Monday, August 30, 2010

a survivor worth remembering.

before august comes to a close,
i just must honor the late, great
oscar- & tony-winning actress,
patricia neal.

the husky-voiced, southern-drawled beauty
was born patsy louise neal
in packard, ky, to a coal mine manager &
the daughter of the town doctor.

patsy grew up in knoxville, tn,
where she discovered acting at the age of ten,
watching an impassioned speech about
"demon rum" at a local temperance union contest.
patsy subsequently wrote a note to santa claus
which read, "what i want for christmas
is to study dramatics."

drama she wanted, & drama she got.
& not just on stage & screen.

the producer of patsy's first big broadway break
insisted the patrician-looking new actress call herself patricia.

at 20, patricia neal won a tony award at the first
tony awards ceremony & was a cover girl for life magazine.

at 23, she fell deeply in love with
48yo married-with-daughter gary cooper.
they carried on a torrid but tormented three-year affair,
during which patricia became pregnant & had an abortion.

she later called it the greatest regret of her life.

gary cooper stayed with his family.
patricia neal left to create her own family.

in 1953, neal married british author roald dahl,
even though she didn't love him at the time.
together, the couple had five children &
thirty years of troubled marriage.

in 1960, their third child, theo,
four months at the time,
was severely brain-damaged
when his pram was crushed between a nyc taxi & a bus.

in 1962, their oldest child, olivia,
seven years at the time,
died of measles encephalitis.

in 1964, neal won the best actress oscar
for her performance in "hud."

in 1965, neal was 39 & three months pregnant
when she suffered three strokes
that left her in a coma for three weeks.
when she awoke, she was speechless & semiparalyzed.

her husband basically badgered neal into
learning to walk & talk again.
six months later, she gave birth to a healthy daughter.

but she lived the rest of her life with a limp,
bad vision in one eye & a terrible time memorizing lines.

nevertheless, within three years,
neal was once again nominated for an academy award
for "the subject was roses."

she went on to earn three emmy nominations, as well,
including one for originating the role of olivia walton
in "the homecoming:a christmas story,"
the pilot for the cbs tv series, "the waltons."

& she spent the rest of her life
raising funds for brain-injured children & adults,
establishing the patricia neal rehabilitation center
in her hometown of knoxville.

in 1983, neal discovered that dahl,
a chronic philanderer, had been having
a longtime affair with her best friend.
neal divorced him.
dahl married the "friend" & died seven years later.

twenty years later, patricia neal passed,
on august 8th in her martha's vineyard home,
succumbing to lung cancer at the age of 84.

her family was with her, & noted "her
indomitable grace, good humor &
self-described stubbornness" to the final curtain.

she is survived by her children tessa, theo, ophelia & lucy;
her brother, pete & sister, margaret;
ten grandchildren & one great-grandchild.

"a strong positive attitude," neal once said,
"will create more miracles than any wonder drug."

apparently, ms. neal. apparently.

image source: art, movies, wood & whatnot

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