Oscar-Winning Actress Patricia Neal Dead at 84
By PopEater / Wire Services Posted Aug 9th 2010 06:00AM
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 once again walk and talk is regarded as epic in the annals of stroke rehabilitation. She returned to the screen to earn another Oscar nomination and three Emmy nominations.
The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center that helps people recover from strokes and spinal cord and brain injuries is named for her in Knoxville, where she grew up.
"She never forgot us after she went to Hollywood," said 85-year-old Bud Albers, who graduated with Neal from Knoxville High School in 1943, and still lives in the city. Whenever she was in town, a bunch of her friends would always get together and have dinner, Albers said. She had wanted to be there next week for a golf tournament that benefits the center, he said.
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Teresa Barbieri, Getty Images
Teresa Barbieri, Getty Images
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"She was so courageous," he said of her battling back from her illnesses and losing her 7-year-old daughter to measles in 1962. "She always fought back. She was very much an inspiration."
In her 1988 autobiography, 'As I Am,' she wrote, "Frequently my life has been likened to a Greek tragedy, and the actress in me cannot deny that comparison."
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."
In 1953, she married Roald Dahl, the British writer famed for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "James and the Giant Peach" and other tales for children. They had five children. They divorced in 1983 after she learned he was having an affair with her best friend and he died in 1990.
Even before her illnesses, her life often was touched by misfortune. Besides her daughter's death, an infant son nearly died in 1960 when his carriage was struck by a taxi.
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.
The strokes at first paralyzed her and impaired her speech. After recovering, she limped and had bad vision in one eye. A 1991 biopic about her travails starred Glenda Jackson as Neal.Her family said her dedication to the rehab center and advocacy for stroke sufferers was a great source of hope for them and their families and a "constant inspiration to our family."
Among Neal's children is Tessa Dahl, who followed in her father's footsteps as a writer. Tessa Dahl's daughter is the model and writer Sophie Dahl.
The statement from Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy Dahl and others said that the night before her death, Neal told them, "I've had a lovely time."
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