Hollywood’s Golden Couple: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

Paul Newman was one of Hollywood’s most talented stars with an accomplished career that lasted several decades. In addition to starring in numerous classic films, Newman was also known for his relationship. The heartthrob has been with Joanne Woodward for so long, and the pair was considered “Hollywood’s golden couple.” Even in old black and white pictures, the couple’s love is vibrant and evident. Their 50-year love story came to an end in 2008, after Newman’s devastating death.

Paul Newman, 1972. Photo By Globe Photos/Shutterstock

Fifty years is a long time, especially in Hollywood, an industry that is known for breakups. Not for these love birds, though. Newman once expressed, “I have steak at home. Why should I go out for a hamburger?” Do you ever wonder how this union began?

This is the story behind Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s relationship. Plus, we added some interesting facts about the life of the legendary actor.

Paul was Already a Married Man

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic relationship started back in 1953. At the time, Paul was married to Jackie Witte (his first wife), and they had three children together. The 28-year-old stud was about to make his Broadway debut in the play Picnic. Joanne, who was 22 at the time, was an understudy for the play and was sweating in her heels on that hot summer day.

Paul Newman with His Wife, Jackie Witte
Paul Newman with His Wife, Jackie Witte. Source: homedeaignbbn.com

She ran into her agent’s office, where the air conditioning was running, and that’s when she saw Paul Newman for the first time. When she described her first impression of him to Today, Woodward said he looked “like an ice cream soda ad.” With his suit on, his bright blue eyes, a great head of hair and, somehow, not one drop of sweat.

Really Bad Timing

However, Woodward wasn’t impressed. She actually thought, “That’s disgusting,” and thought that Newman was nothing but “just a pretty face.” Needless to say, it wasn’t love at first sight… well, at least not for her. Newman, on the other hand, immediately noticed her and felt a spark.

Paul Newman with Joanne Woodward Sitting at Dining Table
Paul Newman with Joanne Woodward Sitting at Dining Table. Photo By Mediapunch/Shutterstock

The beautiful blonde from Thomasville, Georgia, managed to charm Newman right away. In the book Paul Newman: A Life, Shawn Levy quoted him, saying, “She was modern and independent, whereas I was shy and a bit conservative. It took me a long time to persuade her that I wasn’t as dull as I looked.” Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been any worse.

“Just Friends”

Remember, at the time, Newman was a family man. He had a wife, three kids, and seemed content with his life. Once he met Woodward, his feelings changed, but it was still a major issue. Newman didn’t want to break up his entire family. Newman and Woodward thought it would be best to stay friends, and the duo kept in touch.

Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, on-set of the Film, 'The Long, Hot Summer,' 20th Century Fox Film Corp., 1958
Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, on-set of the Film, ‘The Long, Hot Summer,’ 20th Century Fox Film Corp., 1958. Photo By Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock

It was in 1957 when the two actors reconnected to film The Long Hot Summer. Their undeniable chemistry was evident on and off the screen. At that point, Jackie Witte agreed to a divorce, and Newman didn’t waste any time. He tied the knot with the gorgeous blonde on January 29th, 1958, and then went to Connaught Hotel in London for their honeymoon.

Making Each Other Laugh

Even though Newman was extremely happy with his new lady, he still felt “guilty as hell” for leaving his first wife and breaking up his family. The actor was quoted saying, “I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life.” Nevertheless, the couple settled down in an 18th Century Connecticut farmhouse and enjoyed their marriage.

Film Still Featuring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Paris Blues
Film Still Featuring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Paris Blues. Photo By Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Woodward told Today, “He’s very good looking and very sexy, and all of those things, but all of that goes out the window and what is finally left is, if you can make somebody laugh, and he sure does keep me laughing.” Newman believes that their successful relationship is due to some “combination of lust and respect and patience. And determination.”

The Ultimate Dynamic Duo

The Hollywood couple starred in two more movies together: Paris Blues in 1961 and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge in 1990. Newman had three daughters with his new wife: Elinor “Nell” Newman,” Melissa “Lissy” Newman, and Claire “Clea” Olivia Newman. Even though they were building a family together, the pair didn’t stop their careers. They both continued to work.

The daughters of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
The daughters of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward — from left, Nell Newman, Clea Newman Soderlund, and Lissy Newman — at their family home in Westport, Connecticut. Source: townandcountrymag.com

In 1968, the actor directed the film Rachel, starring his wife. That movie landed the starlet her second Academy Award nomination (out of four); in 1958, she won for The Three Faces of Eve. In 1987, Newman took home an Oscar of his own for his work in The Color of Money.

Charity and Other Interests

The successful power couple started to get involved in some charitable organizations, including Newman’s Own Foundation. Basically, Newman and writer A.E. Hotchner mixed up some salad dressing for their friends. It turned out to be so popular that they decided to turn it into a business.

Newman’s Own Foundation logo
Source: prnewswire.com

Newman said, “Let’s give it all away to those who need it!” It didn’t take long for them to start selling pasta sauce, salsa, popcorn, and more. The best part is that all the proceeds go directly to nonprofit organizations — more than $485 million to date. Newman also found an interest in racing and took on the hobby. The talented actor was a pretty successful driver, too.

Ups and Downs

No matter what it looks like from the outside, no family is always perfect. Life is full of ups and downs. According to The New York Times, their marriage also had some bumps on the road. There were rumors that Newman had an affair, but even worse — he liked to drink beer. The only problem with Newman drinking was that he became an anti-drug and alcohol activist following his son’s fatal overdose in 1978.

The Hustler – 1961, Paul Newman, Myron McCormick
The Hustler – 1961, Paul Newman, Myron McCormick. Photo By 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

However, celebs like Liev Schreiber and other friends close to the family have reported that Newman and Woodward had a wonderful marriage and that they were the epitome of a happy husband and wife. I think nowadays, the kids call it #CoupleGoals.

It Really is True Love

Author Carol Joynt once had the pleasure of seeing the couple together; she wrote: “Joanne Woodward sat on the ground with her back against the trunk of a big tree, her legs stretched out in front. In her lap rested the head of Paul Newman, who occasionally reached up to touch her face and hair as he savored the music. It’s possible, I gaped. To this day, it’s the most romantic thing I ever witnessed.”

Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward
Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward. Photo By Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

Aww, that does sound pretty adorable. It’s a beautiful thing when you see two people together, and you can just feel how much they love each other. If only one day, someone would look at me the way Newman looked at Woodward.

Never Too Old For Kisses

What makes their story even better is that the passion never went away. The couple still felt the spark and stayed in love well into their old age. During an interview with Town and Country, actor Ansel Elgort mentioned:

Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, and Richard Gere
Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, and Richard Gere. Photo By Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock

“I had a driver once, and I asked him, ‘Who was your favorite person you ever drove?’ He said, ‘The nicest guy was Paul Newman. He asked me about myself, but also had his wife [Joanne Woodward] in the back seat, and this guy was like 80, and he was making out with his wife. They were just PDA, and they were giggling and his arm around her, and he’s kissing her.”

Growing Up

On January 26, 1925, Paul Newman was welcomed into the world. He was born to a Jewish father and Slovakian mother in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Ever since he was a little boy, Newman always had a love for performance. Seven-year-old Newman even played the court jester in his school’s production of Robin Hood.

Exodus – 1960, Paul Newman
Exodus – 1960, Paul Newman. Photo By United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock

Newman’s family owned a sporting goods store in Cleveland. Before his Hollywood career took off, Paul spent some time working at the store. That’s right; he was a friendly shopkeeper telling his customers his dreams of becoming an actor. At least he had a backup plan just in case acting didn’t work out. Obviously, he didn’t really need one.

Replaced James Dean

Newman shot a screen test in 1950 for what eventually became the 1955 movie East of Eden. Unfortunately, he lost the role to another Hollywood heartthrob who was six years younger than him. The actor I’m talking about is the hunky James Dean. Tragically, the young Dean famously died in a car accident before East of Eden was released.

Somebody Up There Likes Me, Paul Newman, Pier Angeli
Somebody Up There Likes Me, Paul Newman, Pier Angeli. Photo By Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock

In the wake of Dean’s devastating death, Newman got a role in two films that originally cast the 24-year-old Dean: The Left-Handed Gun and Somebody up There Likes Me. Even though he replaced the iconic actor, Newman took the opportunity to showcase his talent. He managed to make a name for himself in his own right.

Natural Performer

Newman’s interest in acting began at an extremely young age. However, it wasn’t until he was 26 when he started receiving formal acting training. Still, his natural talent didn’t go unnoticed, and his performances were incredible. The Library of Congress deemed six of Newman’s movies to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are being preserved as part of the National Film Registry.

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – 1969, Robert Redford, Paul Newman
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – 1969, Robert Redford, Paul Newman. Photo By 20th Century Fox/Campanile Productions/Newman-Foreman Company/Kobal/Shutterstock

These impressive films include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Then Sting, The Hustler, King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis, Cool Hand Luke, and Hud. All of these movies have been considered classics through the years, even though he starred in a number of other major films.

Knowing the Right Peeps

Growing up, Paul had one older brother who was named after his father. Similarly to his little bro, Arthur Newman Jr. also started a career in the entertainment industry. But while Paul enjoyed being in front of the camera, his brother liked to work behind the screen as a producer and production manager.

Arthur Newman Jr. and Paul Newman
Arthur Newman Jr. and Paul Newman. Source: accesshollywood.com

Before their fame begins, it can be difficult to figure out who’s going to make it. In the 1940s, Newman was a student at Kenyon College in Ohio and made friends with a classmate named Olof. As you may know, that young college student grew up to be Olof Palme, who was the Prime Minister of Sweden. The two later bragged about knowing each other before fame.

Musical Talent

Paul Newman had various interests and hobbies such as racing, but his Hollywood talent went beyond his pretty face on the screen. Since he is such a legendary actor, you may not know that Newman had skills when it came to other forms of art. The man was extremely musically inclined. Just like Clint Eastwood, Newman was a wonderfully accomplished jazz and blues pianist. Now that’s pretty impressive for an actor.

Paul Newman as Brick Pollitt, sitting at a piano, and Burl Ives as Big Daddy
Paul Newman as Brick Pollitt, sitting at a piano, and Burl Ives as Big Daddy, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Source: Pinterest

The gifted Hollywood superstar loved to perform as an actor as well as a musician. It was even reported that Newman played alongside huge stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. Where is his Rat Pack membership?

Memorable Performer

In addition to rumored performances with other musicians, you can easily find more proof of Newman’s ability. Simply check out his work on the 2002 movie Road to Perdition. The film features Newman performing a piano piece with his co-star Tom Hanks. The two A-listers did their own playing for the scene.

Road To Perdition, Tom Hanks, Paul Newman
Road To Perdition, Tom Hanks, Paul Newman. Photo By Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock

Like all other memorable performers, Newman received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 1, 1994. For anyone who is looking for it, you just need to go to 7060 Hollywood Boulevard. Although he is no longer living, the star forever represents the impact Newman had on Hollywood and the rest of the world.

I Was There!

Old Hollywood has become a historically significant era, and some stars were involved in some major events. Paul Newman was actually in attendance in 1963 for Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “March on Washington.” Not only that, but Newman was also around during the first Earth Day celebration in 1970 in Manhattan.

Paul Newman in
Paul Newman in “Lady L” 1965. Source: Shutterstock

Considering he was alive from 1925 until 2008, it makes a lot of sense. Not only did he see how Hollywood changed throughout the years, but he got to witness advancements and progression in the world. This means he watched segregation but was also lucky enough to see more equality happen during his lifetime. It’s crazy how different things were back then.

Soldier Boy

Like many other men in the 1940s, Newman enlisted into the United States Navy. He trained as a radioman and a rear gunner. During his time in the Navy, he served in units that trained replacement combat pilots and aircrewmen. He was assigned to the USSR Bunker Hill, but one of his pilots developed an ear infection. The men were held back from battle, and it ultimately saved all their lives.

Paul Newman mugshot
Paul Newman mugshot. Source: Pinterest

Before he served in the Second World War, Newman initially enrolled in the United States Navy’s V-12 pilot training program. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave the program after it was discovered that he was colorblind. Instead, he left to do basic training. In 1946, Newman left the Navy and began his successful acting career.

Awards and Honors

During his accomplished lifetime, Newman was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. His first nomination was for his brilliant performance in the 1958 drama Cat on a Hot Roof. His last Oscar nomination came nearly half a century later. This further shows what an extraordinary career this man had.

The Color Of Money, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
The Color Of Money, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Photo By Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock

His final Academy Award nomination was for his 2002 performance in the historical crime movie Road to Perdition. This movie was also the last time the legendary actor appeared in a feature film. If you’re curious about the other eight movies in between, here they are: Nobody’s Fool, Cool Hand Luke The Verdict, Absence of Malice, Hud, The Hustler, The Color of Money (for which he won), and last but not least, he got a producing nomination for Rachel.


While we’re on the topic of Newman’s Oscar nomination for Road to Perdition, it was particularly special. This was the first time ever an actor was Oscar-nominated for acting in a movie that was a comic book or graphic novel adaptation. That makes it even more impressive.

Rachel – 1968, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward
Rachel – 1968, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward. Photo By Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

Newman is one of the very few people who has directed their wife, in an incredible Oscar-nominated performance. In 1968, Newman directed the movie Rachel starring his wife, Joanne Woodward. If that wasn’t remarkable enough, this was Newman’s directorial debut. Woodward was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Wow! This really is a power couple. They must have been really proud of the work they did together.

Branching Out

After the success of Rachel, Newman went on to direct four more feature films: The Glass Menagerie, Harry & Son, Sometimes a Great Notion, and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. He also directed The Shadow Box, a made-for-TV movie. Clearly, he had talent behind the camera too.

Sometimes A Great Notion – 1971, Richard Jaeckel, Paul Newman
Sometimes A Great Notion – 1971, Richard Jaeckel, Paul Newman. Photo By Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Besides his movie career, Paul Newman also had his own line of food products. We mentioned how it mainly consisted of salad dressings and spaghetti sauces. He kind of decided to take a chance and venture into a business he didn’t really know much about. Newman’s Own has made over $100 million, and during his life, the actor donated all the profits to charity.

Burn it!

Newman wasn’t one to stop celebrating his birthday because he was getting older. I mean, I’m turning 29 and not planning on celebrating because I feel old. To be fair, Newman also accomplished more than most of us with each passing year. Well, his 75th birthday was certainly a cause for celebration, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do… burn stuff.

Paul Newman Smiling at His Birthday Party
Paul Newman Smiling at His Birthday Party. Photo By Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Well… maybe not “stuff.” Just his tuxedo. Newman said that he finally reached the age where he was old enough not to care about formalities. That’s a pretty fair way of thinking. It’s kind of making me look forward to my 70s; I could just be comfortable—only forty-something years to go.

A Super Hero was Modeled After Him

If you couldn’t tell by now, Paul Newman was a handsome actor. That’s why it probably won’t come as a huge surprise that his dashing good looks were the inspiration for a DC superhero. In 1959, Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern, was reintroduced with a revamped look.

Hal Jordan
Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern. Source: alchetron.com

As it turns out, he was drawn to resemble 34-year-old Newman. Artist Gil Kane (who created the earlier Green Lantern) based Hal Jordan’s looks on the actor who was actually neighbors with the artist. The star’s dreamy looks and easy charm fit the character perfectly. Wow! You know you made it when a superhero model is based on you.

One of Six

Newman had a special kind of talent. He managed to do things that very few entertainers were able to accomplish. Paul is one out of just six actors to ever be nominated for two acting Oscars for playing the same character in two separate movies. The Academy Award nominations were for his portrayal of Eddie Felson.

The Color of Money, Paul Newman
The Color of Money, Paul Newman. Photo By Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock

Newman played the character beautifully in both The Hustler and The Color of Money — which he won the Oscar for. The other five people who’ve received this honor are Cate Blanchett, Bing Crosby, Peter O’Toole, Sylvester Stallone, and Al Pacino. Out of all these six extraordinary actors, Paul Newman was the only one to actually win. Congrats!

Too Many Eggs

One of Paul Newman’s classic movies is 1967’s Cool Hand Luke. In the film, his character eats an astonishing amount of hard-boiled eggs in just one sitting. There were so many eggs! The production crew literally made more than two hundred boiled eggs in preparation for the scene.

Cool Hand Luke – 1967, Paul Newman
Cool Hand Luke – 1967, Paul Newman. Photo By Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

As you may have guessed, they had enough eggs for everyone. The whole crew took part in eating the eggs afterward. Reportedly, Newman only finished eight eggs himself, and as soon as the director yelled cut, he proceeded to throw up in the garbage can. Who can blame him? Two hard-boiled eggs are enough for me. Any more than that, I’d throw up too.

His Personal Fave

Paul Newman is one of those actors who made a number of great films throughout his career. That’s why, when fans are debating their favorite Newman movie, there is a lot to work with. Too many classics are in there. The actor was once asked which one of his performances was his favorite.

Slap Shot – 1977, Paul Newman
Slap Shot – 1977, Paul Newman. Photo By Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

It must have been tough to pick just one, but he ultimately went with Slap Shot. In addition, to being his favorite acting performance, Newman said it was also the most fun he has ever had on production. Well, it makes sense. A positive environment and good energy will shine through in your work, and Paul Newman is a perfect example of that.

Cooking Competition

During the filming of Absence of Malice, Newman and his director, Sydney Pollack, got involved in an intense competition. Both men thought they were the better gourmet chef and asked the star of the film, Sally Field, to judge them and pick who was the better chef.

Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman
Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman. Photo By Columbia/Mirage/Kobal/Shutterstock

The competition dragged on, and the actress should have been happy. However, Field was getting tired of gourmet meals that were cooked for her every night. Eventually, she had to beg the men to allow her to eat local dinners. She wanted to switch it up, I guess. Sadly, we don’t know who the overall winner was. But if I was in Field’s position, I would literally let the competition go on forever.

More Honors

We already mentioned that Newman was nominated for a dozen Oscars and took home three of them. Well, that wasn’t all for the star. The Academy also honored the actor with two special awards. He was given the Honorary Award for his “many and memorable and compelling screen performances” and his “personal integrity” in 1986. That is certainly a well-deserved honor for Newman.

actor Paul Newman holds the Oscar he received for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in Los Angeles.
actor Paul Newman holds the Oscar he received for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in Los Angeles. Source: pantagraph.com

Then, in 1994 Newman earned himself a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Newman is one out of two people to ever win an Oscar for acting, an Honorary Oscar, and also the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The only other star to earn this honor is the one and only Frank Sinatra.

His Doppelgänger

Back in the 1950s, Newman would apparently get mistaken with another dreamy and equally talented actor — Marlon Brando. Many people may get annoyed when people confuse them with someone else, but not Paul Newman. He thought it was funny and would often play along with the confusion.

Marlon Brando and Paul Newman
Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. Source: Pinterest

The actor admitted that he signed hundreds of autographs as Brando instead of himself. I guess it didn’t matter to fans at the end of the day who signed it. I mean, a Brando or a Newman autograph would be an epic souvenir for any movie buff. Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliff can relate to this one. People mix up those too all the time.

Husting the Hustler

In preparation for his portrayal of Eddie Felson in the classic film The Hustler, Newman became skilled at the game of pool. At the same time, he also developed a friendship with Jackie Gleason, his co-star. However, the actor might have let his confidence get the best of him.

The Hustler – 1961, Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason
The Hustler – 1961, Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason. Photo By 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

He decided to challenge Gleason to a fun little innocent game of pool, and bet him 50 bucks on it. (Remember, back in 1961, that was considered a lot of money). What he didn’t know was that Gleason was a surprisingly fantastic pool player. Newman broke, and then Gleason immediately sunk all of his balls in just one turn. It looks like Newman wasn’t as good at pool as he thought.

Sore Loser

As really competitive people, we aren’t known to be the most gracious losers; Newman is no exception. After getting completely beat in the first round of pool, the actor wasn’t happy. He thought he was going to win before Gleason royally kicked his butt.

The Hustler – 1961, Jackie Gleason, Paul Newman
The Hustler – 1961, Jackie Gleason, Paul Newman. Photo By 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

Although he was being kind of a sore loser, Newman knew he made a $50 bet with costar, and it was time to pay up. To show how angry he was for losing, Newman made sure to pay Gleason with 5,000 pennies. It’s funny because this is precisely what I would do… you know, if I ever lost. But seriously, do you think Gleason counted all those pennies? Or was winning payment enough?


Towards the end of his life, rumors spread about Paul Newman having lung cancer. The actor never confirmed or denied having the disease, so we will never know for sure. On September 26, 2008, Newman passed away surrounded by family at the age of 83 years old, and his body was cremated.

Paul Newman was hoisted 100 feet into the air by 10,000 helium-filled balloons.
Paul Newman was hoisted 100 feet into the air by 10,000 helium-filled balloons. Photo By Henry Lamb/BEI/Shutterstock

His wife Joanne stayed dedicated to her husband up until the very end. He had a total of six kids; three with his first wife and three with Joanne. He had five daughters and one son. Sadly, his son Scott died of a drug overdose back in 1978 (at age 38). Newman will live on forever through his classic movies and legendary status.

A Ghost of The Past

The last feature film that Paul Newman acted in was Pixar’s Cars. He lent his voice to Doc Hudson’s character. About two years after the movie was released, Newman passed away. However, Newman reprised his role in 2017 for Cars 3, even though he had been dead for nine years.

Paul Newman as Doc Hudson
Doc Hudson – movie Cars. Source: Pinterest

Ah. The power of technology. The studio basically took audio clips that Newman recorded but were never used in the first film and used them in the third one. His character returned, and it almost felt like a ghost. Still, fans were happy that it was actually Newman’s voice. The studio could have found another voice actor who sounded like him, but they wanted to honor the actor.

Another Excuse to Drink

One of the strangest parts of Paul Newman’s legacy is a tradition that happens to have started at Princeton University. Apparently, Newman once said, “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.” It doesn’t come as a surprise that Princeton students liked that motto.

American Actor Paul Newman Drinks a Beer Backstage at a New York Rally for George McGovern's Presidential Bid In 1968.
American Actor Paul Newman drinks a beer backstage at a New York rally for George McGovern’s Presidential Bid In 1968. Photo By Granger/Shutterstock

The University since made April 24 an unofficial holiday. They basically drink 24 beers in 24 hours or less. The day is referred to as “Newman Day,” however, the Princeton officials said that the actor himself didn’t want to endorse the occasion. Well, he still has a holiday named after him, which is more than any of us can say.