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Newman's own 'Cassidy' anniversary turns into a rich tribute

HOLLYWOOD -- The timing seems appropriate. Almost one year after the death of screen legend Paul Newman, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing "Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection" ($89.98; Fox Home Entertainment; available now) DVD set with 13 of his films.

But the set, which arrived Tuesday, wasn't planned to coincide with the anniversary Saturday of the Oscar-winning humanitarian's death of cancer at the age of 83.

"We had planned a special collection centered around 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' because of its 40th anniversary this year," said Mary Daily, executive vice president of marketing for Fox Home Entertainment. "We were working on that before Paul Newman sadly passed. Instead of just centering it around 'Butch,' we thought, 'Why don't we make this a tribute collection?' "

All of the films in the collection have been released previously. But the set contains a 136-page soft-bound book filled with never-before-seen images of Newman on the sets of these films, quotes from the actor and dialogue from the films.

And the collection gives Newman's legion of fans an opportunity to watch the actor mature from the leading man of 1958's "The Long, Hot Summer" to a still-handsome character actor at the peak of his craft in 1982's "The Verdict," for which he earned an Oscar nomination as an alcoholic lawyer seeking redemption. The films include such hits as 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," 1961's "The Hustler" and 1974's "The Towering Inferno," as well as such obscurities as 1979's "Quintet."

Newman, said Daily, was "one of the most important actors of the century, I think, and uniquely praised. He was one of those guys who was not only strikingly handsome and attractive to women, but guys felt like they could be his friend as well. He never played the big diva movie star celebrity. It was foremost about the craft."

Here's a look at the some of films in the collection:

"The Long, Hot Summer": Newman, who made his film debut in 1954, came into his own in 1958. He received his first lead actor Oscar nomination for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for "The Long, Hot Summer," director Martin Ritt's engrossing melodrama based on William Faulkner stories.

Newman gives a sexy, charismatic turn as Ben Quick, a roughneck who arrives in a small Mississippi town where he is befriended by the burg's patriarch (Orson Welles). The film also paired Newman with Joanne Woodward, whom he had met years earlier on stage in "Picnic." Newman and Woodward married in 1958.

"Exodus": Newman made this 1960 epic based on the Leon Uris novel about the founding of the state of Israel. Although Newman had disagreements with director Otto Preminger, he managed to give one of his most heroic performances as Ari Ben Canaan, an underground resistance fighter who leads 600 Jewish refugees from Cyprus to Palestine.

"The Hustler": Newman never backed away from playing unsympathetic characters, such as his indelible, Oscar-nominated performance in Robert Rossen's 1961 classic as the brilliant, ruthless pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson.

"Hombre": Newman made six films with director Ritt, including this underrated 1967 Western in which he plays a white man raised by Apaches who must enter the white man's world after several years.

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid": This lighthearted Western romance marked the first collaboration with actor Robert Redford -- the two play famed outlaws who find that their way of life and the Old West are quickly disappearing.

"It was a perfect example of filmmaking as a community experience," Newman said. "Nobody had to defend their position, and everybody was geared to invent and create."

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