Joanne Woodward’s Health: Her Alzheimer’s Battle Explained – Hollywood Life

Joanne Woodward’s Health: Her Alzheimer’s Battle & How She’s Doing Today

Joanne Woodward was diagnosed with dementia just days before her late husband Paul Newman was diagnosed with cancer. Here's everything to know about Joanne's health struggle.

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Joanne Woodward
Image Credit: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEI/Shutterstock

  • Joanne Woodward is a famous actress who won an Oscar for 1957’s The Three Faces of Eve
  • The Georgia native was married to Paul Newman from 1958 until his death in 2008
  • She has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for over a decade

With a career spanning decades, Joanne Woodward has etched her name into the annals of Hollywood history as a true acting powerhouse. Born on February 27, 1930, in Thomasville, Georgia, this southern belle has left an indelible mark on the silver screen, earning herself a well-deserved spot among Tinseltown’s elite.

Hollywood legend Joanne Woodward suffers from Alzheimer’s. (Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEI/Shutterstock)

Woodward’s journey to stardom began in the 1950s when she caught the eye of audiences and critics alike with her captivating performances in such TV productions as the Goodyear Playhouse and Hitchcock Presents. Her stellar skills transferred over to film, where her breakthrough role came portraying a woman with multiple personalities in 1957’s The Three Faces of Eve. The part would garner Joanne an Academy Award for Best Actress, an award she was nominated for three more times in her career.

Off-screen, Woodward’s love story with the late icon Paul Newman, her husband and fellow acting legend, is a true Hollywood fairy tale. Theirs was a love that transcended the glitz and glamour, enduring over five decades. The couple would star together in a number of films, beginning with the drama The Long Hot Summer. Others included Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958), From the Terrace (1960), Paris Blues (1961), and A New Kind of Love (1963).

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman were together for over 5 decades. (Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock)

During the height of their careers, the power couple welcomed three daughters together: Elinor Teresa “Nell” (1959), Melissa Stewart (1961), and Claire Olivia “Clea” (1965). They would defy the status quo of Hollywood couples and remain married until Paul’s death from lung cancer on September 26, 2008.

Sadly, Joanne has had her own health struggle recently. Keep reading to learn more about Joanne’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and how she’s doing today.

Joanne Woodward Was Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease

Joanne and Paul’s incredible love story was the crux of the recent six-part documentary The Last Movie Stars. The HBO film, directed by Ethan Hawke, revealed that while her husband was living with cancer, the Hollywood actress was also on her own health journey. Joanne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, just days before her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Interestingly, Joanne played a woman named Barbara suffering with Alzheimer’s in a 1985 television movie called Do You Remember Love? “As Barbara’s disease progresses, Miss Woodward takes her through an incredible range of emotional colors, from bratty girl to fearful woman, while never losing contact with the character’s fierce intelligence,” wrote The New York Times. Joanne disclosed to the publication disclosed that her own mother was a victim of Alzheimer’s and that the performance was ”an hommage” to her.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Joanne and Paul were a couple of gorgeous Hollywood stars when they first met. (Everett Collection)

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting millions worldwide. It primarily targets older adults, impairing memory, cognition, and daily functioning. Initially manifesting as forgetfulness and confusion, it advances to severe cognitive decline, personality changes, and the inability to perform routine tasks, per the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, forming plaques and tangles that disrupt neuronal communication. The exact cause remains elusive, but age, genetics, and lifestyle factors contribute to its development. Currently, no cure exists, only treatments to manage symptoms temporarily. Early diagnosis and research into prevention and treatment strategies remain crucial to combat this devastating ailment.

How Long Has Joanne Woodward Been Sick?

As mentioned, Joanne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, just days before Paul was diagnosed with cancer. The Oscar winner has been keeping a very low profile in her later years, so details about when she began suffering symptoms is unclear. 

How Is Joanne Woodward Doing Today?

Joanne Woodward won an Oscar for 1957’s ‘The Three Faces of Eve’.(Everett Collection)

During the promotional campaign for The Last Movie Stars, Hawke mentioned that Joanne was still able to enjoy the film, saying “That’s why the family wanted me to do [the film] now, they wanted it to come out while she’s still alive and can see this, to support her.”

The movie also reported that Joanne was “living with her family in Connecticut.”

In April 2023, a source told Ok! Magazine: “At this point, the best that can be done for Joanne is to keep her comfortable while waiting for the inevitable. It’s a tribute to her courage and determination she has lived with this debilitating disease as long as she has.”