Year
1958
Month Day
January 29

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward marry

One of Hollywood’s most enduring marriages begins on January 29, 1958, when Paul Newman weds Joanne Woodward in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The two actors first met in the early 1950s while working in New York City on a Broadway production of the romantic drama Picnic. Newman had a supporting role and filled in for the show’s star, while Woodward was the understudy to the play’s female leads. They were both members of Lee Strasberg’s prestigious Actors Studio, alongside Marlon Brando, James Dean and Rod Steiger. After the play’s success, Newman and Woodward both headed to Hollywood, where he signed a contract with Warner Brothers and she began working with 20th Century Fox. Though Newman’s first film, The Silver Chalice (1954), was a bomb, he followed it up with an acclaimed turn as the boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). Woodward had even more early success, starring as a woman with multiple personality disorder in The Three Faces of Eve (1957). The role won her an Oscar for Best Actress.

In 1957, Newman was cast opposite Woodward and Orson Welles in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), a film set in a small, sweltering Mississippi town and based on short stories by William Faulkner. By the time filming ended, Newman and Woodward were discreetly living together. After Newman’s divorce from his first wife was finalized, the couple headed to Las Vegas, where they were married in January 1958. After the ceremony, the couple honeymooned at London’s Connaught Hotel.

Over the course of the next two decades, Newman starred in a series of critically acclaimed, commercially successful movies, most notably The Hustler (1960), Hud (1962), Cool Hand Luke (1967) and two blockbuster pairings with Robert Redford: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973). He and Woodward starred together in a number of films, including From the Terrace (1960), Paris Blues (1961) and A New Kind of Love (1963), none of which matched the success of The Long, Hot Summer. In 1968, Newman made his directorial debut with the film Rachel, Rachel. As the title character, Woodward garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, one of four total nominations that the film received.

Upon the film’s release, Newman remarked in the press that Woodward had “given up her career” for him, and that’s why he directed the movie “for her.” By that time, Woodward and Newman had three daughters and were living in Connecticut, far from the glare of the Hollywood spotlight. In addition to the diverse worlds of film and auto-racing (which Newman got involved with after starring in the 1969 film Winning), the couple was also active in liberal politics, lobbying for various causes and speaking publicly on behalf of Democratic candidates. Newman was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on a United Nations Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.

Throughout, the couple diligently defended the solidity of their marriage against press speculation, posing together for a LIFE magazine spread in 1968 and placing a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times the following year proclaiming that they were still happily together. The marriage weathered some hard times–they later admitted that their work together on The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the Moon Marigolds (1972), in which Newman again directed his wife, caused strain in the marriage–and sustained them through tragedy, as Newman’s son Scott died from a drug overdose in 1978.

In 1987, Newman once again directed his wife in the well-reviewed film The Glass Menagerie. That same year, he won his first Oscar, for Best Actor, after he reprised his Hustler role as Fast Eddie Felson in the Martin Scorsese-directed sequel, The Color of Money. In 1990, Newman and Woodward starred together for the 10th time, in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; they also both appeared in the HBO movie Empire Falls (2005), but had no scenes together. By that time, Newman had turned another of his “hobbies”–a small salad-dressing company he started in 1982–into a retail empire, Newman’s Own, which would eventually generate more than $220 million in charitable donations and expand to include popcorn, pasta sauces, salsas and fruit drinks.

Newman and Woodward celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January 2008. Later that year, Newman was set to direct a stage production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut, where Woodward is the artistic director. He withdrew from the production in June, citing health reasons, and it was later reported that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Newman died on September 26, 2008, at the age of 83.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

George Bush State of the Union 2002

George W. Bush describes Iraq, Iran and North Korea as "axis of evil"

On January 29, 2002, in his first State of the Union address since the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush describes Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil." Just over a year into his presidency and several months into a war which would eventually become the ...read more

"Roots" premieres on television

January 29, 1977 sees the premiere of Roots, a groundbreaking television program. The eight-episode miniseries, which was broadcast over eight consecutive nights, follows a family from its origins in West Africa through generations of slavery and the end of the Civil War. Roots ...read more

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter sign accords

On January 29, 1979, Deng Xiaoping, deputy premier of China, meets President Jimmy Carter, and together they sign historic new accords that reverse decades of U.S. opposition to the People’s Republic of China. Deng Xiaoping lived out a full and complete transformation of China. ...read more

King George III dies

Ten years after mental illness forced him to retire from public life, King George III, the British king who lost the American colonies, dies at the age of 81. In 1760, 20-year-old George succeeded his grandfather, George II, as king of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he hoped ...read more

William McKinley, first U.S. president to ride in a car, is born

On January 29, 1843, William McKinley, who will become the 25th American president and the first to ride in an automobile, is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley served in the White House from 1897 to 1901, a time when the American automotive industry was in its infancy. During his ...read more

U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects first members

On January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects its first members in Cooperstown, New York: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. The Hall of Fame actually had its beginnings in 1935, when plans were made to build a museum devoted to ...read more

German lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads daring mission in France

On January 29, 1915, in the Argonne region of France, German lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads his company in the daring capture of four French block-houses, the structures used on the front to house artillery positions. Rommel crept through the French wire first and then called ...read more

Peter, Paul and Mary sign their first recording contract

Peter, Paul and Mary didn’t revolutionize folk music the way Bob Dylan did. Dylan’s songwriting fundamentally altered and then ultimately transcended the folk idiom itself, while Peter, Paul and Mary didn’t even write their own material. They were good-looking, crowd-pleasing ...read more

“The Raven” is published

Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror. Poe’s dark and macabre work reflected his own tumultuous and difficult life. Born in Boston in 1809, Poe was orphaned at age three and went ...read more

School shooting in San Diego

Brenda Spencer kills two men and wounds nine children as they enter the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After 20 minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer’s home ...read more

“Dr. Strangelove” premieres

Stanley Kubrick’s black comic masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb opens in theaters to both critical and popular acclaim. The movie’s popularity was evidence of changing attitudes toward atomic weapons and the concept of nuclear ...read more

Kansas enters the Union

On January 29, 1861, Kansas is admitted to the Union as free state. It was the 34th state to join the Union. The struggle between pro- and anti-slave forces in Kansas was a major factor in the eruption of the Civil War. In 1854, Kansas and Nebraska were organized as territories ...read more