Hollywood Love Stories. Yes, they DO exist!
Did I grab your attention with that title, thinking this was a blog about romance movies? Gotcha! While not about the movies themselves, this blog is related, so read on. . .
If you visit my blog it is because you like romance stories, which means you are probably well aware of the plethora of romantic films developed in Tinsel Town over the past hundred or so years. For a town that has produced a wealth of truly beautiful, deep stories of “true love” and “happily ever after,” Hollywood has a horrendous reputation of failed marriages, infidelity, and even worse immoralities amongst the people who create those movies. Even a cursory glance at the tabloids would lead to the conclusion that very few in Hollywood get married, let alone stay married for long. Indeed, I bet the statistics are bleak, but as the examples below reveal, there are actually many famous couples who have beaten the odds. I am sharing a few, but believe it or not, when I went on this search, I uncovered easily ten times more! Rather a shame that the happily married do not garner the media attention that the perpetual bed-hoppers do.
A — Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens (67 years married) The legendary actor, who died in February of 2020 at the age of 103, met Anne in 1953 and they were married in 1954. In 2015, Douglas told People magazine the secret to their wedded bliss was, “We solve our disagreements with a kiss.” The couple had two sons together, Eric and Peter, who joined Douglas’ two sons from his previous marriage, Joel and Michael. Anne Douglas passed away in 2021.
B — Carl and Estelle Reiner (64 years married) The famous comedian wed artist Estelle Lebost in 1943, remaining faithfully married until her death in 2008. Shortly before his own passing in 2020, Reiner paid tribute to his beloved wife: “Nothing pleases me more than knowing that I have lived the best life possible by having met and marrying the gifted Estelle (Stella) Lebost.” Parents most notably of actor and director Rob Reiner, mom Estelle appeared in When Harry Met Sally as the diner with the memorable one-liner, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
C — Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara (61 years married) The comedy duo met in 1953 when Meara burst out of a theatrical agent’s office in tears because the man had chased her around his desk. Taking her out for coffee to comfort as she vented, they each later said they knew almost immediately they were meant for each other. They married one year later. Famous for their comedy as a team as well as in individual endeavors, they are also well known as the parents of comedy actor Ben Stiller. Jerry Stiller died in 2020, Anne Meara in 2015.
D — Bob and Ginny Newhart (59 years married) The comedian met Ginny Quinn when fellow comedian Buddy Hackett set the two up on a blind date. To quote Newhart: “Buddy said, ‘I’ve got a girl for you. She’s going with another guy, but I don’t think he’s right for her, so I’m going to fix you up on a blind date. You’ll meet her and you’ll date and you’ll get married. Then you’ll have kids and you’ll call one of the kids Buddy.'” Hackett was correct on all counts, including the child Bob and Ginny called Buddy! Wed in 1963, 92-year-old Newhart and his wife are still going strong.
E — Dolly Parton and Carl Dean (57 years married) The famous country star met Carl Dean outside a Nashville laundromat in 1964 and they were married two years later. Dean is notorious for staying out of the limelight, so much so that Parton has often rebutted conspiracy theories that he does not exist! They have no children together, but remain happily married.
F — Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy (52 years married) Considered the “first couple of the American stage,” the two multiple-Tony and other award winning actors met in 1940 and married in 1942. Dwelling in Connecticut, well away from Hollywood or NYC, they had two children and remained together until Tandy’s death in 1994 at the age of 85. Cronyn did remarry, passing in 2003 at 91.
G — Ronald and Nancy Reagan (52 years married) The Reagans could have been just another Hollywood union, but instead it became one of the great love stories of the 20th century. 41-year-old Ronald Reagan and 30-year-old Nancy Davis were professional actors when they met in 1949. They married in 1952, politics soon beckoning and leading them first to the governor’s mansion in California and then to the White House for two terms. They didn’t always have a smooth road —she overcame breast cancer, he survived an assassination attempt and colon cancer before battling Alzheimer’s disease for the last 10 years of his life— but they made their lifelong romance look easy. They had two children together. President Reagan died in 2004 and Nancy in 2016, having never remarried.
H — Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (50 years married) Paul Newman met 22-year-old actress Joanne Woodward in 1953 while still married to his first wife. The attraction was felt, but Woodward refused to become involved with a married man. By 1957, when they reconnected for the filming of The Long, Hot Summer, Newman was getting a divorce. They married in Las Vegas in 1958 and rather than embracing the lifestyle of Hollywood royalty, they chose to live in an 18th-century Connecticut farmhouse. Newman claimed their long marriage was due to “correct amounts of lust and respect,” and Woodward said it “probably helps that we always enjoyed each other’s company.” Newman died of lung cancer in 2008 at the age of 83. Woodward has not remarried.
I — Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson (52 years together, 42 years married) The couple met in 1970 while in college. They dated, established a committed relationship, and finally wed in 1980. During their marriage they raised one daughter, dealt with the struggles of two busy and successful Hollywood actors maintaining a relationship, and Jackson’s battles with drug addiction. As Jackson recently wrote to his wife on Instagram: “You make my soul sing! Don’t change the tune, we’re not done dancing.”
J — Ron and Cheryl Howard (46 years married) Ron and Cheryl met in high school and went on their first date when they were 16. They have been together ever since. They married in 1975 and have four children together.
K — Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross (43 years together, 37 years married) The two met, briefly, during the filming of 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which Elliott had a very small role. They reconnected in 1978 when they co-starred in The Legacy and began dating. Ross had already been married four times, but obviously 5th time was the charm! They married in 1984 and have one daughter.
L — George Burns and Gracie Allen (42 years together, 38 years married) They met in 1922 and married in 1926. The comedy duo performed together in vaudeville, radio, television, and films for forty years, until Gracie’s death in 1964. Burns, who never remarried, visited his wife’s grave every month until his own death at age 100.
M — Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft (41 years married) Hollywood legend Mel Brooks met actress Anne Bancroft at a rehearsal for Perry Como’s variety show in 1961. They married three years later and were inseparable (on and off the screen) until Bancroft’s death at 73 from uterine cancer in 2005. In Brooks’ 2021 autobiography titled All About Me! the multiple award winning writer and director said that he is most proud of his marriage to Anne Bancroft.
N — Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (39 years together) The two actors met on a movie set in 1966, but Hawn (who is 5 years older than Russell) merely thought the 16-year-old Russell was adorable. Fast forward to 1983 when paired in the film Swing Shift, the age gap was no longer relevant so they started dating. Quickly advancing to a full-blown relationship, the duo, who had both been in failed marriages prior, have opted to remain unmarried. They have one son together, Wyatt, and have acted together in five films.
O — Denzel and Pauletta Washington (38 years married) The two “met” on the set of the 1975 film Wilma, but didn’t truly interact until a year later at a party. Denzel proposed three times before Pauletta said yes, the two marrying in 1983. In 1995, the Washingtons renewed their vows during a romantic trip in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiated the ceremony. They have four children. In 2019, when accepting the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Denzel said of his wife, “She taught me about faith, spirituality, love, real love, unwavering love, in spite of myself. … I would not be alive without Pauletta Washington. I wouldn’t survive.”
P — Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest (37 years married) According to Curtis, she fell in love with Guest when she saw a photo of him in a 1984 Rolling Stone magazine. An attempt by a friend to set them up failed, but fate must have been on their side because one day that same year, while dining at a Hollywood restaurant, in walked Guest. They exchanged brief pleasantries, but to Curtis’ dismay, he left. Then, to her surprise, he called her the next day! They began dating and two months later were engaged. They married before the year was over, and have been together ever since.
Q — Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (34 years married) The two actors met on the set of Hanks’ comedy Bosom Buddies in 1981. Sparks flew, but Hanks was already married. A few years later that marriage fell apart, Hanks and Wilson reconnected, and brought their relationship to the public in 1986. They married in 1988 and have two sons together.
R — Johnny Cash and June Carter (35 years married) Country music stars Johnny Cash and June Carter married in 1968, 13 years after they first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Both were married to other people when they met, but their love eventually proved irresistible. They continued to make music together for the next 35 years, and died less than four months apart in 2003.
S — Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan (34 years married) Paired up as teenage love interests on the 1980s TV sitcom Family Ties, the two young actors eventually found love together in real life. It wasn’t immediate, however, as Pollan was dating Kevin Bacon at the time and Fox had a girlfriend as well. Paired up again for a 1988 movie, their friendship blossomed into love and they married in July of that year. They have four children together.
T — Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick (34 years married) The two met at the theater where Bacon was in a play, but as Sedgwick was only 12 at the time, it was far from an enchanted moment! A decade later, they met again when acting in a PBS film. It wasn’t instantly love at first sight, but near enough and the two married in late 1988. They have two children together.
U — Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates (32 years married) In 1983, during an audition for The Big Chill, Kline (who got the role) met the 16-years younger Cates (who did not land the part). The two were instantly attracted, but between the age difference and not working together on that movie, it seemed to be over before it began. A year later, determined to meet her again, Kline arranged a set up date. It still took five years to tie the knot, the two marrying in 1989, and they are now the parents of two children.
V — Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw (31 years married) The power producer and director met the actress on the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. At the time, Spielberg was involved with actress Amy Irving, whom he married in 1985. After they divorced in 1989, Spielberg and Capshaw took what had been a casual friendship since the Indiana Jones meeting to the next level, marrying in 1991 after she converted to Judaism. They had three children together and adopted two more, making a combined brood of seven including the two children they each had with previous partners. Capshaw retired from her successful acting career in 2001 to be a full-time wife and mother.
W — Warren Beatty and Annette Bening (30 years married) These two silver screen legends met while working together on gangster film Bugsy, marrying in 1992 in a move that shocked many due to Beatty’s notorious bachelor status and their 21-year age difference. They have four children.
X — Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen (27 years married) They met on the set of the 1994 film Pontiac Moon, in which they played a married couple. Both had been married before (Danson twice, in fact), each had children, and they were in their 40s! Despite the baggage and what both admit wasn’t immediate love, they married the following year in a star-studded event. Continuing to constantly work, they make their relationship a priority, Steenburgen saying recently, “I would literally sign up for 100 more lifetimes with him.”
Y — Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness (26 years married) The Aussie actor met the actress 13-years his senior in 1995 on the set of Corelli, an Australian TV series. Jackman has said that within two weeks he was seriously smitten and knew they would be together for the rest of their lives. He proposed four months later, and they married in 1996. They have two children together, both adopted.
Z — Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick (25 years married, 30 years together) The two native New Yorkers met in 1991 via theater connections and started dating. Married in 1997, they have three children (including a set of twins).
AB — William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman (24 years married, 39 years together) The two theater actors met in the early 1980s, their relationship building gradually in large part due to Huffman’s admitted fear of commitment. It was “love at first sight” according to Huffman, but she rejected Macy’s numerous marriage proposals for around 15 years before finally saying yes in 1997. Despite her fears, the couple have two daughters together and are still going strong.
CD — David Bowie and Iman (24 years married) The famous British rocker met the gorgeous Somali supermodel in 1990 when set up on a blind date. He was instantly smitten, and while it took a few weeks for Iman to fall under his spell, they were essentially inseparable from the get go. Married in 1992, they had one daughter together. Their happy marriage ended in 2016 when Bowie lost his secret battle with cancer.
EF — Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (22 years married) A definite “power couple” in Hollywood, the son of legendary actor Kirk Douglas was introduced to Zeta-Jones in 1998. Douglas knew who the beautiful actress was, requesting to met her with the belief they would marry. In fact, that was his cheesy pick-up line! It should have failed, and almost did as Zeta-Jones said a rather curt “goodnight.” Douglas was persistent, however, and they married in 2000. Despite a 25-year age difference, the two remain married and have two children together.
GH — Freddie Prinze Jr and Sarah Michelle Gellar (20 years married) The two teenage actors met when barely in their 20s while filming the horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer in 1997. Friends for around three years, they began seriously dating in 2000 and married two years later. They have two daughters.
As I noted in the beginning, there are many more within the generalized “Hollywood” label, which can be broadened to singers and sports stars if looking at it from a rich-and-famous angle. Here are a few more honorable mentions, keeping to those couples who have stood fast for 20 years or more.
John Corbett and Bo Derek (20 years)
Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart (20 years)
David and Victoria Beckham (25 years)
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (26 years)
Michelle Pfeiffer and David E. Kelley (27 years)
Lisa Kudrow and Michael Stern (29 years)
Harry Connick Jr. and Jill Goodacre (31 years)
Mark Harmon and Pam Dawber (34 years)
Chevy Chase and Jayni Luke (39 years)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall (40 years)
Keith Richards and Patti Hansen (43 years)
Michael Caine and Shikira Baksh (43 years)
Meryl Streep and Don Gummer (44 years)
Jeff Bridges and Susan Geston (47 years)
Christopher and Georgianne Walken (52 years)
Billy Crystal and Janice Goldfinger (56 years)
Rather amazing, isn’t it?
Or should I do a list of famous marriages that fell apart
after a handful of years to give perspective?
Nah! Let’s celebrate LOVE when it happens!
Did I miss any other Hollywood-ish couples you know of?