Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Enduring Love of Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward

When one hears the words "Hollywood couple," several names come to mind: Bogie and Bacall, Gable and Lombard, Frank and Ava, Burton and Taylor. Of the four mentioned, two ended in an early death and the other two in divorce. None of them lasted for a significant amount of time. If I was to pick a Hollywood couple to use as "relationship goals," I would pick Paul and Joanne.

Hollywood marriages are almost always tumultuous and seldom make it past ten or sometimes even one! The ones that do last, however, are not because everything is rosy-dosy, but because the couple chooses to work at their marriage when an obstacle hits, instead of throwing in the towel at the first sign of trouble. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were one of these couples.
From the beginning, Paul and I had an advantage: we were good friends before we were lovers. I mean, we really liked each other. We could talk to each other. We could talk to each other, we could tell each other anything without fear of ridicule or rejection. There was trust.
Paul and Joanne first met while "making the rounds of agents" in the television industry.
Newman: I saw her coming out of the door at MCA, the theatrical agency, and I just thought, jeez, what an extraordinarily pretty girl. I had on my one suit - I had one seersucker suit, which I, you know, would wear all week and wash over the weekend. A button-down collar. A knit tie, a black knit tie. I said hello.
Woodward: He (Maynard Morris, agent at MCA) had discovered... me and he discovered Paul and he introduced us one day. I had been making the rounds and I was hot, sweaty, and my hair all stringy around my neck. He brought out a pretty-looking young man in a seersucker suit, all pretty like an Arrow Collar ad, and said, "This is Paul Newman," and I hated him on sight, but he was so funny and pretty and neat.

The two met again when they were both cast in the 1952 Broadway production of Picnic, later made into a movie starring William Holden and Kim Novak. Newman - who was married at the time and awaiting the birth of his second child with wife, Jacqueline Witte - was cast as Hal's (Holden's role in the movie, Ralph Meeker in the play) younger friend (played by newcomer Cliff Robertson in the movie). He was also the understudy for the role of Hal. Woodward was the understudy to both Madge (played by Novak in the film) and that of Madge's younger sister, Millie. Out of the play's 477 performances, Woodward went on 50 times.

Newman in Picnic

As both Newman and Woodward were understudies for the leads, they rehearsed a lot together. It was during this time that their friendship grew. "I'm going to get that one," a fellow actress recalled Woodward saying. However, over the next few years she dated other men and was even engaged three times - "All southern girls like to get engaged even when they aren't ready to get married."

After Picnic, both actors continued their work in television and broke into movies - Newman in such films as The Silver Chalice (1954), The Rack (1956), and his breakout film role as boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), and Woodward in Count Three and Pray (1955) and A Kiss Before Dying (1956). Woodward then starred in HER breakout film, The Three Faces of Eve (1957).

During these few years, Newman and his wife had a third child. However, with Newman spending so much time on his acting career, a rift had grown between them. Then, in 1957, Newman and Woodward were cast in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), a steamy romance set in sweltering Mississippi. While Woodward spurned Newman on-screen, off-screen they began secretly living together. By the time filming was over, Newman and his wife had divorced, leaving Newman free to pursue a relationship with Woodward.

Though both were initially wary of marriage - Newman with his failed first marriage and Woodward's parents had divorced when she was young - the two were married on January 29, 1958 at the El Rancho Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The usually private couple surprisingly allowed their marriage ceremony to be public. Plenty of photographs were taken, as well as video footage. Newman was 33 and Woodward was 28.

After a honeymoon first at a small Greenwich village and then London, the exciting news that Woodward had been nominated for her phenomenal performance in The Three Faces of Eve broke. When the night of the Academy Awards came, Newman and Woodward were the most glamorous couple in attendance (Woodward made her own gown). The couple presented the award for film editing, endearing themselves to the public with their seemingly spontaneous bantering.

When Woodward was announced as the winner for Best Actress, no one was more proud than Paul Newman, even though his performance the year before in Somebody Up There Likes Me had been overlooked for a nomination (to make up for it a friend had awarded Newman with a "Noscar"). You can watch Woodward's win here.

Newman and Woodward in a romantic mood at the Oscars.

With the success of The Long, Hot Summer, Newman and Woodward were cast in Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958), a film reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 1930s. Light comedy proved to not really be their strong point, with only the love scenes coming across as believable.

In April of 1959, Woodward gave birth to their first child, daughter Elinor Teresa Newman. She was followed by Melissa Steward in 1961 and Claire Olivia in 1965.

Woodward during her first pregnancy:
I sit around and read cookbooks and sew and wait for Paul to come home. I love it.

Eight months after Elinor (Nell) was born, Woodward was back at work, making another film with her husband - From the Terrace (1960). This was followed by Paris Blues (1961), and A New Kind of Love (1963), Winning (1969), WUSA (1970), The Drowning Pool (1975), Harry & Son (1984), and Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990) for a total of ten films together. Newman also directed Woodward in Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972) - which also starred their daughter Nell, The Shadow Box (1980 TV movie), Harry & Son (1984), and The Glass Menagerie (1987).

Newman and Woodward on What's My Line 11/8/59 (they come on at 17:45 - the best part is the very end)

Now, the Newman's life wasn't all perfect. They argued like every couple. They had their difficult moments, their sorrows. But what made them different then most movie star couples is that they didn't throw in the towel at the first hardship. They worked through the difficulty and kept going.

Newman and Woodward were married for 50 years, a rarity in the movie business. Newman died the following September (2008). Woodward is the fourth oldest Oscar winner still alive.

Sexiness wears thin after awhile and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that is a treat.
♥ ~ ♥ ~ ♥
Fast Facts

Paul Newman:

Born) Jan. 26, 1935 in Cleveland Ohio
Full name) Paul Leonard Newman
Height) 5'9.5"
Nickname) King Cool, PL
Spouses) Jacqueline Witte (1949-1958)
                Joanne Woodward 1958-2008 (his death)
Children) 6
Died) Sept. 26, 2008 (lung cancer)

Joanne Woodward:

Born) Feb. 27, 1930 in Thomasville, Georgia
Full name) Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward
Height) 5'4"
Nickname) Joey
Spouse) Paul Newman 1958-2008 (his death)
Children) 3

The Newman's starred together in ten films:

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958)
From the Terrace (1960) - Netflix
Paris Blues (1961)
Winning (1969)
WUSA (1970)
The Drowning Pool (1975)
Harry and Son (1985) - Newman directed also
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990)
Beautiful fan video I found on Youtube. Song: "Everything" by Michael Bublé.

Photo Album:

Learn about their unique bed here.
Lovers. Linda Sunshine. 1992.
Paul and Joanne: A Biography of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein. 1998.
IMDb - Joanne Woodward
IMDb - Paul Newman 
This post is part of the Star-Studded Couple Blogathon hosted by me :)


  1. I must confess, when I think of star couples, I often forget this one -- not sure why, especially since I adore Newman. He was such a gorgeous human being. I've seen Rally 'Round the Flag and A New Kind of Love, but they weren't the best. I'll have to check out their other films together. Great post!

    1. I think we forget them because they kept their personal life so successfully out of the spotlight.

    2. Their best movie is probably their first one. Comedy, at least that kind, just wasn't their thing.

  2. Wonderful piece, Phyl! I also consider Paul and Joanne "relationship goals". They were sweet and never stopped loving each other, even when troubles aroused.
    I'm only bummed by how well the public accepted that Newman started an affair with another woman, divorced his first wife and married Joanne. I mean, Ingrid Bergman did the same years before, but was condemned (and, I believe, she was condemned because she was a woman having an affair. Paul was the other way around, and that's OK).
    Anyway, great job and fun blogathon!

    1. Yeah, it's disappointing how his first marriage ended and it was really hard on his three kids. And Joanne pursued him even though she knew he was married. Hopefully they realized they were wrong later. Yeah, when the guy does it it's "normal."