“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.” – Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal, a screen legend and truly one of my favorite actresses left our world yesterday.
I first became aware of this amazing actress when I was a very young child in 1971 when the series pilot for The Waltons was presented as a television movie entitled The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. She played the role of Olivia in the film. I remember watching television with my family that night and, even though I was only 7 years old, being enraptured by her acting.
It was the very first time in my life that I had witnessed, or realized in my young mind, what great acting was. I knew that she wasn’t really the mother, and I knew, with a child’s logic, what an actor was ; but it wasn’t until that evening that it all clicked together. My mother, who was also watching the program with us, informed us that Patricia Neal was also one of her favorite actresses and that she had had quite the career in Hollywood as well as a number of unusual tragedies including debilitating strokes, the death of one child from measles, and the horror of having another child suffer severe brain trauma due to an pedestrian street accident involving a NYC taxi and a bus.
Later, as a teen and young adult, I took every opportunity to watch her films when the chance arose. Her performances were mesmerizing in such renown films as The Fountainhead, the sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, A Face In The Crowd, Hud (for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress), The Subject Was Roses, Cookie’s Fortune and much more. Today, as a middle-aged adult and someone with a seasoned understanding of exactly how demanding it is to deliver such quality work, I savor each performance when viewed. Patricia Neal made it look easy, but truth be told, it most certainly arose from a life dedicated to the perfection of her art and access to the never ending wellspring of pure talent that ran through her veins.
The actress, a native Kentuckian, has left a legacy of outstanding cinematic performance that inspires, enlightens, mesmerizes, and enriches the genre of American film.
Patsy Louise Neal
January 20, 1926 - August 8, 2010