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August 16, 2010

Emmy-nominated Actress Patricia Neal Dies

The acclaimed star also won an Oscar for the 1963 film Hud.

Actress Patricia Neal, who won an Oscar for the 1963 drama Hud and earned three Primetime Emmy nominations, died August 8, 2010, at her home in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard. She was 84 and had been diagnosed with of lung cancer.

Neal achieved success at a early age — she was just 20 at the time of her first Broadway triumph in a production of Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest. She won a Tony Award for her performance. Although she worked for decades in film and television, she was especially powerful on the stage, and returned to the theater throughout her career.

Born Patty Louise Neal in Packard, Kentucky, she grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and appeared with the Tennessee Valley Players while in high school. At 18 she entered Northwestern University to study drama and was still in school when she was hired for the touring company of the play The Voice of the Turtle to understudy Vivian Vance, of I Love Lucy fame. She took over the role for two weeks on Broadway and never returned to Northwestern.

Her success in Another Part of the Forest led to Hollywood offers. She made her movie debut in John Loves Mary, opposite Ronald Reagan. Then came The Fountainhead and Bright Leaf, both with Gary Cooper, with whom she became involved in a highly public affair.

Other films at that time included The Hasty Heart and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

In 1953 she married British author Roald Dahl, who she met through playwright Lillian Hellman. She and Dahl had five children in 30 years of marriage.

Although living in England, Neal returned to New York for Broadway roles in productions such as A Roomful of Roses, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Miracle Worker.

Although she worked occasionally on television — including such productions as Spring Reunion on Goodyear Playhouse, as well as episodes of Omnibus and Playhouse 90 — ovies remained her primary focus, at the time. Notable appearances included in A Face in the Crowd, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the award-winning role of Alma the housekeeper opposite Paul Newman in Hud.

At about the same time, Neal endured the tragedy of losing her 7-year-old daughter, Olivia, to measles. In addition, her infant son Theo was in a serious auto accident that required several major operations.

In 1966, just four days into the production of the film Seven Women, Neal, who was pregnant at the time, suffered three massive strokes that left her near death. When she regained consciousness, she had lost her memory and use of the right side of her body. Despite her debilitation, she gave birth to her daughter.

With the help of her husband, she taught herself how to speak and to walk again. In 1967, she was honored with An Evening With Patricia Neal in New York. And in 1968, President Johnson gave her the Heart of the Year Award from the American Heart Assn.

Presenting the Oscar for foreign-language film at the 1968 Academy Awards, she received a standing ovation. That same year she received a second Oscar nomination for the drama The Subject Was Roses.

In the ensuing years she worked more frequently in television. Her first Primetime Emmy nomination came for the 1971 production The Homecoming, which served as a pilot for the long-running series The Waltons. She was also nominated for the 1977 production Tail Gunner Joe and the 1979 production All Quiet on the Western Front.

In 1981, Neal was the subject of a television biography, The Patricia Neal Story, which starred Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde as her and Dahl, respectively. The couple divorced in 1983.

In 1988, she published her autobiography, As I Am.

Survivors include three daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.

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