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Almost anyone who loves movies would agree that Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actresses of all time. She's right up there with Betty Davis, Kathryn Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Judi Dench, Shirley MacLaine and last, but not least, Viola Davis.
Most of us can spout off a long list of films where Streep has stolen the show, from Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) to The Devil Wears Prada (2006). The actress can command a scene and make everything and everyone else melt into the background.
Although we know a lot about her acting career, most of us don't know a thing about Streep's personal life. This article will fix that...
A Tragic Ending to an Early Romantic Relationship
Although John Cazale may not exactly be a household name, if you saw The Godfather (1972), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), or The Deer Hunter (1978), you will, no doubt, recognize his face.
Cazale and Streep met in the summer of 1976 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, during a Shakespeare in the Park production of Measure for Measure. At the time, Streep was a recent Yale School of Drama graduate and Cazale was fresh off his success in Dog Day Afternoon.
The pair fell in love and they began a fast-moving romance, and Streep moved in with him in his loft in Tribeca. Unfortunately, their romance was undercut when, a year later, Cazale was diagnosed with lung cancer. A trooper to the end, Cazale chose to continue to work, despite his illness.
As the story goes, Streep took the role in The Deer Hunter mainly to be close to Cazale, and she took her role in Holocaust (1978) to pay for his rising medical bills. Eventually, the cancer spread to his bones and Cazale died on March 13, 1978. Streep was at his side.
Meryl and Don, the Great Love Affair of the 20th Century
After Cazale's death, the actress moved out of their Tribeca loft, because she couldn't face being in the home they shared. Eventually, she moved out of the apartment altogether, and her brother enlisted the aid of his friend, sculptor Don Gummer. Gummer was a fellow Yale graduate who traveled frequently, so he offered his SoHo apartment to Streep. One thing led to another, and the sculptor began to fall in love with the actress.
The movies she made in the last year of Cazale's life were thrusting her into the spotlight. She earned an Academy Award nomination and an Emmy and she was quickly gaining critical acclaim as a serious dramatic actress, but she preferred the stage to the screen. Still not over her boyfriend's death, she threw herself into the theater role of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew; she took from that role the importance of giving one's self over to love. Within six months, Streep married Don Gummer in her parent's home in the fall of 1978.
Friends and family felt the couple's relationship was the result of Streep being on the rebound, and an attempt to distract herself from the death of Cazale. When the rebound idea was posed to her during an interview, she remarked, “I haven’t got over John’s death, but I’ve got to go on living and Don has showed me how to do that.” Today, more than 40 years later, Gummer and Streep are still together.
In her Oscar acceptance speech for her performance in Julie and Julia (2009), she had this to say about her husband, "First, I'm going to thank Don because when you thank your husband at the end of the speech they play him out with the music, and I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives, you've given me."
There can be no doubt the couple have been, and still are, truly in love with each other. The Gummer-Streeps live a quiet life, compared to their famous celebrity peers. Every time they make public appearances, Gummer seems completely content to fall back and let Streep's star shine.
The couple has four children—Henry, Mamie, Grace and Louisa—and if you want to know more about them, you should check out the connected article, The Children of Meryl Streep.