Monday, September 29, 2008

Newman's Own Legacy

Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Orville Redenbacher, Paul Newman? ... It's been a few days since Paul Newman's death, and it occurs to me, I'm 30, and I really only know Paul Newman through movie roles I've made a point of going back to look at—Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, Cool Hand Luke, The Towering Inferno. Yes, he has done some modern projects, but his contemporary fame is no competition for the A-List status he once held in Hollywood. So I wonder if people 10 years younger than me and beyond will come to know Newman primarily from his branded image on his product packaging. His cartoony, smiley face—a caricature of the genius he was.

Newman began the food products company—Newman's Own—to promote charitable giving. He called it "shameless exploitation in the pursuit of the common good." One can assume he meant exploitation of his own celebrity image and endorsement.

It will be interesting to see if that image becomes his enduring legacy for generations to come ... or if his outstanding body of film work is enough to outshine the pasta sauce and dog treats people see every day in the grocery store.

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