Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s fifty-year marriage became the topic of a documentary series, ‘The Last Movie Stars,’ in 2022. But it also dated back to a time when Newman was married to another woman named Jackie Witte.
Jackie and Paul first met in 1949 after his return from World War II, where he served in the Navy. At the time, she was 19 years old, and he was 24, both aspiring actors living in a small town.
So, in a few months, the couple moved to Illinois to join a theater company in Woodstock and got married. They welcomed their three children: Scott in 1950, Susan in 1953, and Stephanie in 1954.
Witte put her acting career on hold upon their birth, occasionally taking on modeling gigs. In contrast, Newman continued to chase opportunities while also helping with the family business.
In 1953, the actor made his debut with a role in the film, ‘Picnic.’ After meeting Woodward on the movie’s set, he reportedly started to distance himself from his marriage, attending events and having time with the 22-year-old actress while his wife ‘lost her interest in acting.’
According to the biography, ‘Paul Newman: A Life,’ a friend of theirs recalled those years by saying:
“Her nature is shy and retiring, while Paul’s is gregarious. He likes late gatherings of writers and actors, as did Joanne. Paul and Joanne were two highly attractive people with a deep mutual interest and an obvious feeling of companionship. But you seldom saw Jackie.”
Witte and Newman stayed in the marriage for a few more years until rumors about Woodward being pregnant with the actor’s child spread in the media in 1958. Following their divorce, Newman married Woodward while Witte fully escaped the spotlight.
Though details of Jackie Witte’s later life, including any possible re-marriages, remained a secret, news reported that she passed away in 1993 at the age of 64. Years later, an account in Shawn Anthony Levy’s ‘Paul Newman: A Life’ suggested that Newman felt guilt over his first marriage with the ex-actress.