wild love: paul newman & joanne woodward

by Mary Kathryn Paynter

Image by

While romance abounds in Hollywood, it’s rare that it fosters lasting, steady relationships, which is why the story of Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward is so heart-warming. The two actors celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2008, shortly before Newman passed away. They chose to eschew the Hollywood lifestyle to live in an 18th-century Connecticut farmhouse together for 48 years. Their resulting life was wholesome and all-American but showed a genuine warmth between the couple. Today’s installment of Wild Love is dedicated to their cheery, idyllic aesthetic.

Newman and Woodward, photo by

Image by 

Newman met Woodward in 1953 while working on Broadway. Five years later, they were married and made the conscious choice to stay in New England, a decision Woodward said solidified their marriage. “We were never Hollywood people,” Woodward has said. “We just liked it better here. It also probably helps that we always enjoyed each other’s company.” They remained in Westport, Connecticut for the duration of their marriage and poured themselves into the surrounding community, restoring and re-opening the Westport Country Playhouse, of which Woodward remains the Artistic Director to this day.

The full post continues after the jump…

Newman and Woodward together, photo from

Much has been made about the secret behind Newman and Woodward’s marriage, which outlasted so many of their peers’. Woodward was an icy southern blond who won many beauty pageants at a young age, and Newman was, well, Paul Newman. Famously playing hardened men with a heart of gold, Newman rose to fame with movies such as Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, and Hud. His passion, however, was for theater, one he shared with Woodward enthusiastically. Though they only acted in a handful of movies together on-screen, they often directed each other both on-screen and on-stage.

Newman famously told Playboy, “I have steak at home. Why go out for hamburger?”, a motto that came to represent the idyllic perception many had of the couple. He credited their success with “correct amounts of lust and respect”. While one has to imagine that many of these perceptions were a product of the myth-making necessary for two working Hollywood personalities, the idyllic aspects of Newman and Woodward’s relationship outlasted many of the more cynical views towards monogamy that rose to popularity in the latter half of the twentieth century, hinting at something deeper behind the perfect exterior and soundbites.

In the style of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, I created a cheery bouquet that is a like something from a perfect New England garden. After the jump, I’ll tell you how I made it and tell you a little more about how it represents this incredible couple. — Mary Kathryn

Above images by Kari Rosenfeld

For this bouquet I wanted the flowers to be bright and reminiscent of an idyllic American life, but to also be sturdy and long-lasting. I started with a base of Hydrangeas, blue and white, carefully trimming back clusters on each stem and intertwining the white and blue flowers. Next, I added the electric green Viburnum, a shrub that is both hardy and looks straight out of a lush garden. The mix of these two types of flowers provides the fullness to accentuate the white Dahlias, whose petals fade to a lime green in the center, echoing the color in the Viburnum. Hellebores are a late winter bloom, but provide an elegant hint of wildness to this bouquet. Lastly, tiny blue Forget-Me-Nots and red Geranium are reminiscent of potted plants on front porches and give this bouquet an all-American color palette.

Newman and Woodward together, photo from

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  • I read in an interview with Woodward years ago that she absolutely HATED that famous hamburger/steak line of Newman’s. She understood what he was going for, but thought it was awful to compare her to a piece of meat. To me, that makes the whole thing even more endearing!

  • Thank you, it is extra special, because at one time Newman held an annual recipe contest and one year I won it! What a thrill, the award hangs in a place of honor in my kitchen.

  • The Kermit and Piggy idea is such a good one, commenter Larry! I didn’t know Paul Newman had such a lovely, inspiring marriage, and I’m really glad to have read about it.

  • Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Also, I love Woodward’s comment about them enjoying each others company and you have to wonder if that’s what’s wrong with all these celebrity marriages these days. Maybe they don’t enjoy each others company and that’s why no one can seem to stay together. I say that with a little tongue in cheek as no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It’s just sad.

  • If only we could bottle what it is that makes for the magic of longevity…..lovely post. Keep it simple – don’t buy into the rat race – and open your eyes wide to the beauty and rarity of a good friend and companion.

  • Mary Kathryn, I think this project was so carefully and perfectly executed – It is beautiful! Their 50-years marriage is certainly noteworthy and the pictures truly show a great love…I was intrigued by this post and was very disappointed to read elsewhere that Newman and Woodward’s relationship began when he was married to Jackie Witte, with 3 young children. Sadly he is quoted as saying that he has felt “guilty as hell” his entire life! I can’t help but think how this “heartwarming” life-long romance came at the expense of his first family.

  • I read somewhere that when they married they chose to live near his ex-wife and kids to raise all the children together and that made me like him even more.

  • Lovely memories. I, too, saw an interview with Joanne who absolutely bristled at the steak and hamburger quote. A nicer quote, which I think was in an interview with Connie Chung on CBS (I wish I could find it. I know I have it on tape somewhere). Asked what he attributed their long last marriage to, Paul said, “In this house we don’t throw things away. If something needs mending, we fix it. Marriage is no different. We work at it, and if something needs mending we fix it.” While it may not be exact, it’s close, and I’ve thought of that interview often and remembered that quote.

  • I’ve never had such an emotional reaction to a flower arrangement in my entire life. It’s stunning and really does mirror the essence of the story. Amazing.

  • I remember running into them at Bode’s General store in Abiquiu, New Mexico where they apparently owned a ranch. They were shopping for groceries, commenting on the freshness of the apples just being the normal couple you describe so beautifully.

  • i love their story. they’ve always been special to me since they shared my parents anniversary- – jan 29. very sweet post- thank you. <3

  • I always thought they were a perfectly romantic couple – a genuine, real kind of love with lots of laughter. So important, that last part! Anyways, thanks for the peek, it was nice. :o)


  • Paul and Joanne have been an inspiration to me for decades, choosing to partner in coupledom. It is far easier to traverse through partners, changing whimsically and focusing on the self. I have terrific admiration for people who are able – not everyone can or should – to maintain ” . . . lust and respect” such a long time. As well, Paul didn’t just commit to a partner or a family. He demonstrated a want to make the planet better for a needy group of people, through his “Newman’s Own” line of products. Few Hollywoodites can say the same. Fitting that the lovely Connecticut became their haven.

    Thank you.

  • I’m really enjoying this wild love series. It’s a perfect match of emotional and aesthetical beauty.

  • Live near Westport, saw them in a restaurant, they were so charming and warm to the waitstaff, it was a delight to see their character and genuine kindness!

  • Met them in a small New Hampshire town, just being themselves. Did not want “the star treatment”. They were great down to earth people.

  • He has been my idol since I was the early 60’s, met his at the race track before he raced in nationals — she came along one weekend also. He is so down to earth. They were truly the epitome of ‘stars’ to look up to.

  • I apologize for posting off topic, but where did you get the lovely woven flats in the last bouquet photo? They’re fantastic!

  • I love your blog and work at Westport Country Playhouse and am afraid I must make a correction. Joanne Woodward did served as artistic director from 2001 – 2005, and then as interim co-artistic director with Anne Keefe from 2008 – 2009. Mark Lamos became artistic director in February 2009. Joanne now sits on our board of Trustees. And of course she still comes to see shows!

  • I enjoyed reading about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. I believe that I fell in love with Newman from “The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof” with Elizabeth Taylor. Since then I have followed him in his activist roles. I love it that he and his wife enjoyed each other’s company and chose to live in the East – Westport, CT. He/they loved people and were kind. I miss him.

  • loved this post have admired them since childhood and hate how the tabloids have treated her since his death. sadly she’s in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s now unable to remember him or their loved ones

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