If any of you have ever witnessed a friend or loved one go through the hell that is Alzheimer’s disease, then you already known how devastating of an effect it can have on someones life.
Sadly, this is a reality that actress Joanne Woodward knows all too well. Her health has been in steady decline for a while now, but recently her symptoms have rapidly worsened. She and her husband, Paul Newman, were virtually inseparable from 1958 until 2008 when Paul passed away from cancer at the age of 83. Joanne just celebrated her 91st birthday on February 27th.
Joanne and Paul met while on the set of the classic film ‘The Long, Hot Summer’ and it was love at first sight, but these days Woodward has lost almost all of those fond memories that she shared Paul. Alzheimer’s is cruel like that. It will strip you of the things that you love and care about one by one.
Paul, who’s net worth at the time of his death was somewhere In the ballpark of $100 million, left most of his his fortune to his wife and his various charities, but only gave $5 million a piece to each of his children. To most people, this might sound like a lot of money, but his kids still feel like they are entitled to more. We’ll touch on that situation in just a moment so don’t go anywhere just yet.
Losing Her Identity Piece By Piece
A source close to the family has confirmed that Woodward’s health is ‘rapidly deteriorating’. Tragically she only remembers that she was once married to someone every once and a while. Most of the time, she struggles to even remember who she is. Woodward developed the first symptoms of Alzheimers shortly after her husband passed in 2008.
Her daughters were the ones that first started to notice that something was wrong. It became clear that their mother seemed increasingly more disoriented. She was more forgetful than she used to be. Things that they would have never expected for her to forget seemed to drift away with increasing frequency.
The disease got worse and worse until she eventually had to be put under 24/7 care. She can barely speak and rarely recognizes her own family. Even her children and grandchildren seem like complete strangers most days.
Infighting Over Assets
Her illness has stirred up a great deal of debate among her family members over the fate of Newman’s $600 million dollar estate. Right before his death, he gave each of his five daughters, $5 million a piece for their inheritance. He believed that his kids were all successful enough on their own that they didn’t even need a whole bunch of family money. The majority of his cash and assets were thus left to Joanne.
Newman’s daughters reportedly weren’t very pleased about their dad’s decision. Now, they’re concerned whether Joanne will be including them in her will. They are pretty worried that she planned on leaving them nothing and donating the entire estate to charity.
At this point its unclear what Woodward decided to do with the estate but there is plenty of speculation that the five Newman kids are going to fight like hell for their share of their mom’s fortune after her death.
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A Love Story Like None Other
Paul and Joanne had one of the most beautiful love stories in Hollywood history. They were inseparable from the day that they first got together and shared an unbreakable bond that lasted for half a century. They seemed to be made for each other.
Joanne called him the ‘most considerate, romantic man’ that she knew and he loved to jokingly refer to her as ‘one of the last great broads’. But now, Joanne can’t even look back on all of the good times that she shared with her late husband. All of those memories have been taken from her.
While they know that their mother can’t recognize them anymore, Joanne’s daughters, Neil, Melissa, and Claire – who are all in their 50s now – are vigilant about being their for their mom. Melissa lives in her parents’ old home in Connecticut right next door to her mom. All three daughters are first on the list to learn any updates about their mother’s condition.
For a while, Joanne was being treated at the Adler Geriatric Assessment Center at Yale University. An experimental medication helped her to gain weight and some of her cognition at one point but she won’t likely be returning there any time soon. The source close to the family seems to think that she is reaching the end of her life.
Woodward’s first movie role was in a post-Civil War western film called Count Three and Pray. In 1955, while still bouncing back and forth between Hollywood and Broadway, she got the opportunity to be an understudy for the New York production of Picnic which starred her future husband Paul Newman.
The two formally met just a couple years later while they were working on the film The Long, Hot Summer. By then, Woodward had already starred in The Three Faces of Eve for which she won the 1957 Academy Award for Best Actress.
Joanne Was Born To Act
Joanne attended Greenville High School in Greenville, South Carolina. While she was still a teenager, she competed in and won several beauty contests and pageants. She starred in a number of theatrical productions both at her high school and at Greenville’s Little Theater.
In 1976, she returned to Greenville to play Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. She had previously returned to her hometown in 1955 for the premiere of her first movie, Count Three and Pray. Joanne majored in drama when she attended Louisiana State University. While there, she was initiated into the Chi Omega sorority before heading to New York to perform on Broadway.
Joanne Woodward Played An Alzheimer’s Victim in ‘Do You Remember Love?’
Neurological diseases and disorders like dementia and Alzheimers are the fastest-growing causes of death in the world. Women are actually twice as likely to contract these kinds of diseases than men. In some parts of the world where access to healthcare is limited and misinformation runs rampant, the disease has especially devastating effects on communities and families.
Back in 1985, Woodward portrayed a victim of the disease in the made-for-TV film ‘Do You Remember Love?‘ alongside the late Richard Kiley. The movie wasn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it did bring needed awareness to an ailment that effects 1 in 3 families in America. Knowing what we know now about Woodward’s plight, it’s really unnerving to watch her foreshadow her future health-woes in that film decades before she fell ill.
Woodward Needed Some Convincing To Fall For Newman
When Paul and Joanne met in 1953, he was immediately smitten with her, but she wasn’t convinced that he was really her type at first. For one thing Newman was already married to another woman by the name of Jackie Witte and they even had kids.
Woodward described Newman as looking like ‘an ice cream soda ad’ and went as fall as calling him ‘disgusting’ and ‘just another pretty face’. A few years later though when they were working on The Long, Hot Summer together, all of that changed.
As soon as they got the opportunity to work with each other on a one-on-one basis, sparks flew. The chemistry that they shared was undeniable. It became crystal clear to both of them that they were meant to be together.
Newman left his family to pursue a life with Woodward. In his memoir, Paul Newman: A Life, he admitted that leaving his wife and kids behind left him with a tremendous amount of guilt that he had to carry for the rest of his life. But even so, it was worth it. He just couldn’t deny the feelings that he had for her.
Newman divorced Witte and married Woodward in 1958 in a ceremony in Las Vegas. Even though their marriage was far from perfect – because which marriages are? – they have both described their love as the most healthy and beautiful union that either of them ever experienced.
They Worked With Each Other Extensively
Newman and Woodward starred in several movies together. In 1961, they were both involved inn the production of Paris Blue and then three decades later they returned to the screen together in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.
Newman also directed the film Rachel which Woodward starred in as the lead. She’d actually even earn herself her second Academy Award nod for that role. Woodward took home her first Academy Award for The Three Faces of Eve. It took Paul nearly thirty years to match his wife’s feat, but he finally brought home his own Oscar for his role in The Color of Money in 1985.
Woodward was nominated for her first Emmy for her part in 1977s Sybil, but she ended up losing that honor to her co-star and friend Sally Field. She was again nominated for an Emmy in 1978 for See How She Runs. That time she won.
She followed that victory up with another in 1985 for Do You Remember Love? She brought home her third and final Emmy for The American Masters episode ‘Broadway Dreamers: The Legacy of Group Theatre’ in 1989.
The Secret To Their Marriage
Most relationships in Hollywood fizzle out pretty quickly, but Woodward and Newman’s wedded bliss lasted for more that 50 years right up until his death in 2008.
Woodward didn’t stay with Newman because of his famous good looks. Sex appeal and physical beauty fade. If that’s the only thing that you’re into in a relationship then you’re setting yourself up for disaster, but Newman had something that Woodward valued much more than trivial vanity. He had charm and charisma and with that he had the ability to make her laugh.
Newman was also a very giving man with a whole lot of heart. His foundation Newman’s Own has donating more than $500 million to date. He was also deeply passionate about his racing career. Whatever it is that Woodward or Newman were into, they always did it together. They loved each others company more than anything.
That deep connection lasted until the very end. Those that knew them recall that they were still physically close even in their old age. They were infamous for making people feel uncomfortable with their public displays of affection. He was always making her giggle and if they were sitting beside each other, chances are he had his arm around her.
It really is heartbreaking that Joanne Woodward is struggling so hard with Alzheimer’s. That’s never easy for anyone to go through. It must feel like being in the prison of one’s own mind.
It’s also troubling to know that her family is fighting over money and inheritances while she is battling such a fierce foe. Hopefully they can all work out their issues and come up with some kind of amicable solution. Paul Newman would have never wanted to see his wife and family suffer and bicker after his death.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Woodward and Newman family during these difficult times.
Anyway, we’d love to hear from you! How do you remember Paul Newman – as a movie star or as a the face of the Newman’s Own brand? Let us know in the comments section below.
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