Patricia Neal

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This article is about the actress. For the actress, comedienne, and writer of the same birth name, see Fannie Flagg.
Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal - 1952.jpg
Publicity photo from 1952
Born Patsy Louise Neal
(1926-01-20)January 20, 1926
Packard, Kentucky, U.S.
Died August 8, 2010(2010-08-08) (aged 84)[1]
Edgartown, Massachusetts, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung Cancer
Resting place
Abbey of Regina Laudis
Residence Edgartown, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Education Knoxville High School
Alma mater Northwestern University
Occupation Actress
Years active 1949–2009
Home town Knoxville, Tennessee
Spouse(s) Roald Dahl (1953–1983; divorced)
Partner(s) Gary Cooper
Children Olivia Twenty (1955–1962)
Chantal Tessa Sophia (b. 1957)
Theo Matthew (b. 1960)
Ophelia Magdalena (b. 1964)
Lucy Neal (b. 1965)

Patricia Neal (January 20, 1926 – August 8, 2010)[1] was an American actress of stage and screen. She was best known for her film roles as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), wealthy matron Emily Eustace Failenson in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and middle-aged housekeeper Alma Brown in Hud (1963), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also played Olivia Walton in the 1971 made-for-television film The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, a role played in the regular series by actress Michael Learned.

Early life[edit]

Neal was born Patsy Louise Neal, in Packard, Whitley County, Kentucky, to William Burdette and Eura Petrey Neal.[2][3] She grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she attended Knoxville High School,[4] and studied drama at Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she was crowned Syllabus Queen in a campus-wide beauty pageant. In addition, she studied with acting professor Alvina Krause, which set her up for her future career.

Career[edit]

Neal got her first job in New York as an understudy in the Broadway production of The Voice of the Turtle. Next she appeared in Another Part of the Forest (1946), winning the 1947 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, in the first presentation of the Tony awards.[2]

John Wayne and Patricia Neal

In 1949, Neal made her film debut in John Loves Mary. That year, Ronald Reagan was her co-star in The Hasty Heart. Her appearance the same year in The Fountainhead coincided with her on-going affair with her married co-star, Gary Cooper.

By 1952, Neal had starred with John Garfield in The Breaking Point, The Day the Earth Stood Still with Michael Rennie and Operation Pacific, starring John Wayne. She suffered a nervous breakdown around this time, following the end of her relationship with Cooper, and left Hollywood for New York, returning to Broadway in 1952 for a revival of The Children's Hour. In 1955, she starred in Edith Sommer's A Roomful of Roses, staged by Guthrie McClintic.

While in New York, Neal became a member of the Actors Studio. Based on connections with other members, she subsequently appeared in the film A Face in the Crowd (1957, directed by Elia Kazan), the play The Miracle Worker (1959, directed by Arthur Penn), the film Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, co-starring George Peppard), and the film Hud (1963), directed by Martin Ritt and starring Paul Newman. During the same period, she appeared on television in a 1960 episode of Play of the Week, featuring an Actors Studio-dominated cast in a double bill of plays by August Strindberg,[5] and in a British production, aired in 1959, of Clifford Odets' Clash by Night, which co-starred one of the first generation of Actors Studio members, Nehemiah Persoff.[6]

Neal(r) with Andy Griffith and Lee Remick on the set of A Face in the Crowd (1957)

In 1963, Neal won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Hud, co-starring with Paul Newman. When the film was initially released it was predicted she would be a nominee in the supporting actress category, but when she began collecting awards, they were always for Best Actress, from the New York Film Critics, the National Board of Review and a BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Neal was reunited with John Wayne in Otto Preminger's In Harm's Way (1965), winning her second BAFTA Award. Her next film was The Subject Was Roses (1968), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She starred as Olivia Walton in the television movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971), which was a Hallmark television holiday special that inspired the long-running television series The Waltons; she won a Golden Globe for her performance. In a 1999 interview with the Archive of American Television, Waltons creator Earl Hamner said he and producers were unsure if Neal's health would allow her to commit to the grind of the weekly television series, so they cast Michael Learned in the role. Neal played a dying widowed mother trying to find a home for her three children in a 1975 episode of NBC's Little House on the Prairie.

She was a subject of the UK TV show This Is Your Life in 1978 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at a cocktail party on London’s Park Lane.

Neal played the title role in Robert Altman's 1999 movie Cookie's Fortune.

In 2003, Neal was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[7]

In 2007, Neal worked on Silvana Vienne's movie Beyond Baklava: The Fairy Tale Story of Sylvia's Baklava, appearing as herself in the portions of the documentary talking about alternative ways to end violence in the world. Also in 2007, Neal received one of two annually-presented Lifetime Achievement Awards at the SunDeis Film Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts. (Academy Award nominee Roy Scheider was the recipient of the other.)

Having won a Tony Award in their inaugural year (1947) and eventually becoming the last surviving winner from that first ceremony, Neal often appeared as a presenter in later years. Her original Tony was lost, so she was given a surprise replacement by Bill Irwin when they were about to present the 2006 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play to Cynthia Nixon. In April 2009, Neal received a lifetime achievement award from WorldFest Houston on the occasion of the debut of her film, Flying By. Neal was a long-term actress with Philip Langner's Theatre at Sea/Sail With the Stars productions with the Theatre Guild. In her final years she appeared in a number of health-care videos.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Patricia Neal at the Tribeca Film Festival, 2007

During the filming of The Fountainhead (1949), Neal had an affair with her married co-star, Gary Cooper, whom she had met in 1947 when she was 21 and he was 46. By 1950, Cooper's wife, Veronica, had found out about the relationship and sent Neal a telegram demanding they end it. Neal became pregnant by Cooper, but he persuaded her to have an abortion,[9] which she later greatly regretted doing. Neal was in hopes that tempers would cool after she went to London, England, to film The Hasty Heart, starring Ronald Reagan, but she missed Cooper, and Reagan was unhappy over his breakup with Jane Wyman, and it was a depressing shoot. At one point in their relationship, Cooper slapped Neal in the face after he caught Kirk Douglas trying to seduce her.[10]

The affair ended, but not before Cooper's daughter, Maria (later Maria Cooper Janis, born 1937), spat at Neal in public.[11] Years after Cooper's death, his wife and daughter reconciled with Neal.

Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl in 1954

Neal met British writer Roald Dahl at a dinner party hosted by Lillian Hellman in 1951. They married on July 2, 1953, at Trinity Church in New York. The marriage produced five children:[2] Olivia Twenty (April 20, 1955 – November 17, 1962); Chantal Tessa Sophia (b. 1957); Theo Matthew (b. 1960); Ophelia Magdalena (b. 1964); and Lucy Neal (b. 1965). Her granddaughter is author, television presenter and model Sophie Dahl.

In the early 1960s, the couple suffered through grievous injury to one child and the death of another. On December 5, 1960, their son Theo, four months old, suffered brain damage when his baby carriage was struck by a taxicab in New York City. On November 17, 1962, their daughter, Olivia, died at age 7 from measles encephalitis.[12]

While pregnant in 1965, Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms, and was in a coma for three weeks. Dahl directed her rehabilitation and she subsequently relearned to walk and talk ("I think I'm just stubborn, that's all"). On August 4, 1965, she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Lucy.

Neal and Dahl's turbulent marriage ended in divorce in 1983 after Dahl's affair with Neal's friend, Felicity Crosland (Dahl married Crosland that same year).[13] In 1981, Glenda Jackson played her in a television movie, The Patricia Neal Story which co-starred Dirk Bogarde as Neal's husband Dahl. Neal's autobiography, As I Am, was published in 1988. In later years, Neal became a Catholic.[14]

Legacy[edit]

In 1978, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville dedicated the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in her honor. The center provides intense treatment for stroke, spinal cord, and brain injury patients. It serves as part of Neal's advocacy for paralysis victims. She regularly visited the center in Knoxville, providing encouragement to its patients and staff. Neal appeared as the center's spokeswoman in advertisements until her death.

Death[edit]

Neal died at her home in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, August 8, 2010, of lung cancer at age 84.[1] She had converted to Catholicism four months before her death and was buried in the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut,[15] where her friend the early 1960s actress Dolores Hart had become a nun and ultimately prioress. Neal had been a longtime supporter of the abbey's open air theatre and arts program.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1949 John Loves Mary Mary McKinley
The Fountainhead Dominique Francon
It's a Great Feeling Herself cameo
The Hasty Heart Sister Parker
1950 Bright Leaf Margaret Jane Singleton
The Breaking Point Leona Charles
Three Secrets Phyllis Horn
1951 Operation Pacific Lt. (j.g.) Mary Stuart
Raton Pass Ann Challon
The Day the Earth Stood Still Helen Benson
Weekend With Father Jean Bowen
1952 Diplomatic Courier Joan Ross
Washington Story Alice Kingsley
Something for the Birds Anne Richards
1954 Stranger from Venus Susan North
1957 A Face in the Crowd Marcia Jeffries
1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's 2-E (Mrs. Failenson)
1963 Hud Alma Brown Academy Award for Best Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Laurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1964 Psyche 59 Alison Crawford
1965 In Harm's Way Lt. Maggie Haynes BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1968 The Subject Was Roses Nettie Cleary Laurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance (3rd place)
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1971 The Night Digger Maura Prince
1973 Baxter! Dr. Roberta Clemm
Happy Mother's Day, Love George Cara also starring Tessa Dahl
1979 The Passage Mrs. Bergson
All Quiet on the Western Front Paul's Mother
1981 Ghost Story Stella Hawthorne
1989 An Unremarkable Life Frances McEllany
1999 Cookie's Fortune Jewel Mae 'Cookie' Orcutt Nominated-Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress
2009 Flying By Margie

Television[edit]

Year Project Role Notes
1954 Goodyear Playhouse episode: Spring Reunion
1958 Suspicion (TV series) Paula Elgin episode: Someone Is After Me
1957-1958 Playhouse 90 Rena Menken
Margaret
episode: The Gentleman from Seventh Avenue
episode: The Playroom
1954-1958 Studio One in Hollywood Caroline Mann
Miriam Leslie
episode: Tide of Corruption
episode: A Handful of Diamonds
1958 Pursuit (TV series) Mrs. Conrad episode: The Silent Night
1959 Rendezvous (TV series) Kate Merlin episode: London-New York
Clash by Night Mia Wilenski
1960 The Play of the Week Mistress
Grace Wilson
episode: Strindberg on Love
episode: The Magic and the Loss
1961 Special for Women: Mother and Daughter Ruth Evans
1962 Drama 61-67 Beebee Fenstermaker episode: Drama '62: The Days and Nights of Beebee
Checkmate (TV series) Fran Davis episode: The Yacht-Club Gang
The Untouchables (1959 TV series) Maggie Storm episode: The Maggie Storm Story
Westinghouse Presents: That's Where the Town Is Going Ruby Sills
Winter Journey Georgie Elgin
Zero One (TV series) Margo episode: Return Trip
1963 Ben Casey Dr. Louise Chapelle episode: My Enemy Is a Bright Green Sparrow
Espionage (TV series) Jeanne episode: The Weakling
1971 The Homecoming: A Christmas Story Olivia Walton Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
1972 Circle of Fear Ellen Alexander episode: Time of Terror
1974 Kung Fu (TV series) Sara Kingsley episode: Blood of Dragon
Things in Their Season Peg Gerlach
1975 Eric (TV movie Lois Swensen
Little House on the Prairie (TV series) Julia Sanderson episode: Remember Me
Movin' On (TV series) Maddie episode: Prosperity #1
1976 The American Woman: Portraits of Courage Narrator
1977 Tail Gunner Joe Sen. Margaret Chase Smith Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Special
1978 A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story Mrs. Gehrig
The Bastard (TV movie) Marie Charboneau
1979 All Quiet on the Western Front (1979 film) Paul's Mother Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special
1984 Glitter (TV series) Madame Lil episode: Pilot
Love Leads the Way: A True Story (TV movie) Mrs. Frank
Shattered Vows (TV movie) Sister Carmelita
1990 Caroline? (TV movie) Miss Trollope
Murder, She Wrote Milena Maryska episode: Murder in F Sharp
1992 A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story Antonia Morgan
1993 Heidi Grandmother

Stage[edit]

Run Play Role Notes
Nov. 20, 1946 - Apr. 26, 1947 Another Part of the Forest Regina Hubbard Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Theatre World Award
Dec. 18, 1952 - May 30, 1953 The Children's Hour Martha Dobie
Oct. 17, 1955 - Dec. 31, 1955 A Roomful of Roses Nancy Fallon
Oct. 19, 1959 - Jul. 1, 1961 The Miracle Worker Kate Keller

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Actress Patricia Neal dies at age 84". NPR. August 9, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Aston-Wash, Barbara; Pickle, Betsy (August 8, 2010). "Knoxville friends mourn loss of iconic actress Patricia Neal". Knoxnews.com. Retrieved August 8, 2010. 
  3. ^ Pylant, James (2010). "Patricia Neal's Deep Roots in the Bluegrass State". GenealogyMagazine.com. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ John Shearer, Famous alumni from Knoxville High School, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 28, 2010
  5. ^ IMDb
  6. ^ Tom Goldie: "Tom Goldie's Telenews: Steel on Your Screen," The Times (Tuesday, July 7, 1959), p. 8. "Producer John Jacobs had a hard time filling the role of the husband. He wanted Ernest Borgnine, or Karl Malden, or Anthony Quinn, but none of them was available. Then he saw Persoff playing a featured role in the film, Al Capone, and promptly invited him to come over from America specially for Clash by Night.
  7. ^ "Theater honors put women in the spotlight". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  8. ^ The Healing Influence
  9. ^ Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life
  10. ^ Meyer, Jeffrey Gary Cooper: American Hero (1998)
  11. ^ Shearer, Stephen Michael. Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life, Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, 2006, p. 88
  12. ^ People's Magazin, online reprint on Roald Dahl Fan Site
  13. ^ "Celebrity Corner". Knight-Ridder. October 24, 1983. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  14. ^ Me and Miss Neal, The Globe and Mail, August 13, 2010
  15. ^ Patricia Neal at Find A Grave

External links[edit]