The incomparable Patricia Neal has died at the age of 84, having survived an unhappy marriage, the deaths and injuries of some of her children, three strokes, and a number of tempestuous love affairs.
Herein is an appreciation of four of my favorite Patricia Neal films.
In the film version of the classic Ayn Rand novel, Neal played the rich, lovely, and very messed-up-in-the-head Dominic Francon, who had decided that the world was a dreary, horrible place until she meets Howard Roark, a man who compromises his principles for no one, not even her. There is a delicious, violent, and politically incorrect rape and take scene between Neal and Cooper, the most intense filmed with the actors’ clothes on. The role led to a real-life love affair between Neal and Cooper that scandalized Hollywood in the late ’40s.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Patricia Neal plays the human mom who becomes involved with an alien named Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie. Klaatu has shown up in his space ship in 1950s Washington to administer some tough love for the humans because of their propensity for violence, coupled with their recent acquisition of nuclear weapons. Neal’s character, Helen, winds up helping Klaatu evade the government authorities and winds up saving the Earth. (Note, this remains the definitive version; the modern one with Keanu Reeves is horrible.)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Neal plays Mrs. Failenson, a late-30s sugar mom to a struggling writer named Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard, who is also her boy toy. Mind, Neal’s character does not lack for looks for a mature woman, but she is quite unpleasant, so it is no wonder that Varjak turns to the kooky, dysfunctional, but delightful Holly Golightly, played by the incomparable Audrey Hepburn, for comfort.
In Harm’s Way
In Harm’s Way, an Otto Preminger melodrama about naval officers and the women who loved them in World War II, is a somewhat guilty pleasure. Neal played Lt. Maggie Haynes, a mature, no-nonsense Navy nurse who provides the love interest for none other than Admiral Rock Torre, played by John Wayne. The movie was known for its soap opera romances as much as it was for its battle scenes.
Patricia Neal also did a number of Broadway and television appearances, the latter including “The Untouchables,” “Kung Fu,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and “Murder She Wrote.”
Patricia Neal, IMDB
The Fountainhead, IMDB
Patricia Neal Attacks Gary Cooper with a Riding Crop in ‘The Fountainhead’ (Video), Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, August 9th, 2010
The Day the Earth Stood Still, IMDB
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, IMDB
In Harm’s Way, IMDB