Patricia Neal

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Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal - 1952.jpg
Publicity photo from 1952
BornPatsy Louise Neal
(1926-01-20)January 20, 1926
Packard, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedAugust 8, 2010(2010-08-08) (aged 84)
Edgartown, Massachusetts, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung Cancer
Resting place
Abbey of Regina Laudis
ResidenceEdgartown, Massachusetts
EducationKnoxville High School
Alma materNorthwestern University
Years active1949–2009
Home townKnoxville, Tennessee
Spouse(s)Roald Dahl (1953–1983; divorced)
ChildrenOlivia Twenty (1955–1962)
Chantal Tessa Sophia (b. 1957)
Theo Matthew (b. 1960)
Ophelia Magdalena (b. 1964)
Lucy Neal (b. 1965)
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This article is about the actress. For the actress, comedienne, and writer of the same birth name, see Fannie Flagg.
Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal - 1952.jpg
Publicity photo from 1952
BornPatsy Louise Neal
(1926-01-20)January 20, 1926
Packard, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedAugust 8, 2010(2010-08-08) (aged 84)
Edgartown, Massachusetts, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung Cancer
Resting place
Abbey of Regina Laudis
ResidenceEdgartown, Massachusetts
EducationKnoxville High School
Alma materNorthwestern University
Years active1949–2009
Home townKnoxville, Tennessee
Spouse(s)Roald Dahl (1953–1983; divorced)
ChildrenOlivia Twenty (1955–1962)
Chantal Tessa Sophia (b. 1957)
Theo Matthew (b. 1960)
Ophelia Magdalena (b. 1964)
Lucy Neal (b. 1965)

Patricia Neal (January 20, 1926 – August 8, 2010) was an American actress of stage and screen. She was best known for her film roles as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), wealthy matron Emily Eustace Failenson in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and middle-aged housekeeper Alma Brown in Hud (1963), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also played Olivia Walton in the 1971 made-for-television film The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, a role played in the regular series by actress Michael Learned.

Early life[edit]

Neal was born Patsy Louise Neal, in Packard, Whitley County, Kentucky, to William Burdette and Eura Petrey Neal.[1][2] She grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she attended Knoxville High School,[3] and studied drama at Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she was crowned Syllabus Queen in a campus-wide beauty pageant. In addition, she studied with acting professor Alvina Krause, which set her up for her future career.


Neal got her first job in New York as an understudy in the Broadway production of the John Van Druten play The Voice of the Turtle. Next she appeared in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest (1946), winning the 1947 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, in the first presentation of the Tony awards.[1]

John Wayne and Patricia Neal in Operation Pacific (1950)

In 1949, Neal made her film debut in John Loves Mary. That year, Ronald Reagan was her co-star in The Hasty Heart. Her appearance the same year in The Fountainhead coincided with an affair with her married co-star, Gary Cooper.

By 1952, Neal had starred with John Garfield in The Breaking Point, The Day the Earth Stood Still with Michael Rennie and Operation Pacific, starring John Wayne. She suffered a nervous breakdown around this time, following the end of her relationship with Cooper, and left Hollywood for New York, returning to Broadway in 1952 for a revival of The Children's Hour. In 1955, she starred in Edith Sommer's A Roomful of Roses, staged by Guthrie McClintic.

While in New York, Neal became a member of the Actors Studio. Based on connections with other members, she subsequently appeared in the film A Face in the Crowd (1957, directed by Elia Kazan), the play The Miracle Worker (1959, directed by Arthur Penn), the film Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, co-starring George Peppard), and the film Hud (1963), directed by Martin Ritt and starring Paul Newman. During the same period, she appeared on television in a 1960 episode of Play of the Week, featuring an Actors Studio-dominated cast in a double bill of plays by August Strindberg,[4] and in a British production, aired in 1959, of Clifford Odets' Clash by Night, which co-starred one of the first generation of Actors Studio members, Nehemiah Persoff.[5]

Neal (r) with Andy Griffith and Lee Remick on the set of A Face in the Crowd (1957)

In 1963, Neal won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Hud,[6] co-starring with Paul Newman. When the film was initially released it was predicted she would be a nominee in the supporting actress category, but when she began collecting awards, they were always for Best Actress, from the New York Film Critics, the National Board of Review and a BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Neal was reunited with John Wayne in Otto Preminger's In Harm's Way (1965), winning her second BAFTA Award. Her next film was The Subject Was Roses (1968), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She starred as Olivia Walton in the television movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971), which was a Hallmark television holiday special that inspired the long-running television series The Waltons; she won a Golden Globe for her performance. In a 1999 interview with the Archive of American Television, Waltons creator Earl Hamner said he and producers were unsure if Neal's health would allow her to commit to the grind of the weekly television series, so they cast Michael Learned in the role. Neal played a dying widowed mother trying to find a home for her three children in a 1975 episode of NBC's Little House on the Prairie.

She was a subject of the UK TV show This Is Your Life in 1978 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at a cocktail party on London's Park Lane.

Neal played the title role in Robert Altman's 1999 movie Cookie's Fortune.

In 2003, Neal was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[7]

In 2007, Neal worked on Silvana Vienne's movie Beyond Baklava: The Fairy Tale Story of Sylvia's Baklava, appearing as herself in the portions of the documentary talking about alternative ways to end violence in the world. Also in 2007, Neal received one of two annually-presented Lifetime Achievement Awards at the SunDeis Film Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts. (Academy Award nominee Roy Scheider was the recipient of the other.)

Having won a Tony Award in their inaugural year (1947) and eventually becoming the last surviving winner from that first ceremony, Neal often appeared as a presenter in later years. Her original Tony was lost, so she was given a surprise replacement by Bill Irwin when they were about to present the 2006 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play to Cynthia Nixon. In April 2009, Neal received a lifetime achievement award from WorldFest Houston on the occasion of the debut of her film, Flying By. Neal was a long-term actress with Philip Langner's Theatre at Sea/Sail With the Stars productions with the Theatre Guild. In her final years she appeared in a number of health-care videos.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Patricia Neal at the Tribeca Film Festival (2007)

During the filming of The Fountainhead (1949), Neal began an affair with her married co-star, Gary Cooper, whom she had met in 1947 when she was 21 and he was 46.[9] At one point in their relationship, Cooper slapped Neal in the face after he caught Kirk Douglas trying to seduce her.[10] A few months later, Neal hoped that tempers would cool while she went to London, England, to film The Hasty Heart, starring Ronald Reagan. Reagan was unhappy over his breakup with Jane Wyman, adding to what would be a depressing shoot for Neal.

Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl, photo by Carl Van Vechten (1954)

Neal met British writer Roald Dahl at a dinner party hosted by Lillian Hellman in 1951. They married on July 2, 1953, at Trinity Church in New York. The marriage produced five children:[1] Olivia Twenty (April 20, 1955 – November 17, 1962); Chantal Tessa Sophia (b. 1957); Theo Matthew (b. 1960); Ophelia Magdalena (b. 1964); and Lucy Neal (b. 1965). Her granddaughter is author, television presenter and model Sophie Dahl.

In the early 1960s, the couple suffered through grievous injury to one child and the death of another. On December 5, 1960, their son Theo, four months old, suffered brain damage when his baby carriage was struck by a taxicab in New York City. On November 17, 1962, their daughter, Olivia, died at age 7 from measles encephalitis.[11]

While pregnant in 1965, Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms, and was in a coma for three weeks. Dahl directed her rehabilitation and she subsequently relearned to walk and talk ("I think I'm just stubborn, that's all"). On August 4, 1965, she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Lucy.

Neal and Dahl's turbulent marriage ended in divorce in 1983 after Dahl's affair with Neal's friend, Felicity Crosland (Dahl married Crosland that same year).[12] In 1981, Glenda Jackson played her in a television movie, The Patricia Neal Story which co-starred Dirk Bogarde as Neal's husband Dahl. Neal's autobiography, As I Am, was published in 1988. In later years, Neal became a Catholic.[13]


In 1978, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville dedicated the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in her honor. The center provides intense treatment for stroke, spinal cord, and brain injury patients. It serves as part of Neal's advocacy for paralysis victims. She regularly visited the center in Knoxville, providing encouragement to its patients and staff. Neal appeared as the center's spokeswoman in advertisements until her death.


Neal died at her home in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, August 8, 2010, of lung cancer at age 84.[14] She had converted to Catholicism four months before her death and was buried in the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut,[15] where her friend the early 1960s actress Dolores Hart had become a nun and ultimately prioress. Neal had been a longtime supporter of the abbey's open air theatre and arts program.



1949John Loves MaryMary McKinley
The FountainheadDominique Francon
It's a Great FeelingHerselfcameo
The Hasty HeartSister Parker
1950Bright LeafMargaret Jane Singleton
The Breaking PointLeona Charles
Three SecretsPhyllis Horn
1951Operation PacificLt. (j.g.) Mary Stuart
Raton PassAnn Challon
The Day the Earth Stood StillHelen Benson
Weekend With FatherJean Bowen
1952Diplomatic CourierJoan Ross
Washington StoryAlice Kingsley
Something for the BirdsAnne Richards
1954Stranger from VenusSusan North
1957A Face in the CrowdMarcia Jeffries
1961Breakfast at Tiffany's2-E (Mrs. Failenson)
1963HudAlma BrownAcademy Award for Best Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Laurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1964Psyche 59Alison Crawford
1965In Harm's WayLt. Maggie HaynesBAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1968The Subject Was RosesNettie ClearyLaurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance (3rd place)
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1971The Night DiggerMaura Prince
1973Baxter!Dr. Roberta Clemm
Happy Mother's Day, Love GeorgeCaraalso starring Tessa Dahl
1977Nido de ViudasLupeUS title: Widow's Nest
1979The PassageMrs. Bergson
All Quiet on the Western FrontPaul's Mother
1981Ghost StoryStella Hawthorne
1989An Unremarkable LifeFrances McEllany
1999Cookie's FortuneJewel Mae 'Cookie' OrcuttNominated-Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress
2009Flying ByMargie


1954Goodyear Playhouseepisode: Spring Reunion
1958Suspicion (TV series)Paula Elginepisode: Someone Is After Me
1957-1958Playhouse 90Rena Menken
episode: The Gentleman from Seventh Avenue
episode: The Playroom
1954-1958Studio One in HollywoodCaroline Mann
Miriam Leslie
episode: Tide of Corruption
episode: A Handful of Diamonds
1958Pursuit (TV series)Mrs. Conradepisode: The Silent Night
1959Rendezvous (TV series)Kate Merlinepisode: London-New York
Clash by NightMia Wilenski
1960The Play of the WeekMistress
Grace Wilson
episode: Strindberg on Love
episode: The Magic and the Loss
1961Special for Women: Mother and DaughterRuth Evans
1962Drama 61-67Beebee Fenstermakerepisode: Drama '62: The Days and Nights of Beebee
Checkmate (TV series)Fran Davisepisode: The Yacht-Club Gang
The Untouchables (1959 TV series)Maggie Stormepisode: The Maggie Storm Story
Westinghouse Presents: That's Where the Town Is GoingRuby Sills
Winter JourneyGeorgie Elgin
Zero One (TV series)Margoepisode: Return Trip
1963Ben CaseyDr. Louise Chapelleepisode: My Enemy Is a Bright Green Sparrow
Espionage (TV series)Jeanneepisode: The Weakling
1971The Homecoming: A Christmas StoryOlivia WaltonGolden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
1972Circle of FearEllen Alexanderepisode: Time of Terror
1974Kung Fu (TV series)Sara Kingsleyepisode: Blood of Dragon
Things in Their SeasonPeg Gerlach
1975Eric (TV movie)Lois Swensen
Little House on the Prairie (TV series)Julia Sandersonepisode: Remember Me
Movin' On (TV series)Maddieepisode: Prosperity #1
1976The American Woman: Portraits of CourageNarrator
1977Tail Gunner JoeSen. Margaret Chase SmithNominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Special
1978A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig StoryMrs. Gehrig
The Bastard (TV movie)Marie Charboneau
1979All Quiet on the Western Front (1979 film)Paul's MotherNominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special
1984Glitter (TV series)Madame Lilepisode: Pilot
Love Leads the Way: A True Story (TV movie)Mrs. Frank
Shattered Vows (TV movie)Sister Carmelita
1990Caroline? (TV movie)Miss Trollope
Murder, She WroteMilena Maryskaepisode: Murder in F Sharp
1992A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan StoryAntonia Morgan


Nov. 20, 1946 - Apr. 26, 1947Another Part of the ForestRegina HubbardTony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Theatre World Award
Dec. 18, 1952 - May 30, 1953The Children's HourMartha Dobie
Oct. 17, 1955 - Dec. 31, 1955A Roomful of RosesNancy Fallon
Oct. 19, 1959 - Jul. 1, 1961The Miracle WorkerKate Keller


Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Aston-Wash, Barbara; Pickle, Betsy (August 8, 2010). "Knoxville friends mourn loss of iconic actress Patricia Neal". Retrieved August 8, 2010. 
  2. ^ Pylant, James (2010). "Patricia Neal's Deep Roots in the Bluegrass State". Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ John Shearer, Famous alumni from Knoxville High School, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 28, 2010
  4. ^ IMDb
  5. ^ Tom Goldie: "Tom Goldie's Telenews: Steel on Your Screen," The Times (Tuesday, July 7, 1959), p. 8. "Producer John Jacobs had a hard time filling the role of the husband. He wanted Ernest Borgnine, or Karl Malden, or Anthony Quinn, but none of them was available. Then he saw Persoff playing a featured role in the film, Al Capone, and promptly invited him to come over from America specially for Clash by Night.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Adam (August 10, 2010). "Patricia Neal dies: Oscar winning star of 'Hud' was 84". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Theater honors put women in the spotlight". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  8. ^ The Healing Influence
  9. ^ Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life
  10. ^ Meyer, Jeffrey Gary Cooper: American Hero (1998)
  11. ^ People's Magazin, online reprint on Roald Dahl Fan Site
  12. ^ "Celebrity Corner". Knight-Ridder. October 24, 1983. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  13. ^ Me and Miss Neal, The Globe and Mail, August 13, 2010
  14. ^ "Actress Patricia Neal dies at age 84". NPR. August 9, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  15. ^ Patricia Neal at Find A Grave

External links[edit]