But, as our second extract from a new biography of Newman reveals, the relationship began as an adulterous affair while Newman was married to his first wife, actress Jacqueline Witte, by whom he had three children. It felt good being married.
It was all a dream come true - and the start of a legendary showbusiness marriage that was to last 50 years. But their partnership became such an institution that few people realised Newman had been married before - and that he had broken up the marriage in circumstances that did him little credit and about which he was ashamed for the rest of his life.
One for the load on his conscience: Newman used alcohol as a release The name of his first wife was Jackie Witte, a tall, dark-eyed blonde, and, in the years just after World War II, an aspiring actor like him.
Newman, a year-old Navy veteran, had turned his back on a job in the family firm, a successful business selling sportswear in Cleveland, Ohio, and, inspired by some acting he had done at university, tried to find work in local repertory theatres around the Mid-west. Jackie was just 19 and yet to graduate from college when they met up at a small town where they both had taken summer stage work.
That winter, they moved together to a theatre company in Woodstock in Illinois, and on December 27, , Jackie became the first Mrs Paul Newman. There have been various surmises as to just what led Newman to marry so quickly and to someone so young.
Pregnancy is a popular first guess, but no child was imminent. The simplest explanation is that they were a handsome pair and in love. In Woodstock, Newman's theatrical career bumped along. His acting was uninspired and, though he was 'a good-lookin' blue-eyed guy,' in the words of the theatre manager, he was not viewed as 'leading man' material. When Jackie became pregnant, he had to face the prospect of giving up the theatre.
Coincidentally, his father had just died and it fell to him to join in the running of the family business. With Jackie, he returned to Cleveland where their son, Scott, was born, and it looked as if, at the age of 25, Paul Newman's brief flirtation with the world of acting was over.
But he could not stop pining for the stage. He would go to performances in the town's playhouse and watch the actors taking their curtain calls.
So he gambled all his savings on doing a master's degree in theatre at Yale University, with the thought that, if the acting did not work out, he could at least teach the subject. For the second time in a little more than a year, he loaded his possessions and his wife - and now a baby son - into the car and headed off into uncertainty. Hollywood stars Joanne Woodward and Newman in Las Vegas after their marriage in The Newmans rented the top floor of a house and Paul augmented his savings with work as a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman.
Occasionally, Jackie commuted into New York City, which was just a train ride away, to seek work as a model, which was now her chosen career. The proximity of New York also meant that leading theatrical agents would attend Yale's plays to scout for new talent - and thus it was that a stiff but handsome young actor playing a small part in a student play about Beethoven was noticed in the spring of Newman decided to take a flyer on the big time.
He dropped out of Yale and gave himself one year and no more to make it in the big city. Even more than going to Yale, moving to New York was a leap of faith - especially after Jackie told him that she was expecting their second child. He was a man with growing responsibilities. So he developed a routine. Before long, he was getting small roles on television and also auditioning for stage plays.
Slowly, Newman's career was taking off. In one play - called Picnic and destined for a long run on Broadway - he understudied the lead role of a sexually magnetic vagrant, a renegade who causes havoc among the lonely women in a small Kansas town. To play the part, he had to loosen up, especially in one scene where his character seduces the leading lady at a dance.
Until now, everything Newman did on stage had been clean-cut and largely dependent on his good looks. A raunchy Paul Newman was born, and the change was particularly noticed by the understudy for the leading lady, with whom he was often dancing in rehearsals. Her name was Joanne Woodward. Picnic was a success for Newman, and he received his first good reviews. Television series were also scooping him up.
He was, she thought, 'just a pretty face', reminiscent of a Botticelli angel. Crucially, she didn't think much of his acting. There was also the impediment that he was married, with two kids. He was forbidden fruit - at least in theory. Newman with Geraldine Page in the film Sweet Bird of Youth He, on the other hand, was already drawn to this year-old Southern beauty from Georgia.
He was struck by her looks at their first meeting. As they got to know each other during rehearsals, she came to seem to him his ideal girl. It took me a long time to persuade her that I wasn't as dull as I looked. At home, Newman felt caught in a trap. Two-year-old Scott was prone to temper tantrums and Jackie was increasingly resentful, stuck with two small children while her husband spent days and often nights in Manhattan working, looking for work, schmoozing, and drinking with his acting buddies.
There were real tensions between them. 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. A considerable portion of his time was now in Joanne's company. Mutually attracted but staying at a remove from each other out of respect for Newman's marriage, the two were nonetheless bonding. We really liked each other. We could talk to each other, we could tell each other anything without fear of ridicule or rejection.
A third child, Stephanie, was born in It was not long after this that Paul's successes on Broadway and increasing exposure in films for television attracted interest from Hollywood. In Somebody Up There Likes Me, he was cast in the lead role as a gangster who redeems himself through professional boxing. To prepare for the role, he trained in seedy gyms and hung around the pool halls and bars frequented by boxers. When actually filming in Hollywood, he spent a lot of time with Joanne.
Newman and his wife together at an awards night in New York in The pair's marriage lasted 50 years but began as an adulterous affair When the film was released, it was a critical triumph, and to celebrate he and Jackie left the children with a babysitter and headed to a party at a restaurant. It was a wild evening, and just after midnight Newman left Jackie and the others. The mischievous bad boy that was always in him itching to get out got out and he went roaring off in his car.
He knocked over a fire hydrant, ran a red light and was chased by police cars for a mile before being pulled over. The aggressive and obviously drunk Newman was handcuffed and taken to a police station, where a band of reporters were waiting for news of a local boy who'd been kidnapped. Thinking they were there for him, he stamped his feet and posed menacingly and was duly photographed.
Hustled into a cell, he suddenly became contrite. In part, his behaviour that night was the result of natural high spirits, but it was also symptomatic of his growing pain and confusion. The guilt he felt for threatening his marriage was driving him to use alcohol as a release. Newman had always been partial to a drink - beer mostly, though he could slip into a bottle of whisky, too. He owned up to some 'generally boorish behaviour' in his college days as a result of too much Scotch'.
But now it was the other way round - his bad behaviour as a husband was leading to the heavy boozing. Returning to New York, he saw a lot of her there too, at showbusiness meetings and at late-night parties. Their mutual attraction was common knowledge among their circle and so, too, was the strain it created. A friend commented that the romance was 'more of an ordeal than a courtship. Paul was torn between his loyalty to his children and honesty with his feelings for Joanne. And Joanne, who was friendly with Jackie, suffered torments at finding herself in the role of a home-wrecker.
Despite the genuine anguish it caused him to break up his home, Newman acknowledged first to friends and then to Jackie that he was in love with Joanne. But Jackie wasn't letting go easily. As she saw it, she had a right to her family, even if her husband was disloyal, and she had a right, too, to a fair portion of his blossoming career.
They had been married in church less than eight years earlier; she had three children under the age of seven. And it was he who was cheating on her. Why should she budge? But Newman wasn't cheating so much as he was recognising that he'd found his ideal partner.
Work now increasingly took him to Hollywood, where Joanne was also making a film, the psychologically daring Three Faces Of Eve, for which she would win an Oscar. They took a beach house together in Malibu with the writer Gore Vidal and his partner Howard Austen - a particularly odd arrangement since it had once been hinted in the gossip pages that Joanne and Vidal were engaged.
Life on the beach was idyllic - apart from the fact that Newman was seeing a psychiatrist to address the genuine pain that was accompanying the break-up of his marriage. But he and Joanne were now increasingly honest about their relationship. They were photographed dining together and attending film premieres.
Finally, he worked up the gumption to ask Jackie for a divorce, but despite the ongoing humiliation she faced, she was still unwilling to give in - until another film role forced all their hands. In The Long, Hot Summer, he was cast alongside Joanne herself, and they spent a couple of months on location together in Louisiana. The two stars behaved in front of everyone like a couple in love. While shopping in New Orleans, they bought a gigantic brass bed which Newman speculated can only have come from a bordello, it was so big.
They were now the hottest couple around. At which point Jackie finally agreed to give up her claim on Paul, and he was arduously working out the terms of the divorce. He knew, too, that Joanne was carrying his baby. Sometime during the shooting of The Long, Hot Summer, perhaps on that voluptuous brass bed, they had conceived a child - the reality of which may have been the final straw in Jackie's agreeing to let him go.