The Last Movie Stars: A Tribute to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward


This summer, HBO Max aired The latest movie starsa six-part documentary series about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, revealing for the first time several transcripts of interviews with Newman and Woodward by screenwriter Stewart Stern (rebel without a causeand Rachel, Rachel). Although Newman has destroyed most of the recording tapes, Ethan Hawke has assembled an insightful collage of narrative fragments that shed new light on the legendary couple’s history. Some reveals — like their clashing egos and Newman’s heavy drinking — show us how their marriage was a story of intense romance, intense conflict, and serene strength. In 1953, in a Broadway production of Picnic, Newman and Woodward fell in love, although Newman was married to Jackie Witte, mother of his first three children.


Painfully honest, Woodward admitted to Stern, “I’m not a natural mother. I hope the children will understand that even if each of them was adored, if I had to do it over again, I might not have had children. Actors don’t make good parents. Newman was convinced that Woodward was the catalyst for “giving birth to a sexual being”, since their association gave Paul Newman more confidence as an actor and a sex symbol: “Newman as a sex object was invented “. After Newman’s divorce from his first wife, he married Woodward in 1958, and they were together until his death in 2008. Woodward, now 92, retired from the public eye due to illness of Alzheimer’s.


A new book containing these lost transcriptions of Newman and Woodward will be published by Knopf on October 18, 2022: Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man– and two daughters of the famous couple (Melissa and Clea Newman) contributed to the project with a preface and an afterword respectively. This memoir will offer us new perspectives on Newman and Woodward, two beloved movie stars who also became philanthropic powerhouses. Edited by David Rosenthal, this book promises to focus on Newman’s line of thought about his career and his relationship with Woodward – his reliance on him, the way she shaped him intellectually, emotionally and sexually.


When Woodward was asked by Stern about the key to her successful pairing with Newman, she attempted to convey their dual complexity: “I was in love with him. I was in lust with him. I think we saw two completely different images from each other. He thought I was very in control, crazy but creative; nothing of what I felt for myself. And I considered him to be heroic, intelligent, intelligent and handsome. He thought of nothing of himself.


The latest movie stars is also a fairly comprehensive study of Newman and Woodward’s cinematic trajectory, and how some real-life experiences have strangely been confused with their film versions, as in The Long Hot Summer, A New Kind of Love, Cool Hand Luke, WinningWhere Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. As Newman once said, “To act is to absorb the personality of others and add some of your own experience to it. Joanne believes my character in a movie we made together, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge closest to who I really am. Personally, I don’t think there’s a single character that comes close.


Shawn Levy (author of a previous biography in 2009: Paul Newman: A Life) wrote: “Paul Newman had an intense discipline that required him to earn, through perseverance, a place alongside the gods of the method Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean. He was ultimately the only true superstar to emerge from the original Actors Studio generation, the most popular Stanislavskian actor in the history of American cinema.


Nominated eight times for the Oscars, Newman only won once, for ‘The Color of Money’ (1986), in which he reprized his iconic role as ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson in Robert Rossen’s ‘The Hustler’ (1961). Rossen explained: “Fast Eddie wants to be a great pool player, but the movie is really about the obstacles he faces in trying to thrive as a human being. Eddie has to win before anything else; that’s his tragedy.

In 1966, the film critic of Cahiers du Cinéma, Jacques Bontemps, wrote about the scammer: “in a universe tarnished by levelling, the one who wins is not the one who cares about the beauty of the gesture, but the one for whom everything is posed in terms of efficiency of return. Compromise and resignation are necessary. As Claude Ollier had written with insight, which gives the scammer its durability is that “one has the constant impression that a feeling of indecision hovers permanently, and the latest explanations are not enough to dissipate it”. Pauline Kael noted: “George C. Scott in the scammer suggests a personification of the power of money. And there is a tortured and crippled girl (Piper Laurie) who tells the truth: she is a practitioner of the Socratic method who continuously drinks her hemlock.

Alan Casty analyzes the scammer in Robert Rossen: The Films and Politics of a Blacklisted Idealist (2013): “In the artist’s parable of Rossen in Hollywood, all are hustlers. The more one pushes and strives, the more one betrays one’s ideals and dreams. And the harder he tries, the more he ends up placing himself in the hands of tycoons whose lust for power stems from an ego that is paradoxically both strong and uncertain. Billiards is Eddie’s trade, what he does best; yet, until the very last game, he reveals the most destructive urges within him. His redemption comes not just from what he has gained for Sarah, but from what he is willing to lose for her. He gives up everything he has left to love. He paid his debt, winning and losing.


During the 1970s, Paul Newman called WUSA (1970): “the most important film I have ever made and the best.” Newman had fought Paramount Pictures, accusing the studio’s executives of cowardice: “There aren’t a lot of smart people who have power,” he told studio vice president Peter Bart, “and you must use your power to advance the truth. What are money and power worth if you don’t do this? ” In WUSA, Paul Newman plays Rheinhardt, a failed alcoholic musician who is hired by a right-wing station. Rheinhardt finds his ideological detachment challenged by his lover Geraldine (Joanne Woodward) and by Rainey (Anthony Perkins) who is an idealist fighting against the sinister agenda of WUSA.

Based on the novel by Robert Stone A hall of mirrors (1967), WUSA was the biggest flop of Newman and Woodward’s careers. The film was partially censored by the studio, due to its stance against the Vietnam War. In Conversations with American Writers (1986) by Charles Ruas, Robert Stone offers in Rheinhardt only a moribund perversion of the American myths of individualism and innocence, co-opted by corrupt institutional forces. Stone explains to Ruas: “The emotionless person fascinates me. Due to the general uprooting and transience of American life, this character is, to some extent, celebrated. Not only do we have the Frontiersman, the Puritan, and the Outlaw, but we have the Sociopath as a major cultural type, and there is a certain reverence for him in American society. I think what I was trying to do in A hall of mirrors was to recognize the importance of the emotionally paralyzed individual in American life.


Unsure if he should take a stand, Rheinhardt is a wanderer with an amazing capacity for self-delusion. “Rheinhardt represents a sort of dead-end version of American freedom,” Ruas writes. “Rheinhardt may be rootless, unaffected, emotionally paralyzed, but his alcoholism exposes the remnants of conventional compassion within him. He masks the feelings he still has and cultivates coldness as a coping strategy. Michael Tager shrewdly remarks about Rheinhardt that his name sounds like a heart of bark, suggesting someone who consciously dampens his emotions to reduce his vulnerability. Reacting to the news of the suicide of his lover Géraldine, Rheinhardt is moved in spite of himself.

Ruas adds: “The [right-wing] Restoration Rally therefore functions not as a means of reviving traditional American ideals, but of accelerating a process of serial simulation in which technology facilitates the absorption of the individual into the mass. Preparing to speak in front of the crowd, Rheinhardt momentarily imagines himself conducting an orchestra that could produce redemptive art. Stone elaborates on the impossibility of regenerative violence. The peculiarity of Rheinhardt is that he can adapt to cultural coldness. The rhetoric of natural evolution is beautifully ironic for its simulation forms, rather than genuine human forms.

Like an epilogue that we don’t see in WUSA, in the last pages of A hall of mirrors Reinhardt’s conscience arises because he is heartbroken because of Geraldine. This twist could indicate that Reinhardt will eventually lose his self-defense mechanism and, like Rainey and Geraldine, he will perish as another victim of an irretrievable system. His affection for Géraldine allows Reinhardt to rediscover his sense of humanity.


the scammer and WUSA share the anti-hero/misfit and fallen woman archetypes, in addition to the romantic notion of being true to your principles. In real life, on their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Newman claimed, “Joanne, being married to you has been the joy of my life.” In addition to these films, Paul Newman had found a savior in his wife and muse, Joanne Woodward.

Reflecting on his tumultuous life and career, Paul Newman said: “I would like to be remembered as a guy who tried to be part of his time, tried to help people communicate between them, tried to find some decency in his own life, and tried to expand as a human being. The latest movie starsTennessee Williams (author of Sweet Bird of Youth, The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a hot tin roof) is quoted: “The world is violent and mercurial. It will work its way with you. We are only saved by love. We live in a building that is perpetually burning, and what we have to save from it, all the time, is love.


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