Classics in the Carolinas: Joanne Woodward

  This fall, Comet Over Hollywood is doing a mini-series of “Classics in the Carolinas.” I’ll be spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (my home state) and North Carolina (where I currently live and work).

In 1942, someone very important graduated from Greenville High School, in Greenville, S.C.: my grandfather, Henry E. Vogel.

Joanne Woodward with her Oscar for “Three Faces of Eve” in 1958.

But another important figure graduated from Greenville High School: Joanne Woodward.

Woodward won an Academy Award for playing a woman who suffers from multiple personality disorder in “The Three Faces of Eve” (1957). But in real life, she was the envy of women everywhere as the wife of Paul Newman.

Originally born in Thomasville, Georgia in 1930, Woodward moved to Greenville, S.C., where my family has lived for 14 years, after her parents divorced. A teenager when they moved, Woodward started at Greenville High School as a sophomore and graduated in 1947.

While at Greenville High School she was beauty queen several times, “Sweetheart of 1947” her senior year, nominated “Best Looking” and a member of the cafeteria club, said classmate Catherine Tate in an interview. Woodward also attended Christ Episcopal Church in Greenville.

As a high school student, Woodward also performed in “I Remember Mama,” “The Glass Menagerie” and “Inherit the Wind” with the Greenville Little Theater. She returned to Greenville in 1975 to perform “The Glass Menagerie” with the Greenville Little Theater, refusing a formal driver and was the “same Joanne,” Tate said.

“I don’t know what Joanne Woodward’s ambitions are, but she was a born actress,” said one Greenville Critic in an article about “I Remember Mama” in 1946.

Woodward wanted to go to Clemson University, a South Carolina state college 45 minutes away from Greenville, like her brothers but the college was still an all-male military college at the time. (I wasn’t able to find this story confirmed anywhere, but have always been told that. My family is big Clemson fans, with my parents, sisters, great-grandfather and grandfather attending and my other grandfather holding the position of Dean of Science at the university.)

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 1955

Woodward went to Lousiana State University where she studied drama and then continued on to New York where she found work in plays and on television. Early in both of their careers, Woodward met Paul Newman. Newman was married at the time, but he eventually divorced and the two were married in 1958 until his death in 2008.

In 1992, Newman donated $50,000 to Clemson University in honor of his father-in-law, Wade Woodward, Jr. who graduated from Clemson in 1922. The money went towards the Green Room at the Brooks Center of Performing Arts, according to a January 1992 Associated Press article.

Woodward is currently living in Connecticut, since Paul Newman passed away in 2008.

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Strangers on a Train under the stars

Favorite part of the movie

In the past year I’ve read several posts about other bloggers going to screenings of classic films.

Angela at ‘Hollywood Revue” went to see “White Christmas” during the holidays and I thought it sounded so nice when everyone sang along at the end of the movie. Let me tell you, if I had been there I would have cried.  Marsha at ‘A Person in the Dark’ recently saw a screening of “Daisy Kenyon” featuring a speaker who was a personal friend of Joan Crawford’s.

Unfortunately, local movie theaters where I live don’t show classic films. The only classic films I know of shown in the Greenville, S.C. area are Moonlight Movies at the Peace Center.  At the end of May and the beginning of September, the Peace Center shows films every Wednesday for four weeks.  I have never been able to go until now, because I was away at school.

This week they showed “Strangers on a Train” (1951) starring Robert Walker, Farley Granger and Ruth Roman. I didn’t want to miss it  one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies.

The film is about two strangers who meet on a train. Walker tries to convince Granger to swap murders of people they they don’t care for. Granger doesn’t take Walker serious until his wife, Miriam, ends up dead.

Moonlight Movies is kind of a “cool rich person in Greenville” thing to do, rather than a gathering of a lot of classic film lovers like some movie screenings.  There were several talking  (including the ones who came 30 minutes late and sat right in front of us) and some old drunk people behind us.

Regardless of the distractions, seeing the “Strangers on a Train” again confirmed a few things:

Glasses shot

-Robert Walker is really a wonderful actor. I think of him as the shy, sweet and awkward boy in “Since You Went Away.”  Seeing him in “Strangers on a Train” where he is insane is such a juxtaposition.  Walker does SUCH a good job in this movie. I hate that his life ended shortly after.

-Miriam’s murder, which we only witness through the reflection of her glasses, is one of my all time favorite film scenes and demonstrates Hitchcock’s mastery of camera.

-At one point Ruth Roman and Farely Granger are walking through a museum and then stop and turn around. In one shot they are walking through a real museum and the next standing in front of a screen that is showing a film of a museum, making it look like they are there.

At the end of the film everyone clapped and I asked my sister and her boyfriend what their reactions to the film were (they aren’t avid classic film watchers). Here were their responses:

Sister: “There shouldn’t be drinking at the films and there should be an age limit for who attends.” -not really what I was looking for

Sister’s boyfriend: “I wanted them to use the sister with glasses as a decoy to catch the bad guy.”

Overall, it was a relatively nice experience. I would like to go to a screening in a movie house one day, but this is a good start.

Here are a few photos from the evening:

Before the movie started before it got dark. It was pretty crowded. (Downtown Greenville at the Peace Center Amphitheater)

Sitting in my little chair, excited for the movie to start.

My sister and her boyfriend that I dragged along.

The movie is starting!

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