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Oscar-Winner Patricia Neal Dies at 84 After a Tragic Life

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 9, 2010 at 4:56AM

Patricia Neal has died at her home on Martha's Vineyard, of lung cancer. She was 84. Neal started out strong as a Hollywood leading lady, a beautiful and powerful character actress in such films as The Fountainhead, co-starring her lover Gary Cooper, The Day the Earth Stood Still, A Face in the Crowd and Hud, for which she won the best actress Oscar in 1964.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Patricia Neal has died at her home on Martha's Vineyard, of lung cancer. She was 84. Neal started out strong as a Hollywood leading lady, a beautiful and powerful character actress in such films as The Fountainhead, co-starring her lover Gary Cooper, The Day the Earth Stood Still, A Face in the Crowd and Hud, for which she won the best actress Oscar in 1964.

Married to author Roald Dahl, she gave birth to five children. One was brain-damaged in a 1960 taxi accident when he was a baby, another succumbed to measles in 1962. Tessa Dahl and her daughter Sophie both became screenwriters. Neal went on to suffer three strokes in 1964 and had to relearn, badgered by her husband, how to walk and talk. She resumed her award-winning career in films and television with The Subject was Roses and The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. Dahl and Neal broke up in 1983.

A.P. quotes her as follows from her 1988 autobiography, As I Am: "Frequently my life has been likened to a Greek tragedy, and the actress in me cannot deny that comparison."

UPDATE: Michael Phillips does a nice job on what made the tall slim beauty with a husky voice a memorable actress.

This article is related to: Obit


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.