Tonight (January 25) at 11/10c, BBC America premieres its latest Brit List special Top 20 Women Who Date Across the Pond, which counts down the biggest female celebrities who have found love with men from the other side of Atlantic.
But long before there was a Robsten, Gwyneth locked sights on her Coldplay beau, or Guy and Madonna played house in the English countryside, there were these seven celebrity couples whose love spanned the width of an ocean.
Warren Beatty and Julie Christie
It was as if Britain and America offered up their most beautiful specimens — Julie Christie and Warren Beatty — in hopes of improving diplomatic relations. On-and-off for seven years from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s, they were Hollywood’s most glamorous couple. “He gave me a political perspective,” Christie said of Beatty, “which I am very grateful for. I loved the way, say, that he would go to baseball matches and stand up in the interval and talk about getting rid of guns. He would be this little tiny figure in this big baseball stadium, and I would be looking down at him, I thought he was wonderfully courageous for doing that.” Meanwhile, Beatty called Ms. Christie “the most beautiful and at the same time the most nervous person I had ever known.”
Wallis Simpson and Edward, Duke of Windsor
Rarely have the stakes been so high in a romance: when King Edward VIII gave up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American-born divorcée, the affair brought the entire British Monarchy to its knees and sparked a constitutional crisis. In a 1970 BBC interview, Wallis relayed her first meeting with the future King: “I thought he was ahead of his time. I thought he had pep. I thought he wanted to establish things that the world was not ready for.”
Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall
The Rolling Stones frontman enjoyed his longest relationship was with the Texas-born supermodel Jerry Hall, with whom he had four children (including model Georgia May Jagger) over 22 years. They split in 1999 after one too many of Mick’s legendary infidelities. “Getting a divorce is always horrible, because you feel you’ve failed,” she told the Guardian. “Everyone hates to give up on a marriage. You think your family’s broken up. But we managed to keep the family quite strong, and to still be friendly. Divorce is not the end of the world. It’s worse to stay in an unhealthy marriage. That’s a worse example for the children.”
Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal
The British writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach and the Oscar-winning actress were married for 30 years and had five kids. Theirs was a union touched by tragedy — they lost their eldest child to measles and three brain aneurysms nearly ended Neal’s acting career. However, Dahl helped nurse his wife back to health.
Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies
The Ohio-born Pretenders frontwoman is one of music’s staunchest Anglophiles. After the Pretenders covered the Kinks’ song “Stop Your Stobbing,” Hynde tracked down Kinks frontman Ray Davies in New York. “She said ‘Hello’ and I thought she was really saying ‘Help me,’” Davies told People Magazine. “She couldn’t take the sudden fame that had come to her, and I think she saw me as someone who had done all that rock ‘n’ roll stuff and understood it. It was a good friendship for a few weeks, but that should have been it.” The pair had one child, daughter Natalie, during a tempestuous three-year relationship. Hynde later married another Brit rocker, Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr.
Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen
Not exactly a sterling example of transatlantic connubial bliss. If you’ve seen the 1986 classic film with Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, you know this story did not have a happy ending: when Spungen was found dead of a stab wound in the pair’s Chelsea Hotel room in 1978, the Sex Pistols bassist was arrested for her murder. Vicious died of a heroin overdose just months later.
Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman
Paul McCartney and his American photographer bride Linda were the “wholesome” flipside of the seemingly libertine, peace-and-love-espousing John and Yoko. Linda was Paul’s wife, muse, and collaborator; she was a member of his band Wings and was credited as co-writer on most of their songs, including the hits “Band on the Run,” “Jet,” and the Oscar-nominated 007 theme “Live and Let Die.” Biographer Howard Sounes wrote that Linda “had bucketloads of American confidence and a congenial hippie-chick looseness” but allowed Paul “take the traditional masculine role in their relationship — an attitude that accorded perfectly with his Northern working-class mind-set.” They had three children — Stella, Mary, and James — during their nearly 30-year marriage. Sadly, Linda succumbed to cancer in 1998.
Who is your favorite transatlantic couple of all-time?