Barry Newman, Star of the Cult Film ‘Vanishing Point,’ Dies at 92

Barry Newman, whose brief honesty and understated rebelliousness made the 1971 film Vanishing Point an immortal hit in American cinema history, died May 11 in Manhattan. he was 92 years old.

The hospital death, which was not widely reported until this week, was confirmed by his wife, Angela Newman. She said that while she was being treated for back pain, she developed a lung infection that spread to her spine and heart.

Neumann briefly became a film and television star in the 1970s. In the 1970 feature film, he played a Harvard-educated defense attorney who moves to a small Southwestern town to handle criminal cases. “Lawyer” He then reprized the role of Tony Petrocelli in the NBC courtroom drama Petrocelli, which ran from 1974 to 1976.

Twenty years later, he found fame again as a character actor, appearing in small parts in memorable films like Steven Soderbergh’s The Rhyme (1999). “Bowfinger” also co-starred with Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in 1999. Romantic comedy “40 Days and 40 Nights” (2002) starring Josh Hartnett.

But Neumann’s most notable performance was undoubtedly “Vanishing Point.”

In that film he played Kowalski, a named car delivery driver who makes a bet with a drug dealer in buying Benzedrine. Kowalski benefits if he can get from his Denver location to San Francisco in about 15 hours. Amphetamine free.

“Vanishing Point” then becomes a long psychedelic car chase. Kowalski deftly evades highway cops, blithely accepts his apotheosis by a fanciful radio DJ named Super Soul, and befriends a string of slender hippie blondes. Through conversations between police officers and Kowalski’s own flashbacks, we learn about his past as a decorated Vietnam veteran, frustrated police officer and demolition derby racer.

Much of the film replaces dialogue with the roar of car engines, police car sirens, and the sound of electric guitars. The camera is often directed at Mr. Newman’s face—many hair, stubble, neat sideburns, sharp jawline, and blue eyes with tears in his eyes—as he resolutely navigates the endless Desert Highway. , but stares forward with a weary expression.

Another star of the film is Kowalski’s car, a modified white 1970 Dodge Challenger that can go up to 260mph. Despite throwing up enough dust to confuse highway patrols in several western states, it remains in fairly pristine condition.

The film, whose characters make narcissistic declarations about “the last American hero whose speed means freedom of the soul,” initially met with limited critical acclaim. Roger Greenspan, reviewing the film in The New York Times, called it “a silly movie that’s little more than a car chase” and added, “I wonder if Barry Numan has real acting talent. Acting is all he needs in Vanishing Point.” driver’s license. “

However, it now regularly appears on lists of America’s best albums. road movie, car movie and action movie. Bruce Springsteen and Steven Spielberg They both list Vanishing Point as their favorite movie.

Neumann: ‘It’s become a cult movie without realizing it’ told film journalist Paul Rowlands. “Even now, I am always asked to speak about this somewhere.”

Barry Foster Newman was born on November 7, 1930 in Boston and was raised there. His father Karl ran a nightclub in the Latin Quarter. Barry visited on Sunday to see performances by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Milton Berle. His mother, Sarah (Ostrovsky) Newman, held a variety of jobs, including a saleswoman in the basement of Filene and a ticket seller at the cinema.

Mr. Neumann received a BA in Anthropology from Brandeis University in 1952. He then served in the Army until 1954, playing saxophone and clarinet in the military band.

Years later, while studying for a master’s degree in anthropology at Columbia University, Neumann and a friend attended an acting class taught by Lee Strasberg. He was “fascinated,” he told Rowlands, and soon began pursuing his acting career.

He married Angela Spilker in 1994. They divorced in 2007, but remarried in 2018. She is his sole survivor.

Neumann lived in the same apartment in Midtown Manhattan from 1962 until his death.

Mr. Neumann has become known for characters with opposite types of masculinity, playing both quick-witted lawyer Petrocelli and stoic thug Kowalski. That contradiction, he told Rowlands, was what inspired him to take on the role of Kowalski in the first place.

“I just finished ‘The Lawyer’ and we were talking non-stop for 90-some minutes there, and I got the script for ‘Vanishing Point,'” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about the idea of ​​the movie or the existentialism of the character. I just thought it would be interesting to play a role that is the antithesis of a character I just played.”

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