Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, half a century of love with the actress who has remained in the shadow of the star

“Behind every great man there is always a great woman”. This famous phrase is attributed to the British writer Virginia Woolf and dedicated to those many women who contributed to the success of men that history remembers, but remaining in the shadows. And that’s a bit like what happened Joanne Woodwardwife of Paul Newman.

At the love story of the famous Hollywood couple is dedicated “The Last Movie Stars”A six-episode docu-series directed by Ethan Hawke and streaming on Hbo Max on July 21st. “The Last Movie Stars” features archival interviews with Woodward and Newman, along the 50th anniversary of their marriage, as well as contributions from actors such as Karen Allen, George Clooney, Oscar Isaac, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney, Sam Rockwell. Ethan Hawke also interviewed some of Paul Newman’s daughters, Sally Field and Martin Scorsese (who is also an executive producer).

“It is an honor to be able to share inspiring life and love story of Joanne and Paul with the audience – Hawke declares -. I am particularly thrilled that a project in which we have poured so much heart and soul now has its home on Hbo Max, a platform known for celebrating and supporting the documentary art form. We offered a rare and exclusive look at the careers of both actors and a complex 50-year relationship that ultimately managed to overcome every obstacle. “

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman

Paul Newman he was an actor, director, film producer, philanthropist and even a racing driver. In his long career he has won three Oscars, seven Golden Globes and an Emmy Award, as well as receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and other accolades. At his side, until his death on September 26, 2008, there was always theactress Joanne Woodward, his wife for half a century. The actress achieved great notoriety in 1957 with the role of a psychologically disturbed woman in “The woman with three faces”By Nunnally Johnson, who in 1958 won her the Oscar Prize to the best actress. Her career continued with major films such as “A Scream in the Night” (1958) and “The Long Hot Summer” (1958), both directed by Martin Ritt. On the set of this latest film, where she played the proud daughter of Orson Welles, the actress had as partner Paul Newman, who had already met a few years before her and who married on January 29, 1958, forming one of the most solid and respected couples in Hollywood, both in film and in real life. Versatile actress, endowed with refined interpretative skills and with a personality little inclined to stardom, after the marriage with the star and the birth of three daughters, Woodward partly sacrificed the development of a promising career to favor that of her husband and devote herself above all to the family.

In the documentary all this is told in great detail thanks to a lot of archive material, interviews with those who knew them and those who worked with them. In the docu, director Ethan Hawke also talks about the secret of a strong and lasting marriage.

Newman, in an old interview, when asked what were the ingredients of his happy marriage, replied as follows: “passion, respect, patience. And determination“. Woodward, on the other hand, explained that “he’s very handsome and very sexy and all those things there. But all of this ends out the window and what ultimately remains is if you can make someone laugh … And for sure he keeps making me laugh ”. The couple therefore gives two complementary visions that the documentary compares and analyzes.

Another passage of the film underlines the great strength of the actress, who became famous long before her husband and who had all the consideration of Hollywood taken away when she became a mature woman. Unlike Newman, rising to living sex symbol and touchstone still today. Joanne “went through a crisis that sadly isn’t particularly original for the female Hollywood experience, which is that they can’t get enough of you when you’re young and don’t know what to do with you when you grow up. She had to go through the middle years of her life finding a way to keep the love for her craft without giving in to cynicism and bitterness. At the same time, her husband was being raised up, prodded and put up on billboards. She was the biggest star in the world. Many people don’t make their dreams come true, but it’s kind of weird to make your dream come true and then have it taken away while your husband makes it big, ”says the documentary.


Two very young Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
Two very young Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

The director also underlines how it was theirs marriage to save their lives as well as their careers. “They pushed each other to be there better version of themselves and not to give in to personal satisfaction or self-pity. They somehow took away narcissism from each other, ”Hawke says. When Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward met, he was already married and the father of a family with three children, a boy and two girls, still very young. Returning from the war, Newman had led to the altar Jackie Witte: it was 1949 and he wanted to be an actor. In 1953, during the rehearsals of one show on Broadway, he met Woodward, a promising young woman hired to be a substitute. There followed five years of clandestine love between back and forth before the wedding a Las Vegas.

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