Photographer talks growing up in Paul Newman’s CT backyard, new book showing star’s life

Milton Greene’s photos of David Bowie and Frank Sinatra have also been turned into books by his son, Joshua Greene.

For nearly half of the 20th century and into the 21st, the name Paul Newman — along with his steely blue eyes — was nearly synonymous with old-Hollywood cool.

From his starring turn as Rocky Graziano in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” to the rebellious anti-hero (long before Taylor Swift made the term an anthem) in “Cool Hand Luke” and other classics like “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Newman’s staying power lasted decades. In the 80s he revived his "Fast” Eddie Felson character from “The Hustler” for “The Color of Money” with Tom Cruise and left his impression on a new generation when he voiced the character of Doc Hudson in the Disney animated film “Cars.”

But it was those piercing blues, like a pure-bred Husky in full, 4K resolution, that could slice like cold steel across the screen, leaving impressions one is not wont to forget. And Newman knew it, often hiding them behind big sunglasses when meeting people and quipping — as the “New York Times” noted in his 2008 obituary — how he pictured his epitaph: 

“Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.”

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Milton Greene / Contributed

It’s those eyes that brought photographer Joshua Greene back to his father’s rolls upon rolls of decades-old Paul Newman images for his latest photography collection, “Paul Newman: Blue-Eyed Cool,” which is available now. Joshua Greene started The Archives, a collection of his father’s work optimized for digital and preserved. He put together another book of his father’s work “The Essential Marilyn Monroe.” 

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Milton Greene / Contributed

The photos of Newman taken by Greene’s father, Milton Greene, are joined in the collection by five other celebrity photographers. Many of the images capture Newman behind the scene on sets, out on the town or leaning over one of his racecars; some show him at his home in Westport.

“I sort of like the I like the idea of doing it like a group show,” Joshua Greene said. “It helps get material out there for the collection and the other photographers get to be seen too. They don't have to be responsible for carrying an entire book. Instead, we just do a chapter.”

Growing up in Connecticut, just down the road from Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward (both Oscar-winning actors), Joshua Greene saw a different side of the movie star.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Milton Greene / Contributed

“Most of the pictures have a personal meaning because I was old enough to assist my father for most of it,” Joshua Greene said. “Paul was a dear friend, a family friend. The house that we photographed most of those pictures in is his home in Connecticut.”

While many kids in the 50s and 60s were watching movie stars in theaters, Joshua Greene said he was bathed by Marilyn Monroe as a toddler in the 50s — when his father had a production company with the star and she lived with them in Westport. By the 60s, Greene was riding bikes through the woods or rafting down the river to hang out at the Newman’s house.

“Paul would go fishing with me and the old man at least two Saturdays a month during the summer when the blues (bluefish) were running,” Greene recalled. “I spent many a time on a boat with Paul and my dad fishing, as well as at the house with the kids. Because of the river that connected our two houses, we would go down the river on a raft or boogie board or a tire tube. It was just friends. It was safe harbor”

Greene went from playing in the Newman’s pool to playing pool with the Newman family (Greene said Newman’s Fast Eddie skills stuck with the actor) and eventually assisting his father on some of the home shoots. Some of the photos in the book even show Newman in one of the rafts Greene would ride down the river to his house.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Milton Greene / Contributed

Joshua Greene would eventually have his own career shooting fashion and celebrities through the ‘70s and ‘80s. When Milton Greene died in 1985, his son found some lost works and damaged film. That led Joshua Greene to a second career in digital restorations and prints.

Milton Greene was famous in his time for not just photographing, but befriending celebrities. Joshua Greene said Monroe borrowing a car or Sammy Davis Jr. popping by was the norm. Joshua Greene said his father captured a side of celebrities that wasn’t known before influencer culture and social media gave us constant access to celebrity lives.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Images from a new book, "Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool," capture Paul Newman's life in Connecticut.

Milton Greene / Contributed

Joshua Greene is working on a traveling exhibit, book on Milton Greene and documentary focusing on his father’s work and impact.

“I am very focused on developing and reintroducing Milton and his entire life story over time with the documentary and traveling exhibition,” he said. “The idea of reintroducing a lot of these celebrities and fashion people that he photographed over his life and his period and sort of tell a similar story about some of his other subjects. There's so many people who are known but are not known.”

Greene said he’s still a few years out on other projects.