I awakened to the truly sad news this morning that Paul Newman has died at the age of 83. In appearance and in other personality characteristics, he reminded me a lot of my beloved friend and neighbor, Norman Maclean. Norman was known around the world as the author of A River Runs Through It, and a second book, Young Men and Fire that was published posthumously following brilliant editing by University of Chicago Press editor, Alan Thomas. Of course, A River Runs Through It was made into a highly successful Robert Redford movie that was released in 1992, two years after Norman's death at the age of 88.
The same year the movie was released, Young Men and Fire was published and soon after Hollywood approached his family (son John Maclean and daughter Jean Maclean Snyder) about optioning it for a movie as well. It got as far as several screen play versions, though none seemed to John and Jean to adequately capture Norman's intent. In conversation with Norman's son-in-law, Joel Snyder, I learned that Clint Eastwood had been proposed to play Norman in the would-be film. While that was not unreasonable, by far the best match in terms of looks, age (at the time of Norman's involvement in the events described in Young Men and Fire), and persona, Paul Newman would have been the ultimate choice.
I took this photo of Norman in our Chicago back yard in the fall of 1982, about a year after we visited Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Norman at the Maclean family cabin in Seeley Lake, Montana. That wonderful trip, and what I learned about the world from Norman Maclean through the years I knew him, were to set the course of my life. I loved Norman deeply, and the loss of Paul Newman has opened anew the pain of his passing.
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