Despite having one of the longest-lasting marriages in Hollywood, Paul Newman was never able to get rid of the feelings of guilt he had been carrying about for so long. He also never came to terms with the fact that he had betrayed his first wife.
When Paul Newman first encountered the stunning Jackie Witte, he was a 24-year-old Navy veteran. She was 19 years old, wanted to act as Newman did, and hadn’t finished college yet.
In order to pursue a career in theater, Newman had declined a position at the prosperous family business in Cleveland, Ohio that sold apparel. He had some acting experience from college, so he sought to get a job in regional repertory theaters in the Midwest.
Following their summer stage performance in a small town, Newman and Witte first ran into each other. They joined forces shortly after to go to a theater company in Woodstock, Illinois, where they later wed in December.
Naturally, the hasty nature of their marriage sparked speculation that Witte might have become pregnant. However, when no child appeared, it was clear that the two were only in love.
Newman’s theatrical career appeared to be coming to an end in Woodstock. His theater management frequently believed that despite being “a good-looking blue-eyed guy,” he was not “leading man” material. At the same time, his wife discovered she was expecting their first kid.
Coincidentally, his father passed away, leaving him in charge of the family firm. So he gathered his belongings and headed back to Cleveland, where the couple would later welcome their son and where Newman’s acting ambitions appeared to have died.
However, Newman was not one to give up so quickly, and he continued to attend plays at the town playhouse to see the actors receive their curtain calls. He remembers how humiliating that was for him and says:
It was so close to making me lose my mind.
He risked all of his resources on a master’s in theatre at Yale University in the hopes that, even if he failed to become an actor, he would at least be able to teach the subject. He packed up his stuff for the second time in less than a year, took his wife and child, and set out into the unknown.
Witte began looking for modeling opportunities in the adjacent New York City while Newman started selling encyclopedias. As a result of his expanding responsibilities and the news that he would soon become a second-time father, Newman was forced to move to the large metropolis. So he established a habit. He remembered:
I would put on my one decent suit every morning, take the ferry from Staten Island to Manhattan, visit casting directors, take note of all the advice given in the trade publications, and then return home in time to sell encyclopedias.
His efforts quickly started to pay off, and he was now getting little TV jobs. His career started to take off gradually. He was married to a beautiful woman, had two children he adored, and his acting career was finally starting to pay off. Things looked to be going well for the first time in a long time until he met the lead actress in the play “Picnic.”
In order to prepare for his new part on “Picnic,” Newman had to practice dancing alongside Joanne Woodward. He was cast in almost every part he auditioned for after the play became a success and catapulted Newman to new heights in his career, according to his booking agent: “He looked like a Greek god.”
Nevertheless, Woodward did not appear to be impressed by his skill. He was “simply a lovely face,” in her opinion, and she did not think much of his performance. In addition, he had two children and was married. Woodward found the situation to be anything but appealing from every angle.
However, Newman couldn’t help but be captivated to the 22-year-old Georgian Southern beauty. He was immediately captivated by her appearance, and as they got to know one another, she seemed to resemble his dream woman more and more. He raved:
“I was reserved and a little conventional, but she was independent and current. I had a hard time convincing her that I wasn’t as boring as I appeared to be.”
Witte was wary of her spouse at home. He spent much of his time with Woodward while frequently traveling. Despite this, his marriage remained “wonderful,” and in 1954, the couple had Stephanie, their third child.
Soon after, Newman was cast as the lead in the instantly successful song “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” He brought Witte to a party to celebrate, and shortly after arriving, he hopped in his car and sped off. He raced a red light while intoxicated, knocked over a fire hydrant, and the cops eventually caught up with him, detained him, and locked him in a cell.
Even while his behavior that evening was motivated by his positive attitude, it also revealed his underlying perplexity and suffering. Even though he knew his feelings for Woodward would endanger his marriage, he couldn’t help but be attracted to her.
Despite their inhibitions, Newman and Woodward’s relationship flourished, and everyone in their close circle realized how uncomfortable it was for Newman’s marriage and how much they attracted one other.
Newman struggled more and more to decide whether to remain devoted to his children or pursue the lady he felt was “the one.” Woodward, on the other hand, had to put up with being called a “home-wrecker.” In this circumstance, their coworker would say:
However, given their circumstances, neither could stop what was occurring to them.
Witte attempted to cling on when it became clear that Newman would eventually leave his first wife and fight for what she felt was properly hers, but Woodward’s pregnancy was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Witte ultimately decided to relinquish her claim on Newman after hearing the news.
The actor’s life would stay weird for a while after the divorce was finalized, though. Years later, he was still struggling with the guilt of basing his successful second marriage on the failure of his first. He constantly admitted to being “guilty as hell,” adding, “And I’ll take it with me for the rest of my life,” despite frequently dodging queries regarding his first marriage.
Despite the circumstances of how they met, Newman and Woodward had a happy marriage. Although they were far from ideal together, their daughter would later remark that they “had an amazing connection and affection for one another that is rare,” adding:
“More than any couple I have ever encountered, they appreciated each other and laughed together.”
However, their marriage did not always go smoothly because of tragedy and drug usage. After Newman began an affair with divorced Hollywood journalist Nancy Bacon, who 20th Century Fox had hired to write an article about him for a magazine, the marriage nearly came to an end.
They persevered for years together despite the difficulties, finding creative ways to overcome their flaws. After bringing their three daughters, Nell, Lissy, and Clea, into the world, they strengthened their marriage and eventually became one.
In 2007, Newman retired from acting after years of acting in several films and receiving multiple awards. He said that he was no longer able to work in the capacity that he wanted to:
“Your memory starts to fade. You start to become less self-assured. Your creation starts to fade away. Therefore, I believe that is essentially a closed case for me.”
Sadly, the celebrity bade the world farewell a year after the announcement after losing a protracted battle with cancer. At 83, he passed away in his farmhouse close to Westport, Connecticut. According to his publicist, the actor passed away surrounded by friends and family.
Woodward’s health deteriorated after the death of her husband, and she started displaying indications of worry. At first, her daughters blamed their father’s passing on her terrible health.
Sadly, Woodward received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis not long after and struggled to remember all the wonderful times she had spent with her husband. One would inform Closer Weekly as follows:
“She almost ever talks now, and her own daughters and grandchildren are hardly ever recognized. Her current state is painful to witness.”
Many people remember Newman for his Oscar-winning films and the six children he had from his two marriages, which served as his legacy. It was not surprising that the loss of his son Scott, who was only 28 years old, impacted him severely because his daughters described him as an endearing father. Newman claimed that he frequently felt regret for not intervening more on behalf of his son.
The three daughters of Newman’s second marriage who went on to become actresses followed in his footsteps. Outside of their jobs, they are wives and some are mothers. They have positive memories of dad that are very different from those of Newman’s children from his first marriage.
Unlike their stepsiblings, Scott, Susan, and Stephanie had difficult lives. Their difficulties were made worse by the fact that they were the offspring of divorcees and were unable to visit their father as frequently as they would have liked. As their father spent much of his time with his second family, they frequently felt like outsiders.
Newman revealed his plans for his family’s fortune in August 2007. But when his health deteriorated, he trusted in a new attorney and revised his will, setting up a bitter conflict between Newman’s children and his adviser Robert Forrester.
But despite his inconsistent will, Newman allegedly made wise choices up until his passing in September 2008. At least until a few weeks before his demise, according to Forrester, Newman “remained conscious, made well-reasoned decisions, and was totally in control of his planning.”