Paul Newman rises from the sea

On the Hollywood Reporter site in “When Paul Newman Dazzled Venice” by Gregg Kilday on 8/21/12:


Promoting 1963’s “Hud” at the Venice Film Festival, the actor exhibited an effortless masculinity that had Italians swooning.

American stars go to the Venice Film Festival to test their wattage, and in 1963 no star burned brighter than Paul Newman. At age 38, he visited the Lido to show off Hud, Martin Ritt’s drama in which he played a Texas bad boy. Remembers Barbara Steele, then a rising young actress who’d just completed a role in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, “I don’t know how, but I ended up hanging out with Paul Newman, who was at the peak of his beauty. He was a Greek god, absolutely stunning. He was every Italian’s dream of classical beauty.”

Thing is, Newman rising from the sea here was pretty much the perfect package, from face to crotch, everything in balance, nothing obtrusive. Two themes here: the beautiful character rising from the sea; and the full package of male beauty.

Beauty rises from the sea. The archetype here is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, depicting the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea fully grown:


Emergence from the sea then became something of a gay trope, as I observed in my 11/29/18 posting “He came from the sea … and can only love me”, on

an underwear pose [that] is “likely an allusion to the landmark gay porn film Boys in the Sand, and more indirectly to the whole mansex on the beach genre of male art, gay porn, and gay cartooning

Wakefield Poole’s Boys (1971) has Cal Culver (acting under the name Casey Donovan) coming out of the sea on Fire Island, naked and gorgeous, to encounter Peter Fisk and engage in a series of sexual acts with him (and then to go on to sexual encounters with other men on the Island). Culver/Donovan at first appearance (with his dick fuzzed out for modesty on WordPress, though it’s a central feature of the scene):


Culver/Donovan in #3 has the whole male beauty thing — face, torso, and genitals — but in an explicitly highly sexualized context; he’s a very hot trick, and he’s ready for immediate, urgent action. He’s carnality embodied.

Male beauty. Paul Newman in #1, in contrast, is virtually ethereal, a platonic ideal of male beauty, restrained in almost every respect — except for his notably erect nipples, which are probably an involuntary consequence of his immersion (see below).

First, the obligatory Butch-and-Sundance shot:

(#3) Newman, Redford

From my 3/10/16 posting “Male beauty”:

Both very good-looking men with strongly masculine physical presences, but Newman [as Butch] is more on the rugged side, Redford [as Sundance] more on the beautiful side.

Then, on representations of the male body, from my 7/30/20 posting “The measure of a man: HTC”:

Two representations of the male body, head to thigh, celebrating masculine faces, masculine bare torsos, and the male genitals. HTC — head, torso, crotch — images.

Previously, in yesterday’s posting on this blog, “Portrait of man: the head and bare torso image”, about HT images:

the head and bare torso image: In a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, a photograph: the face projecting a persona, an identity, a character; the naked torso presenting this character as a carnal being: an embodiment of gender, a sexual object, and an assertion of vitality.

Now add to this the crotch, at least minimally clothed, but containing and hinting at the male genitals within — so substantially magnifying the sexual messages of the torso.

Newman in #1 presents us with an amiably smiling crinkly-eyed (and masculinely scruffy) face; a very fit (but not gym-fashioned) torso; and enough of a visible package to assert his masculinity without being obtrusive about it. All nicely balanced and understated.

But then there are those pointedly erect nipples. However, as I noted in my 8/13/20 posting “Spontaneous erections”, though nipple erections, like penis erections, are accompaniments of sexual arousal, both also occur unbidden, triggered by all sorts of environmental factors and psychological states not involving sexual desire. Nipple erections and “goose bumps”, in particular, are manifestations of the same physiological process.

One Response to “Paul Newman rises from the sea”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    With reference to Boys in the Sand: Sex on the beach is a standard item of fantasy, especially gay-male fantasy, but if one makes the mistake of actually thinking about it, one realizes pretty quickly (or at least I do) that it’s not really practical, sand being the ultimate anti-lubricant.

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