Monday, August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal, RIP

I just saw a news report that acress Patricia Neal has died.  She starred in my favorite science fiction film, The Day the Earth Stood Still.  I'm talking about the 1951 original, not the 2008 abomination.  Big explosions do not make a better story, and the director who thought he was honoring Robert Wise was delusional.  I recently watched, for the first time, her film A Face in the Crowd.  It was simply amazing.  Her turn as Olivia Walton struck me as closer to the reality of what a Depression-era mother with seven children would look like than that of Michael Lerned (or Maureen O'Hara in Spencer's Mountain, which preceded them both.)

I was pretty young when it happened, but I remember reading about the accident which almost killed her son.  I also remember reading about the stroke she had before she was 40 and her recovery.  She was pretty remarkable.

For a very brief time, a friend of ours dated her vivacious daughter, Tessa Dahl.  We had dinner together once.  As she and I sat talking, the pieces started falling together, and I realized who this Tessa sitting next to me was.  There were 10 or 12 of us at the table, and Tessa was stunned to learn that all of us considered The Day the Earth Stood Still to be one of the greatest science fiction films ever made.  She had never seen it.  I hope that she subsequently took the time to watch it.  It holds up really well, and her mother is perfect in it.
I was rather glad to see that Keith Olbermann brought up Patricia Neal on his Monday broadcast and mentioned both The Day the Earth Stood Still (describing her as "the only rational character") and A Face in the Crowd.  I've long recognized Keith's geekdom, and, of course, he continually (and rightly) compares the irrational Glen Beck to Andy  Griffith's character in A Face in the Crowd, whom Patricia Neal discovers and then uncovers.

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