Despite celebrity, fatherhood, charges of infidelity, and tragedy, they found a mutual connection early in their careers that lasted for five decades of marriage…

In August 1952, a little-known 22-year-old actress named Joanne Woodward sneaked into her agent’s office to escape the stifling New York City heat.

She discovered an equally unknown 27-year-old Paul Newman inside, dressed impeccably in his seersucker suit, with a full head of curly hair and those piercing blue eyes that would soon become well-known throughout the world.

Fifty years later, Woodward told that he “looked like an advertisement for an ice cream soda,” and that she immediately thought, “Ugh, that’s terrible.”

Newman was far more enthralled at first glimpse. Fortunately, this provided him with the opportunity to make a stronger impression when they both joined the cast of the impending theatrical production «Picnic» later that year.

According to Shawn Levy’s Paul Newman: A Life, «she was modern and independent.» «I was reticent and rather shy. I had a hard time persuading her that I wasn’t as dull as I appeared.»

In fact, any cynicism about Newman’s immaculate looks and alleged dullness rapidly gave way to mutual admiration and affection, paving the way for a partnership that would serve as a model for all couples who face life’s unexpected ups and downs together.

Even though Newman was already married, he battled to keep his feelings for his co-star in check.
Because Newman was already married and had a young boy at the time, the two were unable to act on their mutual interest. He had a daughter shortly after the Broadway premiere of «Picnic» in February 1953, and another one the following year.

Woodward and Newman worked hard to establish a professional relationship. Furthermore, he arranged for her to see a friend of his, dramatist James Costigan, and referred to her as «a great girl.» Nevertheless, the young, beautiful thespians couldn’t stay away for long because their growing professions connected them together on a social and professional level.

Following the success of his first big movie Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Newman confessed his love for Woodward to his wife, Jackie. She refused to divorce him, but he soon left their Long Island house.

By the time they were chosen to co-star in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Newman and Woodward were no longer concerned with keeping their relationship a secret from the cast, the crew, or any other casual onlooker. Jackie ultimately consented to a divorce, paving the way for the co-stars’ January 1958 wedding in Las Vegas.

Even though Newman felt bad about the divorce, he and Woodward were finally able to let go of the responsibility of maintaining an unlawful relationship. They quickly adapted to their new stage of life as Hollywood’s power couple.

During this time, Newman transitioned from being a heartthrob actor to a major motion picture star with roles in movies like The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963). (1963). Just one year after receiving an Academy Award for her role in The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Woodward gave birth to the first of their three daughters, appearing content to stall her career and focus on raising their expanding family.

Woodward, on the other hand, found it difficult to transition to motherhood after winning an Oscar since, as she later admitted, she had never felt particularly at ease among children. In A Life, Levy accuses her husband of being «selfish» after he declined to co-star in one of her favorite projects, knowing that his participation would secure the film’s production. She was still hoping to establish a name for herself on stage and television.

Later, Newman changed his mind and starred beside her in A New Kind of Love (1963). Five years later, she was the subject of his first feature film as a director, Rachel, Rachel. Even as she moved out of the main romance roles, Woodward showed that she could still deliver a dramatic punch.

Hollywood has a double standard for age and beauty, so Newman breezed into his 40s as one of the most well-known movie stars in the world while Woodward’s career stagnated. The couple decided to take out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times in 1969 to make their commitment to one another clear because of the apparent mismatch between the still-virile starring guy and his critically acclaimed but lesser-known wife.

Newman was having an affair at this time with author Nancy Bacon. By taking a plane to England, the location of their honeymoon, the pair was able to acquire the much-needed one-on-one time they needed to get through what might have been an irreparable break in their marriage.

They were able to keep their relationship going in part because each individual developed a side interest that, if not completely understood by the other, received encouragement from the spouse. After driving in the 1969 film Winning, Newman’s fascination with motor racing evolved into a serious devotion. As a result of her passion of ballet as an art form and a means of physical training, Woodward became a supporter of many ballet companies.

They collaborated to help political candidates while maintaining their individual careers. In The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), Newman took the camera once more to direct his wife. When the day’s work was done, the couple retired to their beloved house in a woodland area in Westport, Connecticut. The estate had a treehouse that was specifically reserved for their privacy when visitors came to town.

Scott, the son of Newman’s first marriage, died tragically in 1978 of an unintended drug overdose.

Everyone in the extended family was stunned by the news, which appeared to shift the couple’s priorities. They raised funds for the Scott Newman Foundation, which educates individuals about substance abuse. Newman subsequently added to his stellar charitable record by establishing his Hole in the Wall Gang Camps for children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

As a result, their on-screen roles shifted. Newman entered the «older statesman» era of his career with The Color of Money (1986) and eventually earned an Oscar, while Woodward received an Emmy for her performance as an Alzheimer’s patient in the TV movie Do You Remember Love? (1985). They also collaborated on the 1987 Woodward-starring, Newman-directed picture The Glass Menagerie, and co-starred in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990).

Despite the intensity of their performances, the two maintained their public admiration for one another lighthearted. In a New York Times interview, Newman, who famously declared his monogamy by telling Playboy, «I have steak at home; why go out for hamburger?» risked enraging his wife once more by making the analogy. Later, on the Twilight set in 1998, when Woodward paid him a visit, a cheeky Newman made a sexy joke about a young Liev Schreiber.

Despite soundbites, there were times when Newman merely needed to be in the presence of his life mate. He unexpectedly contacted Woodward and asked her to accompany him to Louisiana to film Blaze (1989). She left everything behind to relocate to the South, despite the fact that she was in the middle of the spring semester at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she was working on a long-delayed degree. According to A Life, she stated, «There’s no academic degree in the world that can equal the significance of the idea that the person you’ve loved for 31 years is missing you.»

In a 2002 interview, Woodward revealed that a person previously questioned the foundation of their connection.

She remembered saying, “And I said he’s really good-looking and very seductive and all of that, and what’s left is if you can make somebody laugh.”

Newman chimed in, “And I keep her laughing.

They also kept the spark alive by sharing a passion for the job that brought them together in the first place. They were featured in the revival of the drama Our Town at the Westport Country Playhouse, which leveraged sold-out performances to obtain a Broadway run in the winter of 2002-2003. They later collaborated on the Playhouse stage to deliver love poems on Valentine’s Day 2007.

The couple celebrated their golden anniversary three days after Newman turned 83 in January of the following year. It was a low-key affair for the old couple, with Newman battling lung cancer and Woodward adjusting to the real-life start of Alzheimer’s, but it was nonetheless unforgettable. «I feel fortunate to adore that woman,» he said to a small group of their children and friends. My greatest joy in life is that I am married to her.

Nine months later, Newman ultimately made a left departure because he was unable to support his wife through her own health struggles. They didn’t quite have the happy ending that they—and their fans—hoped for, but they nonetheless left behind the tale of a marriage, with all its triumphs and flaws, that was just as significant as their individual careers.

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