Neal saw tri­umph and tragedy in life, ca­reer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reel News -

If the ef­fec­tive 1981 TV movie The Pa­tri­cia Neal Story is to be be­lieved, that ac­tress al­most suc­cumbed to despair af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke in 1966. The drama sug­gested that her hus­band, Roald Dahl, made it his busi­ness to bully her into think­ing pos­i­tively. The tech­nique worked. Neal re­turned to the screen and picked up an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for The Sub­ject Was Roses in 1968.

Busy to the end, Neal even­tu­ally died last week at the age of 84. Though never a huge star, Neal was one of those fe­male ac­tors who, like Dorothy Malone and Glo­ria Gra­hame, added weight and in­tel­li­gence to a swathe of Hollywood clas­sics. Any­body able to wield that class of so­phis­ti­cated charisma was never likely to be out of work for long.

Born in Ken­tucky, Neal stud­ied drama be­fore mak­ing her way hope­fully to Broad­way and, then, Hollywood. Se­cur­ing roles in such or­di­nary films as John Loves Mary (op­po­site her pal, Ron­ald Rea­gan), she went on to de­velop a steady, con­sis­tent ca­reer.

It was not, how­ever, an easy life. A long af­fair with Gary Cooper re­sulted in an abor­tion. Her mar­riage to Dahl ended, fol­low­ing his af­fair with a mu­tual pal, in divorce. One of their chil­dren died of measles at the age of seven and an­other was se­verely brain-dam­aged in an ac­ci­dent.

An Os­car win­ner for Hud in 1963, Neal did, how­ever, leave be­hind a trea­sury of fine per­for­mances. Check her out in the sci-fi clas­sic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Pa­tri­cia Neal and Gary Cooper in the film of Ayn Rand’s The Foun­tain­head (1949)

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