Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward was born on February 27, 1930, in Thomasville, Georgia and was comfortable schmoozing with the Hollywoodelite from the time she learned to walk. She and her mother attended the premiere of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta and while pulling up in a limo, Laurence Olivier was shocked when 9-year-old Joanne hopped right into the limo and sat in his lap without any warning. Years later when Joanne worked with Olivier in Come Back, Little Sheba, Olivier keenly remembered this incident.
Between the lap incident and Little Sheba, Joanne had quite the ride of her own. Woodward’s first film was a post-Civil War Western, called Count Three and Pray. She continued to move between Hollywood and Broadway, eventually understudying in the New York production of Picnic, which featured a man named Paul Newman. Joanne, while admitting that he was very good-looking, didn’t pursue him heavily out of respect for him being married at the time to Jackie Witt. However, destiny can only stand idle for so long.
Paul Newman was born on January 26, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Paul had graduated from the Yale School of Drama and served as a radio operator on torpedo bombers in the South Pacific during the war. After doing lots of stage work in New Yorkduring his 20’s, he finally found steady work in film with a string of hits in his 30’s. Once he met Joanne, tensions grew in his marriage. Paul’s wife, Jackie, refused to get a divorce when Paul asked her for one. He wanted to marry Joanne; Jackie would simply not have it. Eventually, Jackie saw the anguish this was causing Paul and agreed to a divorce. Less than a week after the divorce was final, Paul married Joanne in Las Vegas on January 29, 1958, just months before Joanne won her Best Actress Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve, in which she plays a woman with multiple personality disorder.
In addition to building a life together off-screen, the couple starred in their first of many collaborations. The Long Hot Summer, Rally ‘Round the Boys, From the Terrace, Paris Blues, and A New Kind of Love were all made within the next few years. Woodward was quoted, “Who could direct you better than the person you live with? Paul knows everything there is to know about me. I wish he could just direct every movie I ever do.”
1969 would bring the popular screen duo Paul Newman and Robert Redford together for the first time when Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released. It was a box office smash. Throughout the 1970′s, Newman would have hits and misses from such popular films as The Sting and The Towering Inferno to lesser known films as The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean to a now cult classic Slap Shot. After the overdose and death of his only son, Scott, in 1978, Newman’s personal life and film choices moved in a different direction. His acting work in the 1980′s and beyond is often what is most praised by critics today. He became more at ease with himself and it was evident in The Verdict for which he received his 6th Best Actor Oscar nomination and in 1987 finally received his first Oscar for The Color of Money. Films were not the only thing on his mind during this period. A passionate race car driver since the early 1970′s, Newman would become co-owner of Newman-Haas racing in 1982, and he also founded Newman’s Own, a successful food company he built from the ground up in which all the proceeds go to charity. He would also start The Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, an organization for terminally ill children.
Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman had three children, Nell, Melissa and Clea. For 50 years, Woodward and Newman have been regarded as one of the most successful and enduring love stories of Hollywood.
He offered an oft-quoted response when asked in Playboy magazine about the temptations of other women: “I have steak at home. Why go out for hamburger?”
Paul Newman died of cancer at age 83 at their farmhouse in Westport, Connecticut on September 26, 2008.