Sunday, August 08, 2010

RIP Patricia Neal

For my masters in journalism, which seemed so useful back in 1988, we had to come up with a saleable magazine concept. We found one, alas an unglamorous concept, caregiving. The good news was that our cover subject was the great actress and fellow Northwestern alum Patricia Neal, who with her then-husband Roald Dahl by her side battled back from debilitating strokes in the mid-60s, regaining her life and career. I didn't interview her, but the word was that she was as kind and generous as she was always said to be.

Also, in her professional life, a good judge of scripts--so flinty yet so touching in her Oscar winner, 1963's Hud. Caught up in the craziness of The Fountainhead (1949) with her lover, Gary Cooper, as Hollywood beckoned following a Tony award for Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest. Anchoring The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) with her good common sense. Managing Andy Griffith to shallow stardom in A Face in the Crowd (1957). Stylish and controlling in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Wistful and unfulfilled in The Subject Was Roses, for which she received a second Oscar nomination as she returned to the screen in 1968.

Others: The fine, Burma-set play adaptation The Hasty Heart (1949), with the late Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan, Otto Preminger's In Harm's Way (1965), a good match for John Wayne; the Dahl-written The Night Digger (1971), no doubt feeling youthful opposite Fred Astaire and John Houseman in 1981's Ghost Story, Cookie in Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune (1999). Glenda Jackson played her in the good 1981 TV movie The Patricia Neal Story, opposite Dirk Bogarde as Dahl, filmed not long before their 30-year marriage dissolved.

I always loved her (that voice!). In that I was hardly alone. A talent and an inspiration.

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