The Greatest Celebrity Romance?

By Marc Alexander


February is the month of Valentine’s Day – the holiday spilling over with love and romance. In today’s technology intensified Facebook and Twitter-soaked world, love and romance are very fluid and relative concepts.  Romance can start on-line in minutes, and be sustained from afar through hours of instant messages. Courtship now consists of a steady flow of emails with pictures attached or sincere Skypes from one computer or phone to the other.

The definition of longevity in love has been flipped upside down these days, and couples now celebrate making it through a whole month – let alone a year. In Hollywood, romance has always seemed to be played out in fast-forward, infinitely complicated by the non-stop chase of fame and fortune. Everyday romances are started and ended to increase one’s Q rating or to enhance one’s reality show ratings. Almost as soon as we hear that two stars are dating, we hear that they are engaged, and then married. What seems, in the press, like the be-all and end-all love of all time of an actor and his superstar singer girlfriend who got married on a pristine beach by a yogi where they exchanged tattoos of each other’s names and vials of their blood, ends abruptly, when they announce that they are still deeply in love, but calling it quits. But, please buy her next album and support his next film.

Just before you brand me “jaded,” I want to point out the face that there have been some successful high-profile show biz romances and marriages where, it seems, they actually share that “thing.” Couples like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Brad and Angelina and Will and Jada (?) continue to inspire us that love and celebrity can peacefully coexist.  And then, there are three couples who have taken the Hollywood romance game to a seemingly unattainable level, by withstanding the 3 Ts – time, tumult, and tabloids – to actually be considered the Greatest Celebrity Romance of All Time.


Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis are couples who are legendary for not only staying together, but for staying in love. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft are the most unlikely couple aesthetically and career wise. She, the serious Oscar winner known for dramas and he one of the silliest but most talented funny men in show business history, were married for 45 years when she passed away. Brooks calls their time together “the best 45 years of my life” and she was responsible for him turning two of his biggest movies – The Producers and Young Frankenstein – into smash Broadway plays. Bancroft said of Brooks, “I don’t jump for joy every single time he comes home, but I am always awfully glad when he comes through the door,” she said.




Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

The romance of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman has often been touted as the storybook Hollywood Romance. The two met while doing a play together in 1953, and were eventually wed in a Vegas ceremony 5 years later. Their remarkable marriage withstood the swooning pressure of millions of women who adored and lusted after Newman with his handsome face and world-famous blue eyes. The couple had just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 2008 when Newman passed away from cancer. Newman once said of his marriage “We are very, very different people and yet somehow we fed off those varied differences.  Instead of separating us, [our differences] have made [our] whole bond a lot stronger. Joanne has always given me unconditional support in all my choices and endeavors. To me, that’s love.”





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Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis met in 1946 while, like Newman and Woodward, co-starring in a play in New York City. Both were struggling to make a living in an industry where the color of their skin severely limited their opportunities. True kindred spirits, they were progressive and forward-thinking in their personal lives, and stated, without hubris, that they had an open marriage. It was their belief that extramarital affairs don’t destroy marriages, but lies and deception surrounding an affair is actually to blame. The two agreed that their spiritual connection transcended a physical dalliance with someone outside the confines of marriage – so as long as it was discreet and private. This openness freed the two according to Dee and Davis; and no matter what, they claimed that they always, always desired each other – both physically and emotionally. The two celebrated 50 years of marriage with a gala celebration in 1999, and all proceeds from the event were distributed among 12 community theaters.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis have even made plans to spend the afterlife together, Ruby Dee announced after Davis passed in 2007. Both will be cremated and sealed in the same urn where there ashes will be kept for eternity – which makes Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, in my opinion, the G.O.A.T celebrity romance of all time.

Agree? Disagree? Go ahead, make your argument. I dare you.



Marc Alexander is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer and purveyor of urban culture.

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