KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Patricia Neal, the willowy, husky-voiced actress who won an Academy Award for 1963’s “Hud” and then survived several strokes to continue acting, died on Sunday. She was 84.
Neal had lung cancer and died at her home in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard, said longtime friend Bud Albers.
Neal was already an award-winning Broadway actress when she won her Oscar for her role as a housekeeper to the Texas father (Melvyn Douglas) battling his selfish, amoral son (Paul Newman).
Less than two years later, she suffered a series of strokes at age 39. Her struggle to regain walking and talking is regarded as epic in the annals of stroke rehabilitation. She returned to the screen to earn another Oscar nomination and three Emmy nominations.
The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, a facility in her hometown of Knoxville that concentrates on helping people recover from strokes and spinal cord and brain injuries, is named for her.
“She never forgot us after she went to Hollywood,” said the 85-year-old Albers, who graduated with Neal from Knoxville High School in 1943.
In her 1988 autobiography, “As I Am,” she wrote, “Frequently my life has been likened to a Greek tragedy, and the actress in me cannot deny that comparison.”
She made a grand return to the screen in 1968, winning an Oscar nomination for her performance in “The Subject Was Roses.”
In 1971, she played Olivia Walton in “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” a made-for-TV film that served as the pilot for the CBS series “The Waltons.” It brought her the first of her three Emmy nominations.
In 1953, she married Roald Dahl, the British writer famed for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and other tales for children. They had five children. They divorced in 1983 and he died in 1990.
Even before her own illness, her life often was touched by misfortune. She lost her 7-year-old daughter to measles in 1962, and an infant son nearly died in 1960 when his carriage was struck by a taxi.
Neal also suffered a nervous breakdown, and had an ill-fated affair with Gary Cooper, who starred with her in “The Fountainhead.”