Paul Newman photographed by Gene Lesser.
Pretty sure DevilDoll fainted when she saw this photo.
Paul Newman in The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
If Paul was considered the most desirable man in America, Joanne was the woman who had pried him away from his first marriage in an unlikely love match. He looked like a Greek god; he never took a bad picture, literally. Her own looks were mutable; she could be stunning or plain, ordinary or exotic, kittenish or tomboyish. “I’ve long since adjusted to my husband’s status as a superstar and a sex symbol,” she would say. “The only place I’m a sex symbol is at home, and I’m very lucky that my husband thinks I’m sexy. I don’t worry about women who come on strong with him, because I know what he thinks of them.”
Five years after they’d spent the shoot of The Long Hot Summer in constant communion on the streets of Clinton, Louisiana, they were still that way. “They’re the most hand-holding couple I ever saw,” said a longtime friend, and the sense was that Newman reached for his wife’s hand more often than the other way around. For his part Newman spoke of her in genuinely fond terms that were meant to emphasize her congeniality and allure but perhaps too often sounding laddish or indelicate. “She’s the last of the great broads,” he was fond of saying early in their marriage, and then a few years later, famously and to his regret, he asserted his monogamy by declaring, “I have steak at home; why go out for a hamburger?” (Chastised by Joanne for comparing her to a piece of meat, he tried another metaphor. “She’s like a classy ‘62 Bordeaux,” he told a female interviewer. “No make that a ‘59. That’s a year that ages well in the bottle. Will I get in trouble for that?”)
"He’s an oddity in this business. He really loves his wife," said Otto Preminger. And Stewart Stern, best man at their wedding, vouched for Newman’s love. "Paul has a sense of real adoration for what Joanne can do. He’s constantly trying to provide a setting where the world can see what he sees in her." She doted on him and he tried to dote on her, but was clumsy in the effort. "For quite a while after we were married," she remembered, "he’d send me flowers on a certain day in September, which he thought was my birthday. Since I was born in February, I finally pointed out to him that his first wife was born in September.” (She forgave him)
As an unknown actor in the early ’50s, Paul Newman fought to play Hal Carter, the lead role in William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play Picnic. But the director wasn’t convinced Newman’s physique was fit enough for Hal, who appears naked from the waist up in most of his scenes. Eventually, Newman worked his way up to the from a supporting role, garnering critical acclaim and jump-starting his legendary acting career. Fast forward sixty years later to another relatively unknown actor, Sebastian Stan, a Romanian import best known for stint as Sigourney Weaver’s son in Political Animals and his supporting role in Captain America: The First Avenger. Like Newman, Stan was gunning for the lead in Captain America, but he was offered the role of the hero’s comparatively less-buff sidekick instead. Judging from the current state of his six-pack abs, however, he clearly didn’t have any trouble convincing director Sam Gold that he was ripped enough for Picnic’s Hal. x
Paul Newman in Venice, 1963
Paul Newman © Louie Psihoyos