I met Patricia Neal many years ago in New York when I was performing in Luigi Jannuzzi’s off-Broadway play The Appointment. It won the Samuel French Award that year. Ms. Neal, along with Philip and Marilyn Langner of the Theatre Guild, came to see the play one night, and we met afterward. At some point during our first conversation I told Ms. Neal of my interest in her career. I was of course familiar with her life and its struggles and triumphs. Her film output I only knew in parts. I did not know that she had produced such a large and important body of work.
One thing I discovered in my research for this book was how highly respected her career has been, revered by both contemporary critics and her professional colleagues. In studying her work and viewing rare television and film footage, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many truly strong performances by her. Her stage work in particular consistently garnered the highest praise, and her film performances, especially those of her middle career, received remarkable consideration.
Those whom I interviewed for this book love Patricia Neal and fondly recalled the pleasure of having worked with her. Without exception they gave generously of their time and memories in interviews. I count myself fortunate to have had for this, my first book, such a beloved and respected subject. The late Robert Stack told me, “Look, son, I don’t write other people’s books for them by giving interviews about people I worked with. But for you I will make an exception because it is Patricia, and she is still alive and well … and she is magnificent.”
When I advised Ms. Neal that I was writing this book, she was forthright in telling me to be honest and to chronicle her life “warts and all.” When the original manuscript was completed, I read it to her. Except for a couple of corrections for accuracy—no vanity issues were allowed—she asked for no specific changes. What I’ve taken from this is simple.
Patricia Neal is surely regarded as one of America’s greatest living dramatic actresses. Neal’s work has been abundant and varied; some have been