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With the focus on Joanne Woodward, the woman who refused to be overshadowed by Paul Newman

In the space in my house where I sit down to write every other day, I have a framed poster with Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. The shot is a point of view from above, they kiss while lying on a bed, holding each other’s heads. Every day my eyes come across that beautiful image in shades of gray, but since I saw The Last Movie Starsmy look is no longer the same.

One of Hollywood’s longest-running and most explosive ‘Power Couples’ may have been the one formed by Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Beautiful, talented, sexy, intelligent. They had all the necessary ingredients to stand out in the jungle of the cinema mecca at a time of great flourishing of the film industry and proliferation of people who wanted the same thing as them. Some fainted, they did not.

The excellent documentary series The Last Movie Stars (The latest Hollywood starsfrom HBO MAX) extraordinarily and meticulously Over the course of six chapters, it covers the journey of both of them as a mother and father, philanthropists, but also as individuals.

It is not an exaggeration if I say that this production, directed by Ethan Hawkemanages to completely discover the couple artistically and intimately, but also through them the so-called Star Systemas well as the “evolution” of the audiovisual industry from the 1950s to the first decade of the new millennium.

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.

It is worth telling that Hawke’s starting point was thousands of sheets that arrived in boxes through Clea, the couple’s youngest daughter; These were transcripts of a good number of interviews, with Woodward and Newman, friends, former lovers, family, directors, colleagues. It was material intended for an autobiography that Paul would write with his friend the writer. Stewart Stern, but after almost five years, Newman decided to destroy the recordings. To be more precise, he burned them.

In a craftsmanship Ethan Hawke weaves the story with the help of the voices of several actors, including George Clooney (Newman) and Laura Linney (Woodward); in addition to using archival material, film fragments, photographs, interventions by performers and directors, as well as the couple’s daughters and grandchildren.

It is worth clarifying: the love between these two stars was not at first sight. When in 1953 Joanne met Paul – married and with children – in the office of the agent they shared, she was not amused at all, rather it generated a certain rejection, “it seemed as if he had been preserved on ice,” Joanne recalls in the series.

Both trained at the prestigious Actors Studio, when they coincided as substitutes on Broadway in the play Picnicsparks flew, a sexual tension was unleashed, an attraction that would unite them for five decades.

Despite the ups and downs, wobbles, hard knocks, as well as the Newman’s alcoholism and infidelitiesthe daughters say that Paul – who died in 2008 due to terminal cancer – and Joanne – at 92 years old she is still alive but is retired from the public sphere as she suffers from Alzheimer’s – they couldn’t keep their hands off each other, that The passion was always alive.

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.

“When we were girls we always wondered why their bedroom had a double door,” she says. Melissa Newman in the second episode of the series.

The power couple who married in 1958, they joined forces in 16 films, three Broadway plays and a good number of television productions; and separately they made a good number of films, plays and serials.

Why do I say that I no longer look with the same eyes at my poster of the kiss that recreates the poster of A new Kind of Love? Because thanks to The latest Hollywood starsBefore my eyes the image of Joanne Woodward has expanded, it is vindicated.

The star, the mother

Before Paul Newman appeared as a sought-after actor, Joanne Woodward (Thomasville, Georgia, 1930) already had star status.

In 1958 he won the Oscar for The three faces of Eve (of Nunnally Johnson). She attended the gala with Paul, still unknown in the Hollywood scene, and collected the statuette wearing a green taffeta dress that she had designed and made herself for $100. They were definitely different times.

He had been working hard both in the theater and in television and film, but that night in ’58 he reaffirmed what he says in the series Maudeone of her aunts, about Joanne’s intentions, “always said that wanted to become a star cinematic, not an actress, a movie star!”

In fact, his speech at the Oscars began with the confession of having been dreaming of that moment since he was nine years old. Joanne, who had had a childhood and adolescence marked by the economic hardship of a divorced mother raising two children, dared to express his ambitions very early, something that neither at that time nor in this era is usually seen well. Let’s not fool ourselves, to this day the positive connotation of “being ambitious” hardly applies to women.

The careers of both actors were advanced until the time of motherhood arrived, when Joanne began to fade. Ethan Hawke, who also formed a power couple with Uma Thurmanreflects in the documentary series about sharing the same dream with your partner and seeing that the other person’s dream comes true, while yours simply evaporates.

“When they got married Joanne was the star, but slowly she started changing diapers, making baby food”Hawke says, “Not getting what you want is hard, but getting what you want and then seeing it slowly taken away from you is different.”

Joanne took care not only of her three daughters (Nell, Melissa and Clea), but also of the children of Paul’s first marriage to Jackie Witte (Susan, Stephanie and Scott, died in 1978). Her daughters recognize that the actress’s career could have been different if she had not dedicated herself to children, and that as a mother she did everything the best she could.

In first person, Joanne relates that she felt terrified of being divided between family life and work, and that the guilt pursued her equally: while filming his thoughts were on the children, and at home he kept thinking about Shirley MacLaine, and others like her, taking her place.

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman with one of their daughters.

“When I was young what I wanted was to act, I admit that I didn’t let anything get in my way until I had children,” Joanne would say later, “I hope my daughters understand me. I definitely adore them, but if I had to do it all “Then again, I might not have had them. Actors don’t make good parents.”

A devastating statement, although Woodward knew that motherhood was only one of the elements that worked against her. Although she had given sufficient evidence of her great acting ability, as the fame of her husband grew, becoming a sex symbol, the actress began to lose her offers.

Shine in technicolor

Apart from the social structures that dictated that women of those times had to build their lives around a man, “it was very difficult for women of my generation to break with that,” she would say, Joanne also faced the functioning of the industry. cinematographic.

On the one hand, it imposed an expiration date on the actresses, and on the other, it remained fixed on a certain style, the types of Grace Kelly either Marilyn Monroe They were copied, repeated and were referential.

In the decrease in role offers, perhaps what is most striking is that more and more projects had a greater chance of being carried out if they had the participation of Paul Newman.

After The Fugitive Kind (Sidney Lumet), From the Terrace (Mark Robson), both from 1960, and the daring Paris Blues (Martin Ritt, 1961), these last two with Newman, Joanne wanted to make a film that was difficult to make, and she showed the script to Paul with the idea that he would participate. It was about A new Kind of Love. The anecdote told by one of the daughters in The Last Movie Stars It has no waste.

Newman was not convinced by the romantic comedy, he thought it was simply horrible. Joanne, enraged, confronted him: “I raised our daughters, I helped raise yours, I took care of them all, and now you don’t want to make this movie with me where I can wear beautiful wardrobe, amazing makeup and hair? “.

Faced with such an explosion, Paul had no choice but to back down, “it’s the best script I’ve ever read and I can’t wait to start shooting that film,” he gave up. Although Samantha (by Melville Shavelson), as it was called in Spanish, was not a box office success, Woodward shone in Technicolor.

Joanne’s acting value was indisputable, The security in everything he did and that he always demonstrated contrasted with Newman’s complexes.. Joanne had to support him, something he recognizes, as well as credit for having contributed to her being considered a sex symbols. “We should have a parade in her honor for being the creator,” the actor would say.

Joanne, who was also a woman of great beauty and attractiveness, had to take her feeling of invisibility with some humor. On the street he was the one recognized by first and last name, while Woodward was referred to as “she” or “the wife.” And on television shows and in interviews she was asked more about her husband than about her job.

Many years passed, until in his adulthood he admitted that he felt rivalry towards Newman. “It always bothered me that Paul became someone much bigger than me, and it’s legitimate,” she confessed in front of a camera, “there was a time when I wished I didn’t stay at home and take care of babies, I wanted to be a big movie star, but you know, people change.”

Joanne Woodward found a way not to disappear, to build her own path but at the same time shared it, sometimes avoiding being dazzled by Newman’s light, other times uniting the light that both radiated separately, of course, ensuring that its luminosity was not opaque.

He returned to theater and television, continued making films, dedicated himself to philanthropy and training new generations of performers, and many of them, when they were awarded, thanked him with their first and last name.

The latest Hollywood stars It has made me no longer see my poster of Woodward and Newman kissing with the same eyes. Now I see more clearly Joanne, a woman who knew how to intelligently polish her talent and skills, who dared to take on many of her advanced roles at the time and to which she gave so much truth. I see the star, but above all I see a woman who refused to disappear.

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