The first time I ever saw Patricia Neal was in the Waltons Christmas movie “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” (1973). In the Waltons pilot, she wasn’t glamorous and was a mother of seven children and living on a farm during the depression.
Many people remember Neal as being sexy in her own way but never glamorous. Paul Newman wanted her in “Hud” and George Prepard used her in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but many forget her early days as a studio actor.
She was groomed as a Warner Brother’s glamour girl and was dubbed the “next Garbo” by Jack L. Warner, according to Stephen Michael Shearer’s book “Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life.”
Her first role was a romantic, screw-ball comedy with Ronald Reagan, “John Loves Mary” (1949). It was a role that was more suited for Jane Wyman or Eleanor Parker and Neal looked uncomfortable in the role. Neal was a stage actress who entered the studio scene after World War II. She was too late for that type of role, because they were on their way out.
“Her way with a gag line is painful,”said Bosley Crowther, New York Times critic from 1940 to 1967, about “John Loves Mary“.
After her role in “The Fountainhead” (1949) and several other mediocre films, Neal’s Hollywood career waned and Warner Brothers did not want to renew her contract, according to her New York Times obituary. She went back to acting in plays, but came back with a bang in “A Face in the Crowd” (1957).
Like Dennis Hopper, I like to remember Miss Neal in her glamour days at Warner Brothers, no matter how bad her films were. (I will say I didn’t mind the “Washington Story” but maybe that is because Van Johnson was in it). I suppose, I like to remember her from that time, because it is often forgotten and I simply like the 1940s and 1950s better than the 1960s.
I think it’s important to explore the early part of a great actor’s career, because it is amazing to see where they ended up.
Farewell, Patricia. You were a great actress and will be missed.
Did you know?
-Patricia Neal and writer Roald Dahl were married from 1950 to 1983.
-She suffered from a stroke in the 1960s while she was pregnant and was only 39 and had to learn how to walk again.
-She is the mother of 5 children.
-She and Gary Cooper had a torrid affair during the filming of “Fountainhead.”
-She was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate” but turned it down due to her stroke.
Source: IMDB and New York Times
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