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Also Known As: Patsy Louise Neal Died: August 8, 2010
Born: January 20, 1926 Cause of Death: Lung cancer
Birth Place: Packard, Kentucky, USA Profession: actor, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though she initially found success on Broadway, actress Patricia Neal became a Hollywood star thanks to several memorable performances, only to see her career cut short due to a series of illnesses and personal tragedies from which she never fully recovered. Neal first gained notice on the stage with her Tony-winning performance in "Another Part of the Forest" (1947), which led to her venturing out onto the silver screen. She made her presence known with an acclaimed turn in "The Fountainhead" (1949), particularly due to her highly publicized affair with co-star Gary Cooper, which allegedly resulted in a nervous breakdown a few years later. Meanwhile, she married writer Roald Dahl and continued making movies, albeit in roles ill-suited to her talents. Neal went back to triumph on Broadway, only to return to Hollywood with two of her best films, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) and "Hud" (1963), the latter of which earned her an Academy Award. But just as her film career was finally taking shape, Neal suffered a debilitating series of strokes while pregnant that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. With help and encouragement from Dahl, she made a near-full recovery and returned to work, only...

Though she initially found success on Broadway, actress Patricia Neal became a Hollywood star thanks to several memorable performances, only to see her career cut short due to a series of illnesses and personal tragedies from which she never fully recovered. Neal first gained notice on the stage with her Tony-winning performance in "Another Part of the Forest" (1947), which led to her venturing out onto the silver screen. She made her presence known with an acclaimed turn in "The Fountainhead" (1949), particularly due to her highly publicized affair with co-star Gary Cooper, which allegedly resulted in a nervous breakdown a few years later. Meanwhile, she married writer Roald Dahl and continued making movies, albeit in roles ill-suited to her talents. Neal went back to triumph on Broadway, only to return to Hollywood with two of her best films, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) and "Hud" (1963), the latter of which earned her an Academy Award. But just as her film career was finally taking shape, Neal suffered a debilitating series of strokes while pregnant that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. With help and encouragement from Dahl, she made a near-full recovery and returned to work, only to find film offers few and far between. She did have a critical triumph with "The Subject was Roses" (1968), but was consigned to just a few movies in the ensuing decades while suffering the death of her daughter from illness and the permanent brain damage of her son from an accident. Regardless of the numerous tragedies in her life, Neal remained a strong and resilient performer worthy of great respect.

Born on Jan. 20, 1926 in Packard, KY, Neal was raised in Knoxville by her father, William, who worked as a transportation manager for South Coal & Coke Co., and her mother, Eura. She first discovered her talent for performing by reciting monologues at her local church. When she was 12 years old, Neal began receiving dramatic coaching and later joined the Tennessee Valley Players. Neal left Knoxville High School before graduating in order to join the Barter Theatre in Abington, VA, where she served as an understudy and an assistant stage manager. Neal next studied at Northwestern University's drama department with Alvina Krause and joined Krause's theater company in Eagles Mere, PA, before making the trek to New York to find stardom on Broadway. In 1945, she was the understudy for Vivian Vance in John van Druten's "The Voice of the Turtle," and eventually replaced the actress for two weeks during the play's Chicago run. After being brought into the Theatre Guild by Eugene O'Neill, she was seen by Lillian Hellman, who cast the actress for the lead in "Another Part of the Forest" (1947), which earned her several major awards, including a Tony.

Soon Hollywood came calling, leading to Neal's film debut in "John Loves Mary" (1949). She then burst upon the scene in King Vidor's adaptation of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" (1949) opposite Gary Cooper. Blonde, yet dark, and grownup beyond her years, Neal captivated the older Cooper, which resulted in an affair that generated unrelenting publicity, allegedly causing her a nervous breakdown and nearly wrecking his marriage to Veronica Balfe. Making matters worse was his insistence that she have an abortion after Neal became pregnant with his child. In the next few years, neither Warner Bros. nor Fox succeeded in making her a major star, despite able performances as the nice nurse who allowed Richard Todd to curl up in her lap in "The Hasty Heart" (1949) and as the wise-cracking blonde in "The Breaking Point" (1950). Leaving Hollywood behind, she returned to New York for a Broadway revival of "The Children's Hour" (1952), followed by an off-Broadway production of "The School for Scandal" (1953). After she married writer and former Royal Air Force pilot Roald Dahl in 1953, she relocated to Great Britain and began carefully selecting her roles.

Neal continued to chose Broadway over Hollywood, appearing in "A Roomful of Roses" (1955) and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1956). But she soon opened her second and richest cinematic phase with director Elia Kazan's acid portrait of political demagoguery, "A Face in the Crowd" (1957), in which her character turned the tables on Andy Griffith's power-crazed bumpkin. Meanwhile, she made her West End debut in "Suddenly Last Summer" (1958) and returned to Broadway for a supporting role in "The Miracle Worker" (1959). Neal was in top form in a supporting role as a wealthy woman who keeps a struggling writer (George Peppard) in her clutches in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961). She followed by delivering the most powerful performance of her career in "Hud" (1963), playing the likable housekeeper assaulted by Paul Newman's cold-hearted and hard-drinking Texas rancher. She picked up several awards, including a Best Actress Oscar for her troubles, and appeared to reach the height of her profession. But after filming two more movies, "Psyche 59" (1964) and "In Harm's Way" (1965), Neal suffered a series of debilitating strokes during her fifth pregnancy that confined her to a wheelchair and interrupted her career.

With unrelenting support from husband Dahl, Neal overcame partial paralysis, severely impaired speech and memory loss in order to make a brilliant comeback in "The Subject was Roses" (1968). Though it earned her an Oscar nomination, her subsequent work remained intermittent and sadly of no great consequence. Perhaps her most notable later role was that of Olivia Walton in "The Homecoming - A Christmas Story" (CBS, 1971), the original movie pilot for the "The Waltons" (CBS, 1972-1981). Neal's courage had carried through other personal tragedies, like the death of her 13-year-old daughter Olivia from measles and the eight brain operations her son Theo required after being hit by a taxi as a baby. Meanwhile, she tried to mount a comeback by playing Richard Thomas' mother in "All Quiet on the Western Front" (CBS, 1979), only to find Hollywood unwilling to take a chance on her. She was, however, the subject of her own made-for-television movie, "The Patricia Neal Story" (CBS, 1981), in which she was portrayed by Glenda Jackson. In 1988, Neal published her memoirs, As I Am, while taking roles when she could, including as Shelley Winters' sister in "An Unremarkable Life" (1989) and the titular role in Robert Altman's "Cookie's Fortune" (1999). Ten years later, Neal made her final screen appearance opposite Billy Ray Cyrus and Heather Locklear in the made-for-cable movie, "Fly By" (Lifetime, 2009). Just a year later, on Aug. 8, 2010, Neal succumbed to lung cancer in her home of Edgartown, MA. She was 84.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Flying By (2009)
2.
 Bright Leaves (2003)
3.
 Cookie's Fortune (1999) Jewel Mae "Cookie" Orcutt
6.
 Caroline? (1990) Mrs Trollope
7.
 Unremarkable Life, An (1989) Frances Mcellany
8.
 Shattered Vows (1984) Sister Carmelita
9.
 Ghost Story (1981) Stella Hawthorne
10.
 All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) Paul'S Mother
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Joined amateur theater group The Tennessee Valley Players
1942:
Left high school; joined the Barter Theatre, Abingdon, VA, as understudy/assistant stage manager
1943:
Enrolled at Northwestern University to study drama
:
Joined Alvina Krause's theater company in Eagles Mere, PA
1945:
Left university; went to NYC; understudied Vivian Vance in John van Druten's "The Voice of the Turtle"; replaced Vance for two weeks during play's Chicago run; adopted stage name Patricia Neal
1946:
Summer try-out in "Devil Takes a Whittler" led to New York stage debut, "Another Part of the Forest", on Broadway; also toured with show; won Tony Award
1947:
Went to Holllywood; signed 7-year contract with Warner Bros.
1948:
Made feature film acting debut, "John Loves Mary," actually released after "The Fountainhead"
1951:
Dropped by Warners; inked 3-picture deal with Fox
1952:
Returned to Broadway in revival of "The Children's Hour"
1952:
Began making TV appearances
1953:
Married Roald Dahl and became based in Great Britain
1955:
Returned to Broadway in "A Roomful Of Roses"
1956:
Replaced Barbara Bel Geddes in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway
1957:
Starred opposite Andy Griffith in "A Face in the Crowd"
1959:
Appeared in "The Miracle Worker" on Broadway
1961:
Kept George Peppard as her toy-boy in Blake Edwards' "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
1962:
Delivered Oscar-winning turn as a weary housekeeper opposite Paul Newman in "Hud"
1965:
Suffered the first of a series of strokes four days into filming of John Ford's "7 Women"
1968:
Returned to features after strokes with Oscar-nominated starring role in "The Subject Was Roses"
1971:
Played Olivia Walton in "The Homecoming--A Christmas Story" (CBS)
1979:
Played Richard Thomas's mother in TV-movie remake of "All Quiet on the Western Front" (CBS)
1981:
Glenda Jackson portrayed Neal and Dirk Bogarde, Roald Dahl, in the CBS TV biopic "The Patricia Neal Story"
1988:
Published autobiography "As I Am" (written with Richard Deneut)
1989:
Portrayed Shelley Winter's sister in "An Unremarkable Life"
1993:
Performed the role of Peter's Grandmother in the Disney Channel miniseries "Heidi"
1997:
Appeared as interviewee in "Andy Griffith: Hollywood's Homespun Hero" for A&E's "Biography" series
1999:
Portrayed the octogenarian Cookie in Robert Altman's comedy "Cookie's Fortune"
2000:
Starred in the short film "For the Love of May"
2009:
Made final acting appearance opposite Billy Ray Cyrus and Heather Locklear in the drama, "Flying By"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Knoxville High School: Knoxville , Tennessee -
Park Lowry Grammar School: Knoxville , Tennessee -
Northwestern University: Evanston , Illinois - 1943 - 1945

Notes

President Johnson presented her with the Heart of the Year Award

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Gary Cooper. Actor. Became involved with each other while making "The Fountainhead" (1949).
husband:
Roald Dahl. Novelist; short story writer; screenwriter. Married 1953; divorced 1983 after Neal learned he had been having an affair with one of her best friends; died 1990.

Family close complete family listing

father:
William Burdette Neal. Transportation manager. Worked for South Coal & Coke Co.
mother:
Eura Mildred Neal.
sister:
Margaret Ann Neal. Older.
brother:
William Peter Neal.
daughter:
Olivia Dahl. Died 1962 at age 13 of measles.
daughter:
Tessa Sophia Dahl. Actor; author.
son:
Theo Mathew Roald Dahl. Hit by a cab as a baby and survived eight brain operations.
daughter:
Ophelia Magdalene Dahl.
daughter:
Lucy Neal Dahl.
granddaughter:
Sophie Dahl. Model.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"As I Am"

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