In Memoriam: Patricia Neal
Jan. 20, 1926-Aug. 8, 2010
By Beatrice Williams-Rude
The world lost a dazzling star with the death on Sunday of valiant Patricia Neal. She was 84.
An acclaimed and multi-award winning actress who was not only a splendid performer, but a sterling human being who faced life’s challenges and tragedies with courage and dignity.
Her Broadway stage career began in the mid-’40s first as an understudy in “Voice of the Turtle” and then in Lillian Hellman’s “Another Part of the Forest,” for which she won a Tony, the first year they were given. Later it would be Miss Hellman who introduced her to the man who would become her husband, Roald Dahl.
Her film career began in 1949 with “John Loves Mary.” That same year she made “The Fountainhead” opposite Gary Cooper, which would change the course of her life. Her five-year affair with Gary Cooper, which could not be consummated in marriage because of the Catholicism of the three principals, Pat Neal, Gary Cooper and Cooper’s wife, ended in tragedy. She had an abortion followed by a nervous breakdown.
But with great determination and courage, she got on with her life and in time Mrs. Cooper reconciled with her and daughter Maria Cooper Janis, who’d publicly spat on her because of the affair with her father, became a close friend.
Patricia Neal suffered several strokes and fought her way back relearning to speak and walk. She established a rehabilitation center in her home state of Tennessee.
Her tragedies are legion including the death of one child and severe injury of another. She and Roald Dahl had five children. She then coped with the dissolution of their 30-year marriage.
Throughout her nearly 60-year career her work was consistently brilliant and her personal conduct dignified and above reproach.
Patricia Neal, who bloomed on Broadway, has something close to 100 film and TV credits. She was working until nearly the end.
Patricia Neal has died in her home in Martha’s Vineyard
By Ward Morehouse III
Legendary Oscar-winning movie and Tony Award-winning Broadway star Patricia Neal — who reportedly was in a coma 21 days in 1965 after a stroke and was even mistakenly reported to have died but went on to make a remarkable recovery — died Sunday, August 8, Broadwayafterdark.com has learned.
“Pat died in her home in Martha’s Vineyard today,” close personal friend and Broadway actor Joel Vig told Broadwayafterdark.com. “It is a very sad day.”
Broadway theaters are expected to dim or douse their lights in honor of the stage and screen legend on Monday or Tuesday nights.
Born Patsy Louis Neal on January 20, 1926, Neal’s first job on Broadway as an understudy in the production of “The Voice of the Turtle.” That play had originally starred the late Margaret Sullivan, Phyllis Cone and several others in its long run.
Neal won an Oscar in the blockbuster movie “Hud” opposite Paul Newman.
She starred in “The Fountainhead” opposite the married Gary Cooper with whom she had a five-year love affair.
“I loved Gary. I shouldn’t have but I did,” Neal told Broadwayafterdark.com in an interview.
Maria Cooper Janis, who once reportedly spit at Neal for having an affair with her father went on to become a close personal friend of the actress who is remembered by most all in and out of the entertainment community and being a supremely gracious and loving human being.