Monday, August 09, 2010


Patricia Neal (1926-2010)

The great Patricia Neal, sidelined momentarily by what could have been a career-ending stroke but who resumed her career eventually, has died at 84. With an Oscar to her credit as well as a Tony handed out in the theater award's very first year, her lengthy career included many memorable performances that should keep her well known for a long time to come.

Neal only appeared on Broadway four times and it was her debut that won her that Tony for featured actress in a play for Another Part of the Forest which was written by Lillian Hellman and was a prequel to The Little Foxes. Neal played Regina before she married into the Giddens family. Neal later appeared in a revival of The Children's Hour and in the original production of The Miracle Worker as Helen Keller's mother Kate.

She first appeared on film in 1949 in three films: John Loves Mary, King Vidor's adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead starring Gary Cooper and The Hasty Heart, which like John Loves Mary starred Ronald Reagan.

In 1951, she appeared in the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Then, in 1957, came one of her best roles and greatest films in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd as Marcia Jeffries, who unwittingly creates a media monster out of Andy Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes.

In 1961, she played the scheming socialite giving Audrey Hepburn grief in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Two years later, she gave her Oscar-winning performance as best actress playing Alma, the sultry housekeeper sparring with that no-good Paul Newman in Hud. She was part of the large ensemble in Otto Preminger's 1965 war epic In Harm's Way. In 1968, she earned another Oscar nomination as the mother trying to keep peace in the adaptation of the play The Subject Was Roses.

Despite steady feature work, she performed frequently on episodic television from the 1950s and beyond, earning three Emmy nominations in the process, including one for the TV movie The Homecoming, which was essentially the pilot that begat The Waltons.

She suffered a series of strokes in 1965 that nearly ended her career. The one major role it cost her was Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but she came back to acting rather quickly. Her best role late in her career came courtesy of Robert Altman as the title character in Cookie's Fortune in 1999.

She was married from 1953 to 1983 and had five children with the author Roald Dahl, the writer behind works such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Witches.

R.I.P. Ms. Neal.

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