Paul Newman didn’t appear on screen for his last big hit, but his personality came through palpably in this Pixar comedy about talking cars, auto eroticism and the purity of old small-town values in the NASCAR age. Voicing the character of Doc Hudson, a craggy Truman-era sedan harboring a champion-racer past, Newman tells the hotshot hot rod Lightning McQueen (Wilson) about the time he crashed his car during a big race. “When I finally got put together, I went back expecting a big welcome. You know what they said? ‘You’re history.’ Moved on to the next rookie standing in line. There was a lot left in me. I never got a chance to show ‘em.”
Newman wouldn’t say that about himself. He had a great run, stayed in fashion — the fashion he created — for more than half a movie century, did well and did good. If his face was eventually less familiar on the big screen than on a bag of microwave popcorn, that was fine too for a despiser of celebrity whose used his name and fame to raise $250 million for charity. As Brick and Hud and Butch and Frank Galvin, he got to show ‘em. On DVD, and in the grateful memories of movie lovers, his illuminating show still goes on.