Actress Patricia Neal succumbed to lung cancer this morning at her home on Martha’s Vineyard. She was 84.
After growing up in Tennessee, Ms. Neal took Broadway by storm after Eugene O’Neill saw her performance in a summer theater festival in Westport, Conn. After swiftly winning a Tony before she was even 21, Hollywood came calling, and Ms. Neal displayed her immense talents in films such as Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and Otto Preminger’s “In Harm’s Way.” She won an Oscar for her role opposite Paul Newman in the anti-Western “Hud,” often considered among the greatest female screen performances of all time.
Ms. Neal had a tumultuous 30-year marriage with famed British children’s author Roald Dahl; the death of her first child and the accident that brain-damaged her infant son left the couple severely shaken and strained. Still, it was Dahl who saved her life when a year after winning her Oscar, Ms. Neal collapsed in their Beverly Hills home. She had suffered three consecutive strokes. Dahl recognized the symptoms and got her the necessary help from a neurosurgeon in time to keep her alive. She was semiparalyzed and unable to speak following the strokes, but with the help of her husband, learned to walk and talk again. She still had difficulties memorizing and delivering lines, essentially cutting short her career, but she remains one of the great acting talents of the 20th century.