No person’s journey through life is without difficult times, and the same could be said for every marriage. The Last Movie Stars Chapter 4 proves this is true for celebrities, as well. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward faced their most challenging problems during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Newman continued to work steadily, and he and Woodward worked together a couple more times.
Their marriage out of the public eye, however, required even more work than their careers to sustain. The two also strove to advance social causes they believed in during the historical events of these years. All this makes Chapter 4 the most intense installment of The Last Movie Stars so far.
During the years covered in Chapter 4, American history was filled with moments of significance that left a lasting impact. Newman and Woodward continued to actively participate in social change, as they had for years. Newman campaigned in person for Democratic Presidential primary candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968, for instance. This couple definitely had a liberal viewpoint, and they felt no need to hide it. Newman even said in the interview he left behind for the abandoned memoir that was a source for The Last Movie Stars:
“If you offend no one in the final analysis, you have no character.”
I think that says it all. No matter what else, it’s hard not to admire Newman and Woodward’s politics.
Newman even took the step of choosing to star in a film with an explicitly anti-right wing message, called WUSA. Woodward also starred in it. Released in 1970, it’s about a New Orleans radio station that becomes a focal point of a right-wing conspiracy.
Even though the movie was not well received by critics, the themes are undeniably relevant today. Newman also served as one of the producers of the film. He truly put his money on the line for the kind of work he believed in. He also joined with other stars like Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier, and Steve McQueen to form a production company that would allow them more creative control for lesser fees. It was called First Artists and only lasted from 1969 to 1980, but it is a significant part of Newman’s career.
In private, this period was a difficult and fragile one for Newman and Woodward’s marriage. Newman’s children all admit in interviews here that he was a high-functioning alcoholic. Though it never had an effect on his work, Newman himself acknowledges this when, in a later interview, he’s asked what years he was drinking. He answers: “The seventies.” This is surprising when you consider that Newman managed to continue high-profile roles during this decade, like The Sting and The Towering Inferno.
The relationship between Paul and his son Scott, from his first marriage, was another area of strife at this time.
However, the marriage between Newman and Woodward was most damaged by an incident of infidelity by Paul. Yeah, ironic given the fact that Paul was already married when their own relationship began. And given his famous statement referring to Joanne, “Why would I go out for hamburger when I have steak at home?”
Woodward comments in Chapter 4 that no one else knows what keeps two people together. So, I suppose however the pair put these things behind them will have to remain between them. Ethan Hawke seems to respect this as a director here, letting Newman and Woodward’s performances do a lot of the talking for them. After Chapter 4, the viewer is even more invested in what’s left to come in The Last Movie Stars.
The Last Movie Stars is streaming on HBO Max.