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The Poster Couple

the 22.03.2013 at 12:00 AM


© AFP

 

The breathtaking embrace of Newman and Woodward on the poster of the 66th Festival de Cannes conjures up the very spirit of American cinema. She was the first to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on 9 February 1960, while he acted under the directorship of the very greatest, Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers… The list goes on.

He was born in 1925 in Ohio, she in 1930 in Georgia. Both took classes at the Actor's Studio. Her choice of vocation was inspired by her mother, while for him it represented the hope of a new career after being wounded at war in the Pacific. "Picnic", the play by William Inge showing on Broadway in 1953, brought them together for the first time and marked the starting point of their respective careers.

In 1957, after playing a number of theatre and television roles and a noteworthy cinema debut in Gerd Oswald's A Kiss Before Dying, Joanne Woodward won the Best Actress Oscar forThe Three Faces of Eve by Nunnally Johnson. Meanwhile, Newman made a name for himself with a brace of films, Arthur Penn'sThe Left-handed Gun (1957) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Richard Brooks in 1958.

 

1958 saw them truly united on the set of Martin Ritt's Long Hot Summer: they married and were the stuff of Hollywood dreams, for an age, fifty years, an eternity. They shared top billing in Leo McCarey's Rally round the Flag, Boys!  (1958), From the Terrace by Mark Robson (1960), Paris Blues by Martin Ritt (1961), A New Kind of Love by Melville Shavelson (1963), Winning by James Goldstone (1969), WUSA (1970) and The Drowning Pool (1975) by  Stuart Rosenberg. 

In the late 1960s, Paul Newman turned to directing and offered his wife a series of major roles, including Rachel Rachel, which won the New York Critics' Circle Award in 1968, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, for which she won Best Actress at the Festival de Cannes in 1973 and The Glass Menagerie, selected In Compétition at Cannes en 1987. It was also during these two decades that Newman himself entered the acting Pantheon, thanks to his demanding performances in Exodus (Otto Preminger, 1960), The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961), Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg,1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) and The Verdict (Sydney Lumet, 1982). With Martin Scorsese's The Colour of Money in 1986, it was his turn to be crowned Best Actor.

 

On the screen, he is by turns cowboy, judge, gangster, billiards player, prisoner and mafioso, while she evokes fragility, seduction, neurosis and fantasy. In 1990, the couple was brought together by James Ivory as Mr and Mrs Bridge, their final collaboration as actors. Lovers, committed, accomplished protagonists of the silver screen for half a century, Woodward and Newman remain the eternally united stars of the world of films, both those that are made and those of which we dream. 

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