Thursday, April 20, 2017
PATRICIA NEAL: AN UNQUIET LIFE
This well-researched and well-written biography looks at the life and career of unusual movie star, Patricia Neal. Unusual, in that, while her career was important to her, it wasn't necessarily the end-all and be-all of her life. Neal shot to stardom with The Fountainhead, and she had a painful affair with her married leading man, Gary Cooper. Going from one extreme to another, Neal married the plug-ugly author Roald Dahl, almost as if she wanted to get as far away from a Cooper-type as she could. Neal's marriage to the arrogant and unsympathetic Dahl managed to last for thirty years, although it wasn't really a happy union, and he eventually left Neal for a younger woman. Just as big a challenge was Neal having a stroke, due to an aneurysm, when she was only in her thirties (during this difficult time, Dahl stood by her). Periodically returning to the stage, Neal became a highly respected actress even after her relatively brief period of Hollywood stardom was over. During her long career she appeared on the stage in everything from The Children's Hour revival to Another Park of the Forest, where she originated the role of the younger Regina from The Little Foxes. Neal's movies include The Day the Earth Stood Still (which the author wildly overpraises), The Breaking Point, Bright Leaf (also with Gary Cooper), Three Secrets (one of her favorite films), The Hasty Heart, and A Face in the Crowd; she won an Oscar for her performance in Hud with Paul Newman. Along the way the book goes behind the scenes of many of Neal's movies as well as her other romantic entanglements, such as with the actor Peter Cookson.
Verdict: Thorough, engaging look at the life of Patricia Neal. ***1/2.