Monday, August 9, 2010

RIP Patricia Neal

We've just lost another strong woman legend of Hollywood. I personally was inspired by Ms. Neal's personal strength, that which saw her remarkably rally after the strokes that nearly killed her in 1965. On our black-and-white TV, we watched as she was given a thunderous standing ovation at the Academy Awards. Strokes, or CVA's (cerebral vascular accidents) were pretty much a death sentence--or at least, consigned one to permanent disability. Along with cancer, the risk of strokes has always been a dread of mine, unless I could prevail as Patricia Neal did.

I think back to the film classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Ms. Neal's understated performance was significant on many levels. In a day when women were largely assumed to be embodiments of the happy-housewife archetype, Ms. Neal played a courageous widowed mother, who served as a bridge between her world and that of Klaatu (Michael Rennie) to prevent worldwide annihilation. There was also, pre-Civil Rights Movement, suggestion of an implicit attraction between a lonely earth woman and an alien heart-throb--the ultimate interracial relationship. This film was produced in 1951, as the Cold War panic was escalating, and those we feared were not in space, but just across an ocean. To project our fear of nuclear war onto "space men" made it safe enough be Saturday matinee entertainment. And since we were 18 years from seeing the first moon landing, anything not firmly rooted to earth by gravity wasn't yet real.

So, my sincere tribute to this lady. May she be long remembered and serve as a role model for us all.

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