What Did Paul Newman Think About His Movie The Silver Chalice?

"Boy, I've got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals." Paul Newman once spoke these words before audiences through the character of Butch Cassidy (via Wall Writings). Translation: "I see things the rest of the world has to look closely for." Depending on how you view Newman's "The Silver Chalice" (1954), you may in fact have to look a little bit closer to share the late actor's perspective on it. 

"The Silver Chalice" was Paul Newman's debut on the big screen. Whereas you'd think the picture would have been something of a sentimental monument for him, that actually wasn't the case after he saw the final product. According to By the Gods, the now-legendary actor absolutely abhorred the film and his performance in it, once calling it "the worst film to be made in the entirety of the 1950s." Harsh words indeed, but there may have been some truth to them.

Why did Paul Newman hate 'The Silver Chalice'?

Based on the 1952 novel by Thomas B. Costain, "The Silver Chalice" tells the story of a young Greek sculptor named Basil (Paul Newman) who gets sold into slavery. Starring alongside major Hollywood hitters like Natalie Wood and Pier Angeli, you'd think that Newman would have sported nothing but unabashed enthusiasm for the project. Sadly, his notions toward it were anything but favorable. 

"I was horrified and traumatized when I saw the film." He once shared. "I was sure my acting career had begun and ended in the same picture." In fact, Newman despised "The Silver Chalice" so devoutly, he reportedly spent $1,200 on ads warning people not to see it. He hated the wardrobe, he hated his performance, and he especially hated the fact that critics were consistently comparing his looks to Marlon Brando's. "It was god-awful," Newman stated (per By the Gods).

What did critics and audiences think of 'The Silver Chalice?'

The 1950s gave birth to a few different biblical and Greek epics that garnered major acclaim. "The 10 Commandments" (1956) and "Ben-Hur" (1959) are still some of the most definitive and celebrated titles in cinematic history. However, "The Silver Chalice" was destined to be far less venerated. Critics reportedly tore the film apart for its blatant shortcomings and laughable presentation, but strangely, it did manage to achieve some initial commercial success in a comically ironic way (via By the Gods). 

Despite his painstaking efforts to bar as many viewers as possible from watching what he clearly considered a mighty disaster, Paul Newman's notorious $1,200 ads "apologizing" for "The Silver Chalice" and warning people to keep it off their screens when it aired on television in 1963 only prompted them to tune in. Ratings and viewership boomed initially, but once people realized how terrible it really was, it was ultimately crowned it as one of the worst films ever made (per By the Gods). Nonetheless, it wasn't the career death blow that Newman braced himself for, as he's still seen as one of the most successful and admired actors of all time.