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Patricia Neal has died at age eighty-four.

Ms. Neal was 27 and apparently washed up in Hollywood after five years and 13 movies when Lillian Hellman insisted that Ms. Neal star in the Broadway revival of her play "The Children's Hour" in 1952. And it was at Hellman's house that Ms. Neal met Dahl, a writer of macabre short stories; they would marry in 1953, and he would be the father of their five children during a troubled, 30-year marriage marred by sorrow.

In 1957, Ms. Neal triumphantly returned to the screen in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd." Demonstrating an authority, a range and a subtlety that she had lacked before, she was praised for her portrayal of a radio reporter who builds the career of a folksy guitarist (played by Andy Griffith).

Neal's stage work is highlighted in this obit from Broadway.com.

Born Patsy Lou Neal on January 20, 1926, the actress was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and attended Northwestern University for two years before moving to New York to begin her career. Before turning 21, Neal (rechristened "Patricia" by producer Alfred de Liagre) won a Tony and a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut performance as Regina in Lillian Hellman's 1946 drama Another Part of the Forest, a prequel to The Little Foxes. Her other Broadway credits included the 1952 revival of Hellman's The Children's Hour, the short-lived 1955 play A Roomful of Roses and the original 1961 Broadway production of The Miracle Worker, as Kate Keller. She also starred in an acclaimed London production of Suddenly Last Summer.

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By an odd coincidence, this appeared in the Telegraph just last week.

Roald behaved like a general running a military campaign, demanding absolute adherence to his rules from everyone in the household. Pat’s friend Gloria Stern, who came to visit one afternoon, found him reminiscent both of a stage manager and a traffic cop. She admired his “fierce, unrelenting approach” but was disturbed because it also reminded her of “the way one trains a dog”.

Under pressure financially, Dahl moved his family back to their home in Great Missenden in May. He was devising a strategy for Pat’s rehabilitation based, as he saw it, on “common sense” and the avoidance of “inertia, boredom, frustration and depression” in the patient. He sent her for physiotherapy at a nearby RAF military hospital. Then each day, between nine and 12 in the morning and two and five in the afternoon, he arranged for friends and neighbours to visit. These amateur therapists, led by Val Eaton Griffith, read children’s books to her and played elementary word games. Some encouraged her to draw pictures, or laid out objects on a tray and got her to try to memorise them. Others stretched her mind with simple crosswords, jigsaw puzzles or arithmetic.

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Oh my goodness. Neal was an actress who meant a lot to me. Her courageous climb back from her strokes, as told by her husband Roald Dahl, was the most remarkable thing I had heard in my young life. When my grandmother suffered the first of her strokes just months after Neal's, I used Neal's story to encourage her and myself. My mother introduced me to the work of the actress then, and now, whenever I see her in old movies on TV, I watch her.

At the time, and told from his perspective, the rehabilitation sounded like a loving story despite the militaristic methods used, and Neal credited him for bringing her beyond what the doctors predicted would be her threshold of recovery. Having suffered the tragedies that befell two of her children, learning to talk and walk again was another testament to her inner strength. I admired her deeply.

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It is an inspiring story, Marga. Neal should have had a charmed life and career, talent recognized early, great looks and star quality. Her first misfortune, minor in retrospect, was coming along as the studio system was flailing and it was tougher for young stars to get the right kind of grooming and opportunities. (I'm sure The Fountainhead looked great on paper, but....) Then of course the tragedies with her children and later the strokes happened just as she was really coming into her own.

Dahl...was a piece of work, no question. Remarkable man, but.

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