Patricia Neal: a Profile in Courage

Patricia Neal: a Profile in Courage

A Story by David Kent

An Actress Triumphs Over Tragedy

By James Cotter  

As a child, Patsy Louise Neal wanted to be an actress. She would organize neighborhood performances on the front porch of her family's home in Knoxville, Tennessee. She later began


studying drama at Northwestern University, but left school later in the year (1943) and went to New York with $300 in her pocket, eventually landing the role of understudy to both lead roles in a stage presentation of The Voice of the Turtle. On the advice of the show's producer she changed her name to Patricia.

After winning awards for her theater work, Neal began to appear in films, the first few of which did not achieve critical success. That changed in 1950, when she starred with Ronald Reagan in The Hasty Heart.

After an ill-fated relationship with Gary Cooper, she returned to the stage in Lillian Hellman's drama The Children's Hour. Introduced to English author Roald Dahl during rehearsals, she married him in 1953 (they divorced thirty years later), and the union eventually produced five children.

Neal continued her stage work through the 1950s and continued to make films, including The Breaking Point, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Operation Pacific. She continued to appear in movies (and plays) into the Sixties, playing a supporting role in Breakfast at Tiffany's and co-starring with Paul Newman in Hud, for which she won an Academy Award, the New York Film Critics Award, and a British cinematic award for "best foreign actress." She later appeared in In Harm's Way. In 1965, during the filming of Seven Women, tragedy struck.

In fact a series of tragedies in the Sixties slowed her career-- but did not stop it. In 1961 her infant son Theo's carriage was hit by a taxi, causing severe brain damage to the child and requiring extensive therapy. Neal's oldest child, Olivia, contracted measles encephalitis in 1962 and died at the age of seven.

Then, in February of 1965, when she was 39, Neal suffered a series of three strokes. A banner headline in Variety announced that she had died. She had not, although she was in a coma for 21 days. When 

she came out of it, she was semi-paralyzed and her speech was severely affected. In short, Neal had to relearn how to walk and talk. (Three months pregnant at the time of the strokes, she later gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Lucy.) Dahl took charge of her rehabilitation, and in time she not only recovered from her affliction, but went back to making films. In fact, she was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but was insecure about taking on such a challenging role so soon after the strokes.

She later received an Academy Award for the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses, and appeared in TV movies, winning Emmy nominations for The Homecoming (from which the television series The Waltons was launched), The Lou Gehrig Story, and All's Quiet On the Western Front.

The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center opened in Knoxville in 1978, assisting patients in rehabilitation from stroke, spinal cord and brain injuries. Neal has been a committed champion of the center and those for whom it provides.

Her efforts in this cause, and the courage she inspires, may be her finest role to date.

This article brought to you By BreadStreet Investors' Union at

"Bringing Investors and Entrepreneurs Together for Profit"


© 2009 David Kent

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


sounds like gibberish

Posted 15 Years Ago

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


1 Review
Added on March 12, 2009
Last Updated on March 13, 2009


David Kent
David Kent

Las Vegas, NV

With 5 years in the business, and close to 10,000 Private Investors & lending Firms. Breadstreet seeks to bring small business back into the forefront of free living. We just seek to have fun,.. more..