Neal saw triumph and tragedy in life, career
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)