Another Hollywood person died this weekend. But this one was special. At least to me.
Patricia Neal had a fine career. Not one of headlines that we are constantly bombarded with as some of the "stars" today like to do. But one of grace, beauty and competence that enriched our lives. She was one of the few stars that seemed to love her work for the work, and allowed us to escape on an occasional Saturday from the mundane to the world of make believe
She won an Oscar for Hud, and some say that was her best role. But I know of 2 others that impacted my life a lot more. I remember her first in the original (and still the only one that merits viewing) The Day the Earth Stood Still. She did not play an hysterical screamer, but a strong woman. A role that basically defined her niche in Hollywood. Strong Women.
Her next role that impressed me with her talent was In Harm's Way. It was not her first role opposite John Wayne, but it was her best one. Those roles bracketed her Oscar performance in Hud. I last remember seeing her in Cookie's Fortune. A surprise for me as I assumed her career had waned at that point. But while her career had taken a hit after her 3 strokes, she never stopped bringing the spirit of the strong woman to the screen for our enjoyment.
We often miss some actors and actresses because of their supporting roles. And those we miss the most are the ones that live up to that title. Making the stars shine without over shadowing them. But when we think back on those movies and why we like this or that actor (actress) so much, that is when we notice the part the supporting people played in making them shine. That was Patricia Neal.
When I first saw the movies she was in (with the exception of the last one), I did not think twice about the actress behind the role. But as I thought about those movies, I realized they were among my favorites not because of the stars, but because of the supporting Actress that made the stars shine. So yes, when Cookie's Fortune came out, I was looking for her as soon as I found out she was in the movie. She was that good.
As we grow older, our favorite stars, athletes, and role models are aging with us, and often passing on before we have a chance to thank them. That is a shame. For I wish I had taken the initiative to tell her thanks for the memories she gave me before she passed. But as often is the case, I just thought - she would not know I was alive. Perhaps so. But I am thankful she was, and gave us her talents and gifts to enjoy.
I know this is late Ms. Neal, but thank you for the memories. You made this man very happy to be able to be lost in movies for a few hours. I will not forget you.