Patricia Neal (1926-2010)
On August 8, Patricia Neal passed away. She was an outstanding actress, nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one of them for Best Actress in the Paul Newman movie Hud. I first remember hearing of her when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in The Subject was Roses. She was the talk of the Oscars that year because The Subject was Roses was her first movie after a massive stroke that might have ended her career. Neal learned to walk and talk again and went on to make many more motion pictures and TV appearances.
Neal also had a lead role in the movie The Fountainhead, which co-starred Gary Cooper. But she wasn’t afraid of taking on less sympathetic parts, such as a supporting role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. She gave her all in every performance.
Science fiction fans remember Neal best from the classic 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. She said later that she had no idea it would become a classic, but there are still plenty of us around who recognize the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” when we hear it.
But as much as I like The Day the Earth Stood Still, my favorite performances by Patricia Neal were in the films In Harm’s Way, where she played a Navy nurse – and John Wayne’s love interest – and A Face in the Crowd. The latter is one of my all-time favorite movies. Some call it a melodrama; others, a dark comedy. It is an amazing look at – and send-up of – 1950s television. Maybe even today’s television. Patricia Neal and Andy Griffith give some of their best performances. It’s definitely worth checking out.