Archive for the ‘Patricia Neal’ Category

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Actress Patricia Neal in 2008. More Photos »

 August 9, 2010
Patricia Neal, the molasses-voiced actress who won an Academy Award and a Tony but whose life alternated surreally between triumph and tragedy, died at her home in Edgartown, Mass., on Sunday. She was 84 and lived in Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard.

The death was announced by a friend, Edward S. Albers.

In 1964 Ms. Neal received an Oscar as best actress for her performance as the tough, shopworn housekeeper who did not succumb to Paul Newman’s amoral charm in “Hud.” But a year later she had three strokes, leaving her in a coma for three weeks. Although she was semiparalyzed and unable to speak afterward, she learned to walk and talk again.

Despite a severely impaired memory that made it difficult to remember dialogue, she returned to the screen in 1968 as the bitter mother who used her son as a weapon against her husband in the screen version of Frank Gilroy’s play “The Subject Was Roses.” Once again, she was nominated for an Academy Award.

Her career had started swiftly and brilliantly. Before she was 21, she had swept the major acting prizes for her Broadway debut in Lillian Hellman’s “Another Part of the Forest.” As the rapacious Regina Hubbard who could hold her own in a family of vipers, Ms. Neal received a Tony, a Donaldson Award and a New York Drama Critics Award. Her photograph was on the cover of Life magazine.

Signed to a seven-year contract by Warner Brothers, she went to Hollywood as the sought-after young actress of her day. She had talent, a husky, unforgettable voice and an arresting presence but no training in acting in front of a camera. Of her movie debut opposite Ronald Reagan in the comedy “John Loves Mary” (1949), Bosley Crowther, the movie critic for The New York Times, wrote that she showed “little to recommend her to further comedy jobs” and added, “Her way with a gag line is painful.”

Yet Ms. Neal had already been assigned the role that Barbara Stanwyck and other top actresses coveted — the leonine Dominique in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s best-selling novel “The Fountainhead” (1949). As Dominique was swept away by the uncompromising, godlike architect Howard Roark, the 23-year-old actress fell passionately in love with the 48-year-old movie star who played Roark, Gary Cooper. Their affair burned brightly for three years but ended when Mr. Cooper chose not to leave his wife and daughter.

“The Fountainhead” was a failure. Ms. Neal saw it at a Hollywood premiere. “You knew, from the very first reel, it was destined to be a monumental bomb,” she said. “My status changed immediately. That was the end of my career as a second Garbo.”

Ms. Neal’s next movie, “Bright Leaf” (1950), an epic story of a 19th-century tobacco farmer played by Mr. Cooper, was also a failure. Ill served by Warner Brothers, Ms. Neal acquired screen technique while being wasted in a series of mediocre movies. The exceptions were the screen version of John Patrick’s play “The Hasty Heart” (1950), in which she played a nurse who tries to comfort a dying soldier, and “The Breaking Point” (1950), based on Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not,” in which she played a tramp opposite John Garfield.

“Warners finally let me know they weren’t so keen on my staying on,” Ms. Neal said in an interview. “They didn’t fire me. I took the hint.”

Ms. Neal was 27 years old and apparently washed up in Hollywood after five years and 13 movies when Lillian Hellman insisted that Ms. Neal star in the Broadway revival of her play “The Children’s Hour” in 1952. And it was at Ms. Hellman’s house that Ms. Neal met a writer of macabre short stories, Roald Dahl — the man she would marry in 1953 and who would be the father of their five children during a troubled, 30-year marriage that was marred by tragedy.

In 1957, Ms. Neal triumphantly returned to the screen in Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd.” Demonstrating an authority, a range and a subtlety that she had lacked before, she won acclaim for her portrayal of a radio reporter who builds the career of a folksy guitarist (played by Andy Griffith).

As the 1950s ended, she appeared to great acclaim in “Suddenly Last Summer” in London and “The Miracle Worker” on Broadway then went on to even greater screen success in “Hud” and “In Harm’s Way” with John Wayne. Riding the crest, she signed to star in the John Ford movie “Seven Women.” But at 39 and pregnant with her fifth child, she was struck down by the strokes.

Patsy Lou Neal was born in the coal mining town of Packard, Ky., on Jan. 20, 1926, to a mine manager for the Southern Coke and Coal Company and the daughter of the town doctor. Ms. Neal was raised in Knoxville, Tenn. At 10, she attended an evening of monologues in the basement of the Methodist church and wrote a note to Santa Claus: “What I want for Christmas is to study dramatics.” By the time she entered high school, Patsy Neal was giving monologues at every Knoxville social club and had won the Tennessee State Award for dramatic reading.

In 1942, the summer before her senior year, she was chosen to apprentice at the prestigious Barter Theater in Virginia. After two years as a drama major at Northwestern University, Ms. Neal learned that the Theater Guild needed a tall girl to play the lead in Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” and headed for New York. Alfred de Liagre, the producer of “Voice of the Turtle,” gave her a job understudying the two female leads and insisted that his patrician-looking new actress should call herself Patricia.

Success came quickly and easily. Ms. Neal replaced Vivian Vance in the road company of “Voice of the Turtle” and she had fourth billing in “Bigger than Barnum,” a Broadway-bound play that closed in Boston. When she played a backwoods girl who allies herself with the devil in “Devil Takes a Whittler” in summer stock in Westport, Conn., she was seen by Eugene O’Neill, who became her mentor, and much of the Broadway theater establishment. In less than 24 hours, she had two offers to star on Broadway. Ms. Neal turned down Richard Rodgers’ offer of the lead in “John Loves Mary” for “Another Part of the Forest.”

During her affair with Cooper, she became pregnant. She had an abortion and according to her 1988 autobiography, “As I Am,” (written with Richard DeNeut), she cried herself to sleep for 30 years afterward. “If I had only one thing to do over in my life,” she wrote, “I would have that baby.”

Desperate to have children, she married Mr. Dahl even though, she wrote in her autobiography, she did not then love him. A former R.A.F. fighter pilot who later became a renowned writer of edgy children’s books (“James and the Giant Peach,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), Mr. Dahl took control of Ms. Neal’s life. After their four-month-old son, Theo, was left brain-damaged when his pram was crushed between a taxicab and a bus on a New York street in December 1960, Mr. Dahl decided that they would move permanently to the village of Great Missenden in England. Two years later, their eldest daughter, Olivia, who was 7, died of measles encephalitis, perhaps for want of sophisticated medical care that would have been available in a big city.

Ms. Neal survived the aneurysm because of the knowledge Mr. Dahl had acquired during the years when Theo had eight brain operations. After the shunt that drained fluid from Theo’s brain kept clogging, Mr. Dahl worked for two years with a retired engineer and a neurosurgeon to design and manufacture a better one, the Wade-Dahl-Till valve.

When Ms. Neal collapsed in their rented Beverly Hills house, Mr. Dahl knew enough about her symptoms to immediately call one of the leading neurosurgeons in Southern California. Fourteen days after a seven-hour operation to stop the bleeding, the neurosurgeon told Mr. Dahl that his wife would live. But he added, “I’m not sure whether or not I’ve done her a favor.”

Mr. Dahl badgered his wife into getting well. He nagged her into walking, held things out of her reach until she managed to ask for them, arranged for hours of physical and speech therapy each day. She learned to read again. When Ms. Neal could not understand a Beatrix Potter book she was reading to her son, her husband told her not to mind because “The Tale of Pigling Bland” was “Potter’s toughest book.” Six months after her brain operation, Ms. Neal gave birth to a healthy daughter and Mr. Dahl insisted that the brace on which she relied be taken off her shoes.

Early in 1967, he announced that she was ready to perform and that she would give a speech in New York that spring at a charity dinner for brain-damaged children. Terrified, Ms. Neal worked day after day to memorize the speech, which she delivered to thundering applause. As she wrote in her autobiography, “I knew at that moment that Roald the slave driver, Roald the bastard, with his relentless scourge, Roald the Rotten, as I had called him more than once, had thrown me back into the deep water. Where I belonged.”

The story of Ms. Neal’s illness and recovery was made into a television movie in 1981, with Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde playing Pat and Roald. Two years later, Ms. Neal and Mr. Dahl were divorced after Ms. Neal discovered that her husband had been having a long affair with one of her best friends. Mr. Dahl died in 1990.

She is survived by her four children, Tessa, Ophelia, Theo and Lucy; a brother, Pete Neal; a sister Margaret Anne VanderNoord; 10 grandchildren and step grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

In her later years, Ms. Neal put her time and energy into raising money for brain injured children and adults. In dozens of speaking engagements, she demonstrated that a brain injury was not necessarily the end of life or of joy. ”I can’t see from one eye,” she said in 1988. “I’ve been paralyzed. I’ve fallen down and broken a hip. Stubbornness gets you through the bad times. You don’t give in.”



Patricia Neal was born on January 20th, 1926 according to

January 20th, 1926

1 + 20 +1+9+2+6 = 39 = her life lesson = what she was here to learn = Charming.

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