Patricia Neal, the Oscar- and Tony-winning actress who overcame three strokes to continue her career, has died. She was 84.
Neal died Sunday in her home in Edgartown, Mass., after a battle with lung cancer, her family said in a statement.
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"She faced her final illness as she had all of the many trials she endured: with indomitable grace, good humor and a great deal of her self-described stubbornness," the statement read.In 1965 — a year after winning a best-actress Oscar for her tough housekeeper Alma who stood up to Paul Newman
's brash cowboy in Hud
— Neal suffered a series of strokes at age 39 that left her semi-paralyzed and unable to speak. She learned to walk and talk again before returning to the screen in 1968's The Subject Was Roses
, for which she earned another Oscar nomination.In Knoxville, Tenn., where she grew up, a rehabilitation center that helps people recover from strokes as well as spinal cord and brain injuries is named for her.A Kentucky native, Neal first made her name on Broadway after winning the first featured-actress-in-a-play Tony in 1947 for her work in Another Part of the Forest
. Two years later, she made her film debut in John Loves Mary
and starred in film version of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead
, opposite Gary Cooper
, with whom she had an affair. The affair ended in 1950 when Cooper, who was 25 years her senior, refused to leave his wife and his daughter. Neal also underwent an abortion while with Cooper. "I've wept and wept over that," she told People
in 1988. "That abortion is my greatest regret, but I wasn't as gutsy as Ingrid Bergman [who gave birth out of wedlock to Italian film director Roberto Rossellini's son]. That I, this little Southern girl, should have had the guts to do that ... nevah, nevah."Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Neal starred in The Day the Earth Stood Still
, The Breaking Point
, A Face in the Crowd
, Breakfast at Tiffany's
and In Harm's Way
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Neal was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate
, which came out in 1967, but turned it down as she was still recovering from her strokes.Following her triumphant return, Neal turned to television, receiving the first of her three Emmy nominations for The Homecoming: A Christmas Story
, the 1971 TV movie that served as the pilot for The Waltons
.In 1953, Neal married author Roald Dahl
, who wrote James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda
and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
They had five children, one of whom — daughter Olivia — died in 1962 at the age 7 of measles encephalitis. Their infant son, Theo, also suffered brain damage in 1957 when a taxi struck his stroller.Neal and Dahl, who died in 1990, divorced in 1983 after he had an affair with her best friend."You can't give up," Neal said in a 1999 interview. "You sure want to, sometimes."Neal is survived by her three daughters, Ophelia, writer Tessa Dahl (whose daughter is model Sophie Dahl), screenwriter Lucy Dahl, and son Theo.