned “Squealer Chaser,” wherein grown men dive after terrified pigs. Spoiler alert except not really: Paul Newman wins!

In Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), Paul Newman plays kind of an asshole! He also plays Henry Fonda’s son, which means this movie has two sets of piercing babyblues, enough grizzly, graying stubble to sand a canoe, and more flanneled frontiersman baditude than the cheesedog line at a Wisconsin protest. In appearance and fortitude, Fonda and Newman remind me of another famous father/son duo, but God and Jesus almost never say things like, “I’ve got contracts to fill, eggs to hatch, and cats to kill!” or “Don’t ever hit your mother with a shovel; it will leave a dull impression on her mind”…’cept maybe in the Old Testament? But Fonda and Newman say this kinda stuff all the time because they are the great Stampers, a stubborn family of Oregon loggers that refuses to acquiesce to unions or modernity. When a prodigal son returns and brings all sorts of newfangled ideas like tight jeans and treating women nicely, the Stampers are forced to reckon with the changing times. Beware: surprisingly suspenseful and borderline tearjerker.

In Hombre (1967), Paul Newman plays an “Apache-raised, half-breed Indian.” Did someone say type-casting?! He’s perfect! In truth, not only is the blackface approach racist and absurd, it’s also executed so poorly I spent most of the movie thinking Paul Newman was placed in some sort of ramshackle 1860s witness protection program where they just throw a wig at you and make you really, really dusty. I can still see you under there, Paul Newman! When he has to come to town to collect his inheritance, Paul Newman becomes a white man very quickly by freshening up and putting on a different vest. With this, the film may be commenting on the inherent mutability of race construction in both 1860s and 1960s America, but I think the film is more just saying: ‘Vests!’ Which reminds me, if you do not love vests, do not watch this movie! Instead you have to watch another Paul Newman movie currently on Netflix-Instant called Towering Inferno, in which Paul Newman builds the tallest building in the world and then it burns to the ground for a full two hours and forty minutes. Assuming you’re now suddenly pro-vest and sticking with Hombre, eat a Newman’s Own Champion Chip cookie every time you correctly predict who’s gonna die next on this wild stagecoach journey. Also take a moment to reflect on your night while repeatedly whispering this film’s tagline: “’Hombre’ means ‘man’…and Paul Newman is ‘Hombre’.”

The final and most important step for the complete NEWMAN’S OWNLY night: emit a self-satisfied sigh as 3 a.m. rolls around, the last credits run, and you paw around your crumb-ridden covers only to find that the package of delicious you just inhaled was Newman’s newest cookie, Hermits.

Martha Polk writes about women and movies.