Joanne Woodward’s romance with Paul Newman appeared plucked from a Hollywood script, yet its longevity shamed the quintessential, short Hollywood relationships. HBO Max’s upcoming The Last Movie Stars will chronicle a relationship that started as a controversial affair and ended up being a marriage lasting 50 years. 

Woodward’s bond with Paul was on full display as he took his dying breaths in 2008. Clea Newman, their daughter, told CBS News:

“When my father was dying, my mother, she didn’t want to be in the room. And so, we were walking around in the living room, and then she looked at me and she said, ‘I have to go to him.’ And she walked in, and just grabbed his feet, and he took his last breath. Even in death, the last person he wanted to connect with was her.”

Joanne Woodward is alive but struggling with Alzheimer’s

Paul Newman with wife Joanne Woodward
Paul Newman with wife Joanne Woodward | Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Woodward started showing memory-loss symptoms shortly after Paul Newmans’s death. However, they attributed the signs to depression caused by Paul’s passing. 

Unfortunately, Joanne’s health deteriorated rapidly; doctors diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s. A family insider said Woodward has severe dementia and Alzheimer’s and can hardly remember the life she shared with Paul. The insider told Closer Weekly:

“[She} can no longer remember details of her life with Paul. She will occasionally say she used to be married to someone handsome, but that’s it. She doesn’t even re- member the love of her life!”

The insider added that Joanne struggles to recognize her daughters and grandchildren: “She barely speaks anymore, and hardly ever recognizes her own daughters or grandchildren. It’s heartbreaking to see her this way.”

Woodward reportedly received treatment at Alder Geriatric Assessment Center, where she took part in a drug trial to combat her condition. However, the trial failed, worsening her condition. “She is so far gone that they feel she is reaching her end point,” the insider concluded. 

To their credit, Woodward’s children – Nell, Melissa, and Claire – have supported their mother, with Melissa arguably putting in the most effort. She lives close to Joanne in Westport, Connecticut, assisting the health care staff caring for her mother. 

In 1985, Joanne expertly played an Alzheimer’s victim – Barbara Wyatt Hollis – in Do You Remember Love. Joanne said that her mother had Alzheimer’s and that her performance was ‘a homage’ to her. 

Joanne and Barbara share several similarities: They have access to the best home care, the love of family, and sadly, such crippling identity and memory loss that they’ve become shells of their former selves. 

The Newmans needn’t worry about resources for taking care of their mom. Paul Newman left a significant chunk of his $600 million fortune to a marital trust for Joanne’s benefit. 

It left Joanne money to take care of herself and blocked the payment of federal and state estate taxes until after her death. In 2008, the exemption for such taxes was $2 million – and has increased to 11.18 million. It was an intelligent move by Paul as it saved the estate from paying $9.18 million in taxes.