Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. HBO Max

It’s long, this tortuous, winding road down the history of the family Newman, six long hours to be precise.

Each segment runs about an hour each. That’s a long sit when all you’re learning about is secrets behind the glossy, turbulent love life of two very blonde, very blue-eyed movie stars, Paul Newman and his second wife Joanne.

In Ethan Hawke’s documentary “The Last Movie Stars” (whatever that means) there is much to learn about the fabled couple. The piece is no People Magazine tell all, it’s serious, very serious. It deals with serious warts and what really lay behind those famous blue eyes.

We learn about their childhoods, how they met on Broadway where Paul was starring in William Inge’s 1953 play “Picnic” in which Paul starred and Joanne understudied, and how she came on stage to teach the award Newman, how to dance in that famous picnic scene.

Newman was probably better in the play then Bill Holden was in the movie as a 40-something bum playing much younger.


The wags are touting Paul and Joanne story as ‘one of the great Hollywood romances. Greater than Gable and Loretta Young? Or the tragedy of Bill Powell and Jean Harlow’s love affair? I think not.

All of the people I mention were movie stars, a job, I will admit that is immensely more difficult to do, but less fulfilling than two hours in a Broadway play like Lee J. Cobb’s “Death of a Salesman.”

But Hawke’s piece, a stunning television achievement on it’s on, is not about one of the top two film actors, Dustin Hoffman, (“Midnight Cowboy,” and “Papillon”) or Al Pacino’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” or Brando’s “anything.”

Hawkes doc is about what the title says, “Movie Stars,” with all the darkness, duplicity, sex, infidelity, hypocrisy, and human pain of that tinsel world.

Never a fan of Joanne Woodward, a really overrated actor, she still has to be credited for trying hard. She got an Oscar for “The Three Faces of Eve.”

Paul rose up in a flock of films that gave him glow, but only “Road To Perdition,” and “The Hustler” showed his real worth, until he soared to greatness as Frank Galvin in Sidney Lumet’s “ The Verdict.”

Kudos to Ethan Hawke’s for his monumental work with “Movie Stars.” Now streaming for six hours on HBO Max.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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