Nationality: American. Born: Thomasville, Georgia, 27 February 1930. Education: Attended high school in Greenville, South Carolina; Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, for two years; studied acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, New York. Family: Married the actor Paul Newman, 1958, three daughters. Career: Joined the Little Theatre Group in Greenville, then played in summer stock in Chatham, Massachusetts; then television work in New York, and understudy role in Broadway production of Picnic; 1955—contract with 20th Century-Fox; film debut in Count Three and Pray; 1956—on Broadway in The Lovers; 1968—directed by Newman in Rachel, Rachel; has made several TV movies. Awards: Best Actress Academy Award, for The Three Faces of Eve, 1957; Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for Rachel, Rachel, 1968; Best Actress, Cannes Festival, for The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, 1973; Best Actress, New York Film Critics, 1973, and Best Actress, British Academy, 1974, for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams; Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, 1990. Address: 1120 5th Avenue #1C, New York, NY 10128, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Count Three and Pray (Sherman) (as Lissy)
A Kiss before Dying (Oswald) (as Dorothy Kingship)
The Three Faces of Eve (Johnson) (title role); No Down Payment (Ritt) (as Leola Boone)
The Long, Hot Summer (Ritt) (as Clara Varner); Rally 'round the Flag, Boys! (McCarey) (as Grace Bannerman)
The Sound and the Fury (Ritt) (as Quentin Compson)
The Fugitive Kind (Lumet) (as Carol Cutrere); From the Terrace (Robson) (as Mary St. John)
Paris Blues (Ritt) (as Lillian Corning)
The Stripper (Woman of Summer) (Schaffner) (as Lila Green); A New Kind of Love (Shavelson) (as Samantha Blake)
Signpost to Murder (Englund) (as Molly Thomas)
A Fine Madness (Kershner) (as Rhoda Shillitoe); A Big Hand for the Little Lady (Big Deal at Dodge City) (Cook) (as Mary)
Rachel, Rachel (Newman) (title role)
Winning (Goldstone) (as Elora)
WUSA (Rosenberg) (as Geraldine); King: A Filmed Record . . . Montgomery to Memphis (Lumet and Mankiewicz—doc)
They Might Be Giants (Harvey) (as Dr. Mildred Watson)
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (Newman) (as Beatrice)
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (Cates) (as Rita Walden)
The Drowning Pool (Rosenberg) (as Iris Devereaux)
Sybil (Petrie—for TV) (as Dr. Wilbur)
Come Back, Little Sheba (Narizzano—for TV)
The End (Burt Reynolds) (as Jessica); See How She Runs (Heffron—for TV) (as Betty Quinn); A Christmas to Remember (Englund—for TV) (as Mildred McCloud)
The Streets of L.A. (Freedman—for TV)
The Shadow Box (Newman—for TV); Angel Dust (doc—for TV) (as narrator)
Crisis at Central High (Johnson—for TV)
Harry and Son (Newman) (as Lilly); Passions (Stern—for TV) (as Catherine Kennerly)
Do You Remember Love (Bleckner—for TV) (as Barbara Wyatt-Hollis)
The Glass Menagerie (Newman) (as Amanda)
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (Ivory) (as India Bridge)
Blind Spot (Michael Toshiyuki Uno—for TV) (as Congress-woman Nell, + co-pr); Foreign Affairs (O'Brien—for TV) (as Vinnie Miner); Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme) (as Sarah Beckett); Age of Innocence (Scorsese) (as narrator)
Breathing Lessons (Erman—for TV) (as Maggie Moran)
James Dean: A Portrait (Legon—doc for TV) (as herself)
My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports (Hacker—doc) (as Narrator)
Films as Director:
Come along with Me (for TV)
The Hump Back Angel
By WOODWARD: books—
Straight Talk with Kids; Improving Communication, Building Trust, and Keeping Your Children Drug Free, with Paul Newman, New York, 1991.
By WOODWARD: article—
"Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview (New York), November 1990.
On WOODWARD: books—
Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein, Paul and Joanne: A Biography of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, New York, 1988.
Netter, Susan, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, London, 1989.
Stern, Stewart, No Tricks in My Pocket: Paul Newman Directs, New York, 1989.
On WOODWARD: articles—
Current Biography 1958, New York, 1958.
Ecran (Paris), December 1979.
McGillivray, David, "Joanne Woodward," in Films and Filming (London), October 1984.
Dowd, Maureen, "Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward: A Lifetime of Shared Passions," in McCall's, January 1991.
Vineberg, Steve, "Joanne Woodward: From The Stripper to Mrs. Bridge, a Master Manipulator of Mood," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), November-December 1991.
Stars (Mariembourg), Spring 1995.
* * *
While not as prolific a film actor as her illustrious husband, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward nonetheless has etched some memorable celluloid characterizations. Outstanding in her early film career is her portrayal of the title role in The Three Faces of Eve, in which she plays a mentally disturbed young woman who has three distinct personalities: a dull Southern housewife, a sex kitten, and a well-balanced and reasonable woman. What makes this film work is the fascination and credibility of Woodward's triple-personality character, right down to the details of voices, gestures, and body movements which she adjusted for each of the women inside Eve's mind. Although this was only her third appearance in films, the tour-deforce performance established her as a star and earned her an Academy Award (a feat she accomplished a full three decades prior to Newman).
From the very start of her career, Woodward displayed versatility. She could play a suburbanite (No Down Payment and Rally 'round the Flag, Boys!), a dissatisfied Southern belle (The Long, Hot Summer), a spinster (Rachel, Rachel), or the title role in The Stripper (which originally was meant for Marilyn Monroe). What gives unity to her portrayals is the spirit and spunk with which she endows the characters. It should be noted that Woodward started acting in movies at a time when it was fashionable for female characters to be glamorous and almost altogether helpless. Woodward, a pretty blond who never really bespoke glamour, usually was cast as women who were discontent, "causey" or more seriously rebellious, or were fated to cope with the unfortunate lot they had been dealt.
In her very first appearance in Count Three and Pray, she is a feisty, unwashed teenaged backwoods girl who eventually becomes civilized—without relinquishing all of her spiritedness—when she encounters a willful, handsome parson (Van Heflin). She acts the part with great strength of purpose, and displays a gamin quality which she subsequently carried over into several comedy roles. This especially was the case in A New Kind of Love, in which she plays an American plain-Jane in Paris who obtains a fashion makeover and in so doing attracts the attention of a playboy journalist, played by Paul Newman. The more serious and earthy rebel character came out in her role as a sex-hungry urchin who craves Marlon Brando in The Fugitive Kind.
After The Three Faces of Eve, Woodward's best screen roles came either opposite Newman or in films directed by her husband. Their first effective pairing occurred in The Long, Hot Summer, and they are said to have fallen in love on the set. Indeed, they were married the same year. One can feel the heat between the two characters, he a handsome and clever but low-class drifter who strives for a more advantageous position in life, and she, the daughter of wealth, who passionately desires this beautiful stranger but fights against being manipulated by her father into marriage. Since then, Woodward and Newman have appeared together in comedies (Rally 'round the Flag, Boys! and A New Kind of Love), a glossy Hollywood soap opera (From the Terrace), and a string of dramas, including the very fine Paris Blues, an offbeat Paris-based romance of two jazz musicians and the two female tourists they befriend. In more recent years, they teamed for Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, based on two Evan S. O'Connell novels, which chronicles two decades in the life of a staid Kansas City couple.
With Newman as her director, Woodward presented several outstanding, multitiered characterizations at a time when Hollywood actresses were complaining of the sparsity of solid screen roles. She most often was cast as middle-aged women who were quietly leading unfulfilled lives, and who experience emotional crises. Possibly the finest is the drama Rachel, Rachel, in which she portrays a sexually naive old maid schoolteacher who is frustrated by the lack of meaning in her life. Another memorable performance is in the film version of Paul Zindel's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, where she plays an eccentric, alienated mother of two daughters. Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams places her in the role of an unhappy, frigid woman who is caught in an unfulfilled upper-middle-class marriage. She is at odds with her son, who is gay, and has just experienced the sudden demise of her elderly mother.
Over the years, Woodward has been a vigorous crusader for various liberal social and political causes. Her dedication to these causes has been reflected in her choice of parts, particularly her decision to play a college professor who falls victim to Alzheimer's disease in a highly praised, television movie Do You Remember Love. This particular disease is spoken of mainly in hushed tones or not discussed at all by many families of its victims, so it was quite a bold—and instructive—move for Woodward to portray the sufferings of this character. She won an Emmy for her efforts, but the greater reward came in making known some of the more confounding facts of the illness. Also along that line is her role on the big screen as the mother of a gay man (Tom Hanks) who is battling AIDS in Philadelphia. Another interesting recent role came opposite James Garner in the television movie Breathing Lessons, a sensitive comedy-drama of a longtime married couple in which she once more portrayed an offbeat, troubled middle-aged wife struggling to live a meaningful life.
Over and over, from the beginning of her career, Woodward has created fascinating, full-blooded screen characters whose personalities have shed light on the cobwebbed corners of intimate and disturbed minds, or given joy through their offbeat and comical bent. For her offscreen social issue work and her on-screen accomplishments, she has won the respect of her industry colleagues and the public.
—Audrey E. Kupferberg