NEW YORK, Sept 27 - Paul Newman, a Hollywood legend and American icon beloved for his piercing blue eyes and roguish charm, has died after losing his fight with cancer, his family said Saturday. He was 83.
Newman, whose health had been the subject of intense speculation ever since photographs of him looking frail and gaunt appeared in the press in June, passed away on Friday, a spokeswoman said.
A devastatingly handsome leading man who appeared in scores of Hollywood classics, Newman's death relegated the US presidential election and Wall Street's financial meltdown to second place in news bulletins Saturday.
"Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special," Newman's daughters said in a statement.
"Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity."
Tributes began flowing in from around the globe, with friends, co-stars and celebrities hailing an "exemplary life."
Robert Redford , Newman's friend and co-star in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting," led the emotional outpouring.
"There is a point where feelings go beyond words," the 72-year-old said in a statement. "I have lost a real friend. My life -- and this country -- is better for his being in it."
Flowers were placed on Newman's star on Hollywood's 'Walk of Fame' as the Motion Picture Association of America hailed an "extraordinary career ."
Heart-throb George Clooney said simply: "He set the bar too high for the rest of us. Not just actors, but all of us." Newman played youthful rebels, charming rogues, golden-hearted drunks and amoral opportunists in a career that encompassed more than 50 movies.
He was one of the most popular and consistently bankable Hollywood stars in the second half of the 20th century.
Newman was also a philanthropist, a health food mogul -- he once quipped that his salad dressing was making more money than his movies -- an auto racing enthusiast and a leftist political activist.
Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1987, late in his career, for his role as a pool shark named "Fast Eddie" in Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money," co-starring Tom Cruise. Many critics at the time said he was really being awarded the Oscar belatedly for his original performance of the same smarmy character in the 1961 movie "The Hustler."
Born Paul Leonard Newman on January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio into a comfortable middle-class family -- his father ran a successful sporting goods chain -- Newman acted in school plays as a youth.
He joined the navy in World War II wanting to be a pilot, but tests showed that he was color blind. Instead he served as a rear-seat radioman and tail gunner aboard Avenger torpedo bombers in the Pacific theater.
Newman's film career almost ended with his first movie -- he considered his performance in the sword-and-sandal 1954 drama "The Chalice" so mediocre he paid for a page-size ad in a Hollywood trade publication to apologize.
Newman redeemed himself in his next movie, "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), a portrayal of boxer Rocky Graziano, and by 1958 was nominated for an Oscar with a smouldering performance in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor.
Hit movies rolled on from there, including "Exodus" (1960), "The Hustler" (1961), "Hud" (1963), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "The Towering Inferno" (1974) and "Slap Shot" (1977).
A committed liberal, Newman openly campaigned for several Democratic Party candidates -- which got him onto Republican president Richard Nixon's famous list of enemies in the 1970s, something he described as "the highest single honor I've ever received."
Later Newman film roles include "Fort Apache, the Bronx" (1981), "The Verdict" (1982), "Nobody's Fool" (1994), "The Road to Perdition" (2002), and as the voice of a vintage Hudson in the animated "Cars" (2006).
Newman had six children, three from an early marriage that ended in divorce and three with actress Joanne Woodward, whom he married in 1958. He had five daughters and one son, Scott, who died of a drug overdose in 1978.
Had he ever been tempted to stray during his long marriage? "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?" he told an interviewer.
Newman became interested in auto racing while filming the movie "Winning" in 1968, and quickly became a race car enthusiast. Over the years he won four Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) championships and competed in the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race.
Newman retired from movie acting in 2007, at the age of 82.
"You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me," Newman told ABC News in an interview, referring to his acting career.