Patricia Neal dies at 84

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So long, Dominique. And after brilliantly inhabiting many other challenging, powerful roles.

From the Associated Press:

Patricia Neal, the willowy, husky-voiced actress who won an Academy Award for 1963's "Hud" and then survived several strokes to continue acting, died on Sunday. She was 84.

Neal had lung cancer and died at her home in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard, said longtime friend Bud Albers of Knoxville [Tennessee].

Neal was already an award-winning Broadway actress when she won her Oscar for her role as a housekeeper to the Texas father (Melvyn Douglas) battling his selfish, amoral son (Paul Newman).

Less than two years later, she suffered a series of strokes in 1965 at age 39. Her struggle to regain walking and talking is regarded as epic in the annals of stroke rehabilitation. She returned to the screen to earn another Oscar nomination and three Emmy nominations. [...]

Neal projected force that almost crackled on the screen. Her forte was drama, but she had a light touch that enabled her to do comedy, too.

She had the female leads in the 1949 film version of Ayn Rand's novel "The Fountainhead," the classic 1951 science fiction film "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and Elia Kazan's 1957 drama "A Face in the Crowd."

She made a grand return to the screen after her strokes in 1968, winning an Oscar nomination for her performance in "The Subject Was Roses."

In 1971, she played Olivia Walton in "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story," a made-for-TV film that served as the pilot for the CBS series "The Waltons." It brought her the first of her three Emmy nominations.

"You can't give up," she said in a 1999 Associated Press interview. "You sure want to, sometimes." [...]

Neal also suffered a nervous breakdown, and had an ill-fated affair with Gary Cooper, who starred with her in "The Fountainhead."

"I lived this secret life for several years. I was so ashamed," she told The New York Times in 1964. [...]

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My husband's brother-in-law has long owned a house which is on the curve of the cove across from Chappaquiddick. One can see across the curve to the shore-front area of Edgartown. It's about 15 minutes' walk from Dwight's house to the center of Edgartown. Pat Neal's house is about 10 minutes along the walk on the left. The last time I saw her was in 2005. She was outside, supervising some repair work on the house. I heard her before I saw her, that distinctive voice, so unmistakable.

She knew Larry's sister, who had worked in theater. One time when we were visiting Lynne and Dwight, in 1995, they invited Pat Neal and her son and his girlfriend to dinner with us. We both found her enchanting. She didn't remember much about Ayn Rand, just that she'd met her a couple times on the set -- she had a lot of gaps of memory still remaining from the strokes.

She had better recall for the filming of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." She told us that doing the scene where she says, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!," she couldn't get it right for take after take because she kept breaking down giggling, and Michael Rennie got pissed with her and asked her if she was going to do a movie or giggle like a schoolgirl, which finally worked to snap her into serious mode. No sign of giggles in the movie.

She was a heroic person, I think, the way she struggled to go on and recuperate from the strokes, also the way she dealt with various other lifetime hardships.

Something I was surprised to learn about her was that she came originally from a poor mining town (in Pennsylvania?). I'd always thought she was upper-crust Ivy League with the cultured speech (her diction was excellent, along with her having that distinctive tone-quality of her voice). She worked hard to acquire her polished style.

Slightly teary-eyed (I only met her a few times, but I did like her a lot).

Farewell, Pat Neal.


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She had a lot of trouble and struggle, but she was a courageous person. She overcame.

R.I.P. It was a long run for her, but not the happiest run.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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A friend of mine ran into her in a waiting room a couple of years ago. She was surprised that he recognized her and surprised, given his age, that he knew of the Fountainhead. Once it was mentioned, she became quite animated, and took great pleasure in showing him the ring which Gary Cooper had given her, which she still wore on a chain around her neck. She was lucid, active and happy.

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I wish I could have met her. I did meet Jennifer Jones in Vietnam in 1967 when she came by our A-Team in Moc Hoa, but that was before I knew she had been in an Ayn Rand film. (Martha Raye performed for us at the C-Team in Can Tho. She loved SF and we loved her.)


Edited by Brant Gaede
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