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The Last Movie Stars

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I started watching the series, not quite done.    One of my favorite movies was "From The Terrace" with both Paul and Joanne.   Seriously the sexual lusting in that movie between them...my goodness.  
 

I thought she was the better actor though.   Most of her movies were great.  She was attractive, but not "a beauty".   He on the other hand was gorgeous.   Those eyes!!! 
 

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I was walking across Times Square when I looked up, and saw the ticker announcement in lights, on the side of a building, that Paul Newman had died. I stopped right where I was, shocked. I've never forgotten that moment.

I thought this was superb. Woodward and Newman are two of my favorite actors, I've always been mildly fascinated by the idea of their marriage, especially since they made a point to work together so much, and this was really beautifully done by Ethan Hawke and all involved.

When I watch a documentary, I always want to feel like I learned something about the subjects, and wow, I definitely left  with this feeling like I had met two extraordinary people in all their beauty and intelligence and talent -- but very much with all of their weaknesses intact and on display as well. 

At over six hours, this seems like it was a staggering amount of work to assemble, but so worthwhile in the end, because of the wealth of genuine insight and information. I loved how many personal photos and videos we got, in addition to the truly striking interview transcripts and voiceovers. I also loved the letters (some of which were beautiful, smart and fascinating, as here:

JOANNE:

Dear love,

What a terrible invention, the telephone. At least for me.

Tonight I felt as though I were intruding and that you really didn't want to talk. I loathe my extrasensory perception. I miss you. I don't know who you are. But I miss you anyway. I just wish you were happy and that you could say what you feel, not just what you think.

Me.

PAUL:

My love,

I'm on board the plane to Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

I stopped off to the P.J. Clarke's for a hamburger before embarking, and I must say I was filled with nostalgia. I remember sitting on the curbside singing songs at 2:00 in the morning. The Third Avenue "L" still in operation. Your apartment on 51st Street and 11th Street. Dancing backstage at 'Picnic.'

No one can deny that these moments exist in time and space, and for all we know, may be recorded at electric energy for eternity at 180 million miles per second.

We have access to all kinds of facsimiles. Tomorrow, next week, next year. When we get scratchy, get going with bad solitary dialogues, we ought to remember that we had the option to choose good solitary dialogues also. The years bear witness to that.

Funny thoughts at 22,000 feet.

Kisses, Paul

P.S. Got news this morning. Scott went on another bad, destructive bender. Is he gonna survive or not? One wonders.

The way Hawke has structured the six hours is really beautifully done, and I especially loved the way he would mix casual conversation about a beautiful moment or revelation with a castmate to segue that into the next "section" or topic in the Woodward/Newman marriage. And then he does this very delicate, lovely thing, in that he often uses their movie moments to illustrate or add nuance to a real-life moment that is playing out in the documentary timeline. Like the character Paul plays carrying a body down to the water as the documentary is relating the death of his son, etc.

I also loved that this is such a reminder that actors are not meant to be mainstream role models, at least not the way pop culture wants them to be, and it's absurd that the mainstream wants them to be! Anymore than most artists should be. And I'm not knocking artists. But artists are often complicated, experimental, emotional, galvanizing personalities, and we saw that here in both Paul and (especially) in Joanne. 

So I thought this was terrific. I loved it -- as a complex portrait of Newman and Woodward the people, the movie stars, the actors -- and as a portrait of their marriage, of who they were together (as Maya Hawke so intelligently noted).

As a minor irritant, I did find Clooney's voiceover performance distracting. He's a wonderful actor, but he just isn't Newman, and his voice is so distinctively Clooney (especially that accent) that I never got past it. Clooney always, always pronounces "ing" as "een" and it's always bugged me so much (although I've gotten used to it). But it's really distracting here, because Newman had that lovely formal diction (very much saying "ing" in full) so -- arghgh.

On 7/24/2022 at 9:47 AM, tljgator said:

I knew about the affair, but not the duration, or that he left wife #1 with 3 kids under age 5. I did like, however, that they interviewed the kids & talked openly about it (and had recorded interviews from the first wife). One of those kids has a "Joanne Woodward" tattoo on her arm, though, and I'd have liked a bit more on their odd family situation. Apparently, they seem to have adored Joanne for trying to make a family of them all, but her blunt honesty about the fact that if she had it to do over she wouldn't have had kids herself was refreshing and again, interesting in ways I wish there were more substance to.

I also didn't realize that he was, essentially, a functioning alcoholic for so very many years.

I really liked those unvarnished, less positive aspects and that they were so honestly examined and discussed (I love that Joanne says "We were idiots"), and I think it says a lot about the pair's unflinching honesty that the way they began was never glossed over. I dislike cheating, but I also get frustrated at the black-and-white aspect of the judgments that go along with it. People make mistakes, but they can also grow and evolve from them.

And I do think that sometimes -- as with Woodward/Newman or people like Johnny Cash and June Carter -- sometimes couples just seem meant to be, and it's like the rest of the world just needs to get out of the way of that inevitable collision. And that the fallout is messy at first but simply inevitable because it seems like those two people are a seismic event, an essential thing.

On 7/25/2022 at 2:19 PM, Rinaldo said:

I loved this start to finish. Even the relative roughness of the actors-talking-to-actors framework enhanced it for me somehow -- brought it into the present, and how we see them now. For myself, I never imagine that the people I enjoy onscreen are exemplary human beings in all ways. The work they share with me isn't their private life.

I love it too. And I enjoyed and didn't mind the zoom aspect, or the occasional (very minor) production inconsistencies -- to me, they mark this distinctively as a product of the pandemic. It adds to the specificity of it, for me.

On 7/25/2022 at 8:27 PM, LoveLeigh said:

Somewhere back in time in a particular moment this was happening and when it happened this was all that mattered.... 

And now, he is gone and she lives on without even remembering the love of her life.

I really find this just maddening. 

615564437_ScreenShot2022-07-25at11_24_25PM.png.65867a6f42633bc73fc3c61b07c08638.png

It's heartbreaking but that's life, isn't it? There is this beautiful line in one of my favorite videogames (don't laugh), in Dragon Age: Inquisition, where Varric (a writer) notes: "That's the world. Everything you build, it tears down. Everything you've got, it takes. And it's gone forever."

But that's also what makes life so precious. And I did feel, from this in-depth look at these two people's life and love -- that they lived and felt and truly enjoyed their lives to the fullest.

On 7/26/2022 at 3:36 AM, chediavolo said:

She was not a typical beauty but she had something. She was more relatable I think having an average face & body. And she stole Paul Newman! 
But yes, the Alzheimer’s and the death & life forgotten is cruel, as life mostly is. No one is immune. 

This perception of her as 'average' or 'not beautiful' has come up several times in this thread and it's just so odd to me. I have always thought Joanne Woodward is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. And she (like Newman) retained that beauty even into her seventies. She was always stunning to me, from Three Faces of Eve, to Sybil, to Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. Always. And (as with some actors, like Jodie Foster), I always loved that you could see her intelligence in her beauty. It's simply a part of it, a spark.

But what I also love about Woodward is that while it's apparent there was a healthy ego there, she was also absolutely willing to NOT look beautiful onscreen, to look like a mess, to look her age as she aged, to downplay her looks if the part demanded it.

On 7/28/2022 at 6:38 AM, lucindabelle said:

im only halfway through but enjoying it very much. I do find it fascinating that she was by all accounts full of love and a great mother yet in some respects is honest about saying she might not have had kids if she had to do it again. 

I loved Joanne's feminism, her progressiveness, and how absolutely fierce she was about that stuff. And I loved that his famous "why would I want to go out for a hamburger when I have steak at home?" quote -- which many would consider a high compliment -- simply pissed her off. And I love that she admitted that motherhood was tough and she wasn't always thrilled to do it, and maybe wouldn't have chosen it if she'd done it over.

But the documentary also shows that she was by all accounts a supportive and very engaged mother, and that she was just as dedicated to being that for her stepchildren as for her children, and she even says (refreshingly) that she saw no differences between her love for them. That's the way it should be, but it's not true for everyone (and wasn't for my own stepmother). 

I just think she's one of those people who didn't do things halfway. If she was an actress, she wanted to be a great one. If she was a mother, she wanted to commit to that and do her best to be a good one, etc.

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irs also fascinating that his peers thought he was good but not genius. The camera loved him though. I don’t think it was that Joanne made him sexy. The camera did. 

I don't think she made him sexy -- I think she made him realize he was sexy, that he could be sexy. I think he knew he was good-looking, of course. But I don't think he realized, until Joanne, that sexiness was something he really possessed (and I also think she showed him he was capable of harnessing that quality for the screen). It was very telling when he gave that anecdote early on about how people wanted to come talk to him when he was a young star, but then they wouldn't stick around, because he just wasn't that charismatic in reality. Until Joanne.

On 7/30/2022 at 4:35 AM, sadie said:

I enjoyed this. I was never a Paul Newman fan (I’m a Redford girl), but his life sure was interesting. He came off very very unlikable and I wonder if that was Hawkes intention. I didn’t know they began as an affair so that didn’t help, and he just seemed very self involved, which I guess is pretty standard stuff for someone that famous. I thought the six eps went quickly and it was well done but I am left not quite sure how Hawke wanted us to feel about both both Newman and Woodward or if it was merely meant to show them as they were, deeply flawed but very human people that just happened to be very famous. 

I'm so interested in this reaction, because I didn't think Paul came across as unlikable at all. I thought he came across as a pretty fascinating person who was smart, funny, talented, and charming, but who also struggled with self-doubt and with identifying and showing emotion in real life. And of course then there's the demon of alcoholism in the mix.

I mean, yeah, he and Woodward were both flawed, complex people, but they were also incredibly smart, talented, kind, funny, and loyal people who truly seemed to want to support the people they loved AND ultimately to make the world a better place (and they really did do that).

How many people have this kind of artistic legacy, this kind of 50-year marriage, the visible love and support of all of their surviving children and grandchildren -- much less of their staggering humanitarian achievements? From the hospitals, charities, and the Hole in the Wall Gang, to the hundreds of millions to charity via Newman's Own, they changed the world for the better.

On 7/30/2022 at 5:11 AM, Enigma X said:

Maybe I am biased, but Newman, to me, did not come off as unlikable at all. He did come off as a person with a lot of self doubt and self-esteem issues. 

I agree with this. And those fed into his addiction and alcoholism, too. But I always found him (and Joanne) enormously likable even when they weren't trying to be charming.

On 8/1/2022 at 8:56 AM, monakane said:

I loved this documentary.  It showed Joanne and Paul as flawed human beings like we all are.  I will say this for Paul.  He stayed with her for 50 years through a lot of bad times.  Most people, especially Hollywood stars, do not make 50 years.  I think their connection was much deeper than their initial lust. 

And she stayed with him for 50 years, too. Even when she was absolutely willing to end it (as when his alcoholism caused her to throw him out and he lived in the driveway for three days). 

I agree that their connection was much deeper than the initial lust, but I also love that their marriage appeared to be so healthy that way throughout, that they just stayed hot for each other.

On 8/2/2022 at 8:55 AM, Evie said:

There's going to be a memoir coming out this year from what Newman and Stewart Stern were working on before Newman scrapped the project. The conversations included in this documentary were so interesting and candid, I'm looking forward to learning more. I would rather have a memoir centered on Joanne though, as she was the more interesting of the two to me. 

I agree that Joanne was the more surprising and interesting of the two. This documentary made me even more of a fan than I've already always been. I just love how complex she came across here -- she is so willing to be honest, to be real and fierce and open, even if it occasionally isn't what people expect from her (like decades back with Dick Cavett or the other interviewers asking incredibly sexist questions).

I was so sad to realize that she has lost all memory of herself and Paul, and do think it's an incredibly cruel, sad ending for her.

On 8/5/2022 at 3:42 AM, chediavolo said:

What I’m referring to is more than once it was mentioned how she did not seem pleased to have to stay home and take care of her children and her stepchildren. I don’t know why it was even an issue with her money she did not have to stay home and take care of the children they could’ve had a full-time live-in nanny. There was something more to it that they’re not talking about 

She talked about wanting to find a balance and finding that a struggle. I do think she gave up a lot to be a mother and primary parent to the kids. And I love that she admitted to finding that difficult. 

Yes, she could have let them be raised by nannies (and I'm sure they did have some household help), but it's also apparent that she wanted to put in the work herself and really parent the kids, and one of them had to be primary. Today, maybe they would have divided it up more, who knows. But one of the subtle realizations I came away with here was how Paul managed to find compromise by creating projects that showcased her talent and that allowed her to really dive into some challenging work regardless (and he continued to do that even when she stopped getting leading roles from almost anyone else).

On 8/11/2022 at 6:35 PM, sugarbaker design said:

I just finished this excellent documentary series.  I'm not a binger by nature, but I did watch an episode every other day.  I couldn't wait for the next one.  I guess what I admired most was it had so many different and overlapping themes.  A relationship born of infidelity.  A marriage of two artists, with one peaking early, while the other one ascends later.  The hazards of getting older in the business for women and for men.  Lust vs Love  It was so rich.

I'm an old movie queen from way back, so I wasn't surprised by PN's first marriage, his alcoholism or his mid-career slump.  I did however learn much about JW.  I'm grateful for this doc's focus on her, her career and how she navigated it, and her art.  Oscar winner and movie star in her 20's, mom and part-time actress in her 30's, TV movie queen in her 40's, mentor to actors like Allison Janney and Laura Linney in her 50's, theater director in her 60's and so on!

Nothing's eternal, not just for Paul and Joanne, but for all of us.

She did what she felt she had to do.  They could've had three nannies for all we know.  The fact of the matter is Joanne Woodward stayed home for essentially 10 years to raise three daughters.  She didn't throw away her career, she put it on pause.  She never said her brutally honest regret about having children until the chicks were grown and had flown the coop.

I love the image of JW locking PN out of the house and him sleeping in the driveway.

100% to everything you said. I especially loved that too. And loved that Paul wouldn't go but also didn't overstep the boundary she set. He just stayed in the driveway and then finally said, poignantly, "I don't have anywhere else to go."

I really think that even despite their difficulties and ups and downs, that this is so important -- I really think they both were simply what they wanted from each other, period.

And I especially remember learning about her mentorship of younger actors 15-20 years ago, and how moved I was, for instance, during a Biography of Allison Janney, and they had interviewed Joanne Woodward (still very alert and present at the time), who revealed that she had offered to support Allison financially during her really tough early years, when she was flat broke, to even cover her living expenses because she knew, she absolutely KNEW how talented she was and that it would happen for her, but Allison would never accept any help but her friendship (and how frustrated Joanne was in a funny way over it). I loved hearing Laura Linney's stories, too, especially the one about her horrible review in THE SEAGULL and she's desperate for some kind of salvation from Joanne -- who simply smiles and tells her, "There's nothing you can do about it but get through it."

Like Allison, Linney, too, has vindicated Joanne's belief and had this incredible career, so I'm glad Joanne got to see her break through and become a star before dementia set in.

This was bittersweet in the end, but wow, what an incredible and satisfying portrait of two extraordinary lives, careers, and one amazing marriage.

Edited by paramitch · Reason: fixed quote
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15 hours ago, paramitch said:

It's heartbreaking but that's life, isn't it? There is this beautiful line in one of my favorite videogames (don't laugh), in Dragon Age: Inquisition, where Varric (a writer) notes: "That's the world. Everything you build, it tears down. Everything you've got, it takes. And it's gone forever."

But that's also what makes life so precious. And I did feel, from this in-depth look at these two people's life and love -- that they lived and felt and truly enjoyed their lives to the fullest.

I think this final scene sums it up the best: the final scene of THE DEAD

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29 minutes ago, LoveLeigh said:

I think this final scene sums it up the best: the final scene of THE DEAD

Oh, man, absolutely. One of my all-time favorite films, and the final ten minutes are so beautiful yet devastating. It's a great example of a film that I believe is even superior to Joyce's original story.

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I would have gladly watched this - if even for the film clips alone.  So many great movies.  Loved the first episodes especially.  The later episodes seemed more rushed or thrown together. Not as cohesive or well thought out as the earlier ones. (Like they got tired & needed to wrap it up.)

Didn't need the hokey (at least to me) transcript reading.  NOT because it didn't add anything (because it did) but because it bothered me quite a LOT that Paul Newman had purposely destroyed the tapes.  (Apparently not by accident nor to his later regret.)  If so, Newman didn't want the interviews to be used.  Using transcripts of the destroyed tapes after he died and after Woodward was in the depths of dementia, so neither could object or consent - seems a sneaky countermanding of his wishes.  (Did he even know the transcripts existed?)

Legally, I don't know - maybe it's fine - or not.  But morally or ethically, no matter how curious we might be or how interesting (or salacious) the transcript disclosures, is it right to expose something that you know that person didn't want exposed - because HE died and SHE can't object or consent?   If their children had the right to consent & did so - I wonder why they went against what their father intended?  Money??  Couldn't they have honored/described/memorialized/humanized/presented a fuller picture of their parents (or whatever their goal was) in some way other than re-creating what was intended to be destroyed? 

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It is my understanding that their daughters were well aware that the transcripts would be used and told Hawke about them.

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5 hours ago, Enigma X said:

It is my understanding that their daughters were well aware that the transcripts would be used and told Hawke about them.

I would expect they did!  My concern was that the daughters disclosed the transcripts and/or consented to their use KNOWING that Paul Newman (who I believe commissioned a book that would have utilized the taped interviews) DESTROYED the tapes of the interviews and DROPPED the book project.  I don't know whether or not Newman knew that the transcripts existed - but the destruction of the tapes makes it seem that he did not want the tapes to come to light or the project to go forward.

So it seems nervy (not sure what word to use) for the daughters to proceed with this project using transcripts of the very tapes that Newman did not want to be heard (so much so that he destroyed the tapes) and of course, Woodward is incapable of consenting or not.  So I questioned why the daughters would override what seemed to be his wishes.  

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6 hours ago, realityplease said:

I would expect they did!  My concern was that the daughters disclosed the transcripts and/or consented to their use KNOWING that Paul Newman (who I believe commissioned a book that would have utilized the taped interviews) DESTROYED the tapes of the interviews and DROPPED the book project.  I don't know whether or not Newman knew that the transcripts existed - but the destruction of the tapes makes it seem that he did not want the tapes to come to light or the project to go forward.

So it seems nervy (not sure what word to use) for the daughters to proceed with this project using transcripts of the very tapes that Newman did not want to be heard (so much so that he destroyed the tapes) and of course, Woodward is incapable of consenting or not.  So I questioned why the daughters would override what seemed to be his wishes.  

So true. I wish we knew more about why he destroyed them. Someone must know unless they are dead too. It does seem very shady that the daughters consented to the public airing of these lost transcripts when Paul is gone and Joanne might as well be. I wonder if there was more dirty laundry that was destroyed by Paul that was never found.  My Guess is money, though how much could they have made off of this production? Maybe a book is to come? 

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4 out of 5 of the daughters described him as a functioning alcoholic.  Maybe PN's wishes were not as important to the daughters as they were with PN and JW?  I can see the daughters wanting everyone to know what their mom/stepmom had to put up with.

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I read in many articles that the daughters wanted fans to know that their parents marriage was not perfect and that they had to work at it. Yes, it could have been done without the transcripts. But hey...

I also thought that I read that these transcripts will be used in a more formal documentary about them.

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We can all have our own opinions about using the transcripts, but the fact is that many or most biographies, published or filmed, include among their sources letters (or similar private documents) that the subjects had wished to be destroyed. To me, such use isn't "sneaky" but rather responsible to the historical record. (I can think of instances where a famous person or their heirs destroyed diaries that contained valuable information, and I always regret it.) But then I'm an academic-historian type, so I suppose that's my bias.

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1 hour ago, Rinaldo said:

We can all have our own opinions about using the transcripts, but the fact is that many or most biographies, published or filmed, include among their sources letters (or similar private documents) that the subjects had wished to be destroyed. To me, such use isn't "sneaky" but rather responsible to the historical record. (I can think of instances where a famous person or their heirs destroyed diaries that contained valuable information, and I always regret it.) But then I'm an academic-historian type, so I suppose that's my bias.

It's not just "opinion" -- on such matters lawsuits are based.  This wasn't Newman's mere "wish" for destruction.  There was ACTUAL destruction. There's no mention Newman knew of transcript prep.  If he did (& any explanation glaringly omitted), the transcripts were based on tapes for a project he undertook, funded, & dropped.  We know nothing about any rights to the material, or waivers, the children had or undertook.

Given the tape destruction & potential ignorance re transcript existence, I don't see where this is "responsible to the historical record."  Regrets (whether those of an academic-historian or just any nosy-curious person) about destroyed material, do not override an individual's rights, legal or ethical or moral, to destroy certain information, or use after death.  There ARE limits on a public's right to know.  Sadly, the press/media's hunger for information sometimes ignores (whether willfully, negligently, or mistakenly) a person's right to non-disclosure of private information.  After all, wasn't  Newman's movie, "Absence of Malice" about that??    

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