At a Westport Library program Tuesday, Melissa Newman shared a photograph of a corner in the Newman house covered with family photos. She discussed her new book, “Head Over Heels: Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman, A Love Affair in Words and Pictures,” with Doug Tirola, a film producer and artistic director of the Remarkable Theater. / Photos by Gary Webster

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — The enduring love story of the famous Westport couple, actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, is chronicled in a new book, “Head Over Heels: Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman, A Love Affair in Words and Pictures.” 

Their daughter, Melissa Newman, celebrated her parents Tuesday at a Westport Library gathering to mark her book’s publication, where almost everyone in the capacity crowd had a personal story about the actors. 

Melissa Newman, whose family moved frequently between Westport and California when their parents were working on films, said the town of Westport was respectful of the iconic couple and their children.

“Head Over Heels” includes some of Melissa Newman’s favorite family photos including, left, a photo of her father shaving, and right, a photo of letters and telegrams Paul Newman sent to Joanne Woodward more than 50 years ago.

“We felt that Westport took very good care of our family,” she said. “The town was very protective.”

At the library, she reminisced with Doug Tirola, a film producer and artistic director of the Remarkable Theater. (A video of the program can be watched on the library’s YouTube channel by clicking here.)

When Tirola asked what it’s like to be the child of famous people, she said that at times it was difficult.

“People are looking past you, thorough you, even using you,” she said, which is why the Newmans appreciated the privacy Westporters offered them.

“My parents asked to be actors, they didn’t ask to be famous,” she said.

Joanne Woodward also was the artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse for many years and her daughter gave a plug for the theater during Tuesday’s program.  “It’s a really important part of the community,” she said of the playhouse, which has experienced declining audiences and financial problems in recent years. She quoted her father, as saying, “It’s just like your ball team. You don’t just go when they are winning.”

The library program featured projected photos from the new book, including this photo of the Newman house in Westport, where Melissa Newman still lives.

Paul Newman and Woodward met in 1953 when they were both acting on Broadway in the play, “Picnic.” They were married 50 years, until Newman’s death in 2008 at the age of 83.

Melissa Newman said she was inspired to put together the new book, with co-creator and editor Andrew Kelly, “because I felt that people were forgetting my parents.”

The book features more than 120 photographs of the couple, providing a peek into their private lives. She recounted how curating photos of her parents at home and from their years on stage and films — she had to acquire the rights to publish some of them — evolved into a nostalgic trip through her childhood and her parents’ relationship.

The book includes quotes from her parents, and artifacts such as images of telegrams and “the first ten letters my father wrote to my mother,” which she found in their house, where Melissa Newman now lives with her husband.

Paul Newman’s posthumous memoir, “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man,” was published last fall, and was introduced locally by Melissa Newman at a program at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.