Oscar-winning US actress Patricia Neal has died at the age of 84, it was announced.The actress, who was once married to author Roald Dahl, and had an ill-fated affair with actor Gary Cooper, passed away at her home in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard after succumbing to lung cancer.
“She faced her final illness as she had all of the many trials she endured: with indomitable grace, good humour and a great deal of her self-described stubbornness,” her family said in a statement.
Neal won an Oscar in 1963 for her part in Hud, in which she starred alongside Paul Newman, playing a long-suffering woman who won’t give in to the charms of the cowboy Casanova. She also won a Tony award during a glittering career on Broadway.
But it was typical of the string of tragedies that marred her life that just a year after her Oscar victory at the age of 39 she suffered three strokes that set back her career, and though she bravely struggled to return to acting she never regained the star status that the Oscar had promised her.
She had five children with Dahl, and the supermodel Sophie Dahl is one of her grandchildren. But she also had to contend with watching her daughter die of measles, and with caring for a son, who became brain damaged when his stroller was struck by a New York taxicab.
Her acting debut came opposite future US president Ronald Reagan in 1949 in the film John Loves Mary. Three years later, she married Dahl. Throughout the 1950s she appeared in a string of lackluster movies, but her career took off at the end of the decade with roles in A Face in the Crowd and Breakfast at Tifanny’s, followed by Hud.
She was divorced in 1983 from Dahl, after he became involved with one of her friends.
Neal also starred in the television series The Waltons, but lost out on potentially her most famous role, Mrs Robinson, in the movie The Graduate following her stroke.
“Frequently my life has been likened to a Greek tragedy,” she wrote in her 1988 autobiography As I Am, “and the actress in me cannot deny that comparison.”