Married life for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward was not always blissful.
The couple first met when they were cast in the Broadway play “Picnic” in 1953. They said “I do” in 1958, and their union lasted until the actor died in 2008. In Newman’s lifetime, the pair made 16 films together.
The couple’s partnership was legendary, but their daughters Clea and Melissa insisted that the Hollywood power couple had a “complicated” marriage.
“There is this fairy tale of my parents’ perfect marriage,” Melissa, 61, told Closer Weekly on Friday. However, she explained that things were not “all ice cream and cake” at home.
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“There was a vibe of tension in the house that would sort of come and go,” she said.
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Still, Melissa noted that it was their “desire to fight for their relationship” that kept them together for 50 years “even in the worst of times.”
According to the outlet, the couple struggled to balance two high-profile careers. Newman also faced a drinking problem and felt guilt for the loss of his only son, Scott Newman. The actor died in 1978 at age 28 from a drug and alcohol overdose.
“My mother was always the rock, even when she said, ‘I’m drawing the line. You either get your act together or I’m out,'” said Melissa. “I think dad respected her because he knew she wasn’t bluffing.”
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Newman candidly described the steamy sex life that he shared with Woodward in his posthumous memoir, “Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man,” which was recently published.
The memoir was based on interviews with Newman’s family, friends, colleagues and the actor himself, all of whom went on the record with the stipulation that they be “completely honest.”
In the book, the legendary screen star, who is known for his classic films including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Sting,” discussed his status as a sex symbol, which he said was all due to Woodward.
“Joanne gave birth to a sexual creature,” Newman said in an excerpt obtained by People magazine. “We left a trail of lust all over the place. Hotels and public parks and Hertz Rent-A-Cars.”
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The book delved into Newman’s early insecurities during his teenage years in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where he needed special permission to join the high-school football team due to his small size. Newman also opened up about his lack of self-confidence and early failures with women.
“I felt like a goddamn freak,” he said. “Girls thought I was a joke. A happy buffoon.”
However, the Academy Award winner said all of that changed after meeting Woodward in 1953, when they were both understudied in the original production of William Inge’s play “Picnic.”
At the time, Newman was married to his first wife, Jackie Witte, with whom he shared three young children, Scott, Susan and Stephanie. However, his attraction to Woodward proved too strong, and the two embarked on a turbulent affair.
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“I went from being not much of a sexual threat to something else entirely,” he recalled.
Newman and Witte divorced in 1958, and he wed Woodward that same year in Las Vegas. In the memoir, Newman shared an anecdote from the pair’s early years as a married couple.
He recalled coming home to their Beverly Hills house to find that Woodward had fixed up a room off the master bedroom with a “thrift shop double bed” that she “proudly” called the ” F— Hut”.
“It had been done with such affection and delight,” Newman noted. “Even if my kids came over, we’d go into the F— Hut several nights a week and just be intimate and noisy and ribald.”
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The couple later moved to Westport, Connecticut, with their three daughters.
“Joanne and I still drive each other crazy in different ways,” he said. “But all the misdemeanors, the betrayals, the difficulties have kind of evened themselves out over the years.”
The couple’s daughter Clea recalled, “They fought, and it could be dramatic, but they also fought really hard to stay together.”
“They didn’t walk,” she said. “There were times it was pretty close, but they worked hard at it. Ultimately they came together.”