On top of the fact that she starred in two of my favorite movies, I had the memorable honor of interviewing her for an hour in 1988 live on PEOPLE ARE TALKING on WWOR.
She was one of the warmest and most transparent celebrities I’ve ever interviewed. By the end of the interview I literally loved her and I’m sure many viewers did as well. She was completely open about discussing her life including her love for Gary Cooper while he was married (“I’ve got my reasons!” she memorably purred), her battle back from stroke and her conflicted marriage to Roald Dahl (who incidentally wrote Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory among other books). She was hard on herself and not everything she described about her life was pretty or complimentary but she was obviously someone who had contemplated her years and made sense and peace with them.
A FACE IN THE CROWD is near the top of the list for my favorite movies. It is the story of a transient hobo who becomes America’s premiere talk show host. His power and influence extends into American politics and business belying the oft-repeated claim that ‘its all just entertainment’. Directed by Elia Kazan, it also stars Lee Remick in her first movie role, Walter Matthau, and Andy Griffith in a star-making bravura performance. But it is Patricia Neal who is the moral center of the film, taking the audience along on her character’s transformation from booster and lover to antagonist and destroyer. She is a media Dr. Frankenstein by the end aghast at the monster she created. Every person in the media should watch this film. It cries out for a remake in our times.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a movie that received a horrid 21st century remake so maybe I should be more cautious about what I wish for. This was one of my favorite movies as a kid and I watched it over and over on local TV. It was Neal’s recitation of the sci-fi version of ‘Open-Sesame’ that made this phrase a staple of kids raised in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s: ‘GORT! KLAATU BARADA NIKTO’. It was Patricia Neal who saved the world with those words.
I have the interview with Patricia Neal on DVD and will try to post it soon.
Don’t believe those obituaries that moan about her ‘sad life’. Surely her life was centered amidst a whirlpool of tragedies but she was a person who faced adversity with a fighter’s stamina, a mature humor, a humane compassion and a love for life.
I miss her inordinately for someone with whom I only spent an hour.
But then again, I did spend many hours in the pleasure of her company…