Real Love Story? Not Until You Know Newman and Woodward

I just finished reading Paul Newman: A Life. It’s not new, of course, but what a fascinating life he lived and what he left was really his and Joanne Woodward’s love story. That’s what I want to focus on; but you should know, if you don’t already, that over the course of this man’s 83 years, he won many awards, including a Tony Award, BAFTA, Academy Award (The Color of Money, 1986), Golden Globe Awards, Cannes Film Festival Award, Emmy Award, SAG Award and more. He was deeply devoted to his charitable causes and of course, Joanne Woodward and his children. Fortunately for us, many of the photos of the couple are available, so I’m really excited to be able to include a few of what I feel are intimate photos of a couple who are the epitome true love.

It’s also worth noting that A Life, his 50th wedding anniversary with Woodward as well as his death all came full circle the same year, months apart, in 2008.

Newman and Woodward stand as a formidable pair that beat the odds, especially for Hollywood. They were strong as individuals, stronger together and most certainly committed to putting each other first and as the photos show, they also found their happiness in one another. While the book was fascinating, it’s clear Newman wanted to talk about his wife – and he did in this final artistic work.

What emerged was a degree of adoration, loyalty and simple but pure love that should serve as a hallmark for any marriage.

He spoke of his misery in his first marriage (his three oldest children were born in this union), his sorrow for hurting his first wife but also with no apologies for the way he felt about Woodward.

The Long Hot Summer had always been my favorite film that starred the couple. Set in Mississippi, (Thank you, Faulkner), it was released in 1958. It was their first film together (though that had spent a significantly smaller amount of time on Broadway when both had roles in Picnic) and really, the first opportunity they had to get to know each other.

This is important for another reason, too. Just as 2008 brought many changes, so did 1958.  The film had wrapped, Newman ended his marriage of nearly 10 years to be with Woodward – and not only was Newman’s divorce finalized, he also managed to marry Woodward before the year was up. The scandal, surprisingly, wasn’t as earth-shattering as you might expect.

Soon, they starred in another film, John O’Hara’s From the Terrace. Instantly and forever, this became the one movie that will always be at the very top of my favorite’s list.

Ironically, it’s a tale about Alfred Eaton (Newman) trying to do the right thing, even as his wife, Mary played by Woodward, had ulterior and materialistic motives. Mary liked the idea of being married to Alfred, but she had no desire to be his wife in a truer sense. She was in the marriage because of his success – the name he’d built for himself and the money that came with it. Of course, he meets and falls in love with another woman, but don’t feel bad for the missus – Mary’s been cheating on her husband almost from the beginning. An added bonus is Myrna Loy in the first few minutes of the movie in the role of Alfred’s mother.

Trust me on this: if you haven’t seen the film, take three minutes and check out the trailer below. You’ll find yourself on Amazon (where it’s available) and Netflix (where it’s sometimes available), ready to dive into this classic. It offers scandal, adultery, selfishness, heroic efforts (Newman saves a drowning boy) and what ethics and honesty in the legal profession look like (yes, seriously). Also, too, pay attention to Woodward’s southern drawl, which she had been told to lose. It’s delivered via a perfect velvety pitch, as though she had all the time in the world to speak her peace. Believe me, I can remember trying my best to master that pitch and tone. And no one can; it’s one of those things that just comes natural. The southern twang? Yeah, that comes easy – I’m southern. But Woodward? Hers is on a level all its own.

Seriously, even if you’re not a fan of the classics, you owe it to yourself to hear how a true southern accent (she was born in Thomasville, GA) travels across the silver screen. It’s magical, I tell you.

Each year, Turner Classic Movies hosts a month-long Oscar-winning film fest. All of the movies shown won at least one Academy award, whether it was for best film, best actress, best supporting actress or any other distinction. One of those award winning actresses is Joanne Woodward. Her role in The Three Faces of Eve was sublime and in 1957, she was rewarded for that performance.

Many – if not most – believe this is the best Joanne Woodward film ever; however, the movies that included her and real-life husband Paul Newman are the ones closest to my heart. I’ve never been able to figure out if it’s just the romantic in me or if there was some indescribable chemistry between them that you’d have to be blind to miss.

Eh, maybe it’s a little of both.

Be sure to check out Paul Newman: A Life. It really is a fascinating story. I also came across an interview from 2002 in NBC’s vaults. Take a look –

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