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Acting was not important to him when he was young, but one way or another he did a lot of it, in children's groups and high school. He enlisted in the Navy in the summer of 1942 but flunked the physical because his brilliant blue eyes turned out to be colorblind. He ended up in the Air Corps and spent most of the next three years as a radioman in torpedo planes and in submarine patrols off Guam, Hawaii and Saipan. He saw no serious combat. He says, "I got through the whole war on two razor blades."
At Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, he joined the student dramatic society after being kicked off the second-string football team because of a barroom squabble. His drama professor, James Michael, remembers "having trouble not casting Paul as the lead in every play," but Newman remembers being a very bad actor. His self-assessment then and now is of a very slow study without much natural talent for anything except concentration and tenacity. "I was terrorized by the emotional requirements of being an actor," he recalls. "Acting is like letting your pants down; you're exposed."
After graduating from Kenyon in 1949, he spent a season doing summer stock in Williams Bay, Wis. The following year he moved to Woodstock, Ill., joined the Woodstock Players, met Actress Jacqueline Witte and married. He had appeared in 17 Players productions by May of 1950, when the news came that his father had died. With Jackie, by then pregnant with their son Scott, he returned to Shaker Heights to become a salesman in the store.
There was a family echo here. Arthur Newman, "a brilliant, erudite man" with "a marvelous, whimsical sense of humor," at 17 had been the youngest reporter ever hired by the Cleveland Press, Paul says, but he had quit to go into the family business. Newman is uncharacteristically subdued in recalling his father: "I think he always thought of me as pretty much of a lightweight. He treated me like he was disappointed in me a lot of the time, and he had every right to be. It has been one of the great agonies of my life that he could never know. I wanted desperately to show him that somehow, somewhere along the line I could cut the mustard. And I never got a chance, never got a chance."
Paul was set free when his family decided to sell the store. In September 1951, with Jackie and Scott, he headed toward New Haven to enroll in the Yale University School of Drama. "I wasn't driven to acting by any inner compulsion," says Newman, who was 26 then; "I was running away from the sporting goods business.
"I remember when I first got there, a guy who was directing Shaw's Saint Joan came up to me and said, I want you to do this,' and I said, 'Sure.' The first thing I saw in the script was that my character was supposed to be weeping offstage. The muscles contracted in my stomach, and immediately I tried to figure out some way to play the whole thing facing upstage. And then I thought, 'What an ass. I drag my family with only $900 in the bank all the way to Connecticut and then think of all the ways I can to cop out.' At the time I was living in a boardinghouse, and I took that script downstairs to the boiler room and I said, 'O.K., buddy, you are going to sit here until you find out where it is going