Neal, Patricia: Tribute to a Great Actress

Hud Hud The Subject was Roses The Fountainhead The Fountainhead

Patricia Neal, the distinguished actress and Oscar-winning star, died of lung cancer on Sunday at her home on Martha's Vineyard, age 84.

Striking, though not conventionally beautiful (by Hollywood standards), Neal boasted a deep, sexy, throaty voice, which served her well on stage and screen. Unfortunately, Neal was never used well in Hollywood. Even so, she gave several excellent screen performances.
 
Three of my favorite Patricial Neal roles are in “The Fountainhead,” (1949), opposite Gary Cooper, “Hud” (1963), costarring with Paul Newman, and “The Subject Was Roses” (1968) with Jack Albertson as her dissenting husband.
 
Throughout, Neal’s life was marked by triumph and tragedy. Neal became an overnight star at the age of 20 in Lillian Hellman's "Another Part of the Forest" on Broadway. By the age of 40, after winning an Oscar in 1963 for "Hud," she was near death, the result of three strokes.
 
In 1947, in "Another Part of the Forest," as the young Regina Giddens (in the prequel to Hellman's "The Little Foxes," which Bette Davis played in the scren version), Neal was compared with Talullah Bankhead. She won a Tony as featured actress and several other acting awards.
 
Affair with Gary Cooper
 
Neal made two films with Gary Cooper, "The Fountainhead" and "Bright Leaf." Neither did much for her career, but her public affair with Cooper brought her a great deal of attention. It brought her to the verge of a nervous breakdown when Cooper refused to divorce his wife, and when she was criticized and almost kicked out of town by Hedda Hopper and the other gossip columnists.
 
The 1949 film "The Hasty Heart" brought her some attention, and by 1952 she had almost a dozen starring roles, including excellent sci-fi film "The Day the Earth Stood Still."  But such titles as "Three Secrets," "Week-End With Father," and "Washington Story" could be encapsulated by the title of another Neal vehicle of the same vintage, "Something for the Birds."
 
In London, she debuted in Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly Last Summer" to raves, with Kenneth Tynan describing her voice as "dark-brown."
 
Neal returned to Broadway with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in "The Miracle Worker." On TV, she was in "Spring Reunion" in 1954 as well as such meaty assignments as "The Country Girl," "The Royal Family" and "Clash by Night."
 
Impressed by her Maggie in "Cat," Elia Kazan cast her in his 1957 film "A Face in the Crowd," opposite Andy Griffith. She had little other screen work until 1961's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in a supporting role.
 
Oscar for Hud
 
Director Martin Ritt cast her as Alma the housekeeper opposite Paul Newman in "Hud" in 1963. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called her "brilliant." Hollywood agreed, giving her the Oscar.
 
Opposite John Wayne
 
Her film career had finally moved into high gear with a starring role opposite John Wayne in "In Harm's Way" and the lead in what was to be John Ford's last film, the 1966 "Seven Women." Four days into production, she suffered three massive strokes that left her near death. When she regained consciousness, she had lost her memory and use of the right side of her body.
 
Almost Mrs. Robinson
 
She was approached for the role of Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate" but refused because she was concerned about doing a demanding part so soon after her stroke.
 
With the help of husband-author Roald Dahl, Neal taught herself how to speak and to walk again. In 1967, she was honored with "An Evening With Patricia Neal" in New York. And in 1968, President Johnson gave her the Heart of the Year Award from the American Heart Association.
 
Presenting the Oscar for foreign-language film at the 1968 Academy Awards, she received a standing ovation. "It really is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be back with you. I'm sorry I stayed away so long."
 
Second Oscar Nomination
 
That same year she received a second Oscar nomination for the drama "The Subject Was Roses" with Jack Albertson and Martin Sheen.
 
Though she appeared in several subsequent movies such as "The Night Digger," "An Unremarkable Life" and "Ghost Story," much of her better work came from TV, most memorably in "The Homecoming" in 1971.
Other TV movies included "Things in their Season," "The Bastard" and "All Quiet on the Western Front."
 
Biopic Starring Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde 
 
Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde played her and Dahl in a 1981 TV biopic "The Patricia Neal Story"; shortly after it aired, she discovered that her husband had been having an affair with her best friend for 10 years and filed for divorce. In 1988, she published her autobiography "As I Am."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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