Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life

By Stephen Michael Shearer | Go to book overview

Part 1
Actress

In the autumn of 1958, I underwent the most intense theatrical
experience of my life to date. It came in the last ten minutes of the
London production of Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer,
when Patricia Neal … stood centre-stage with a single spotlight il-
luminating her pale, high-cheekboned features, gazed fixedly and
hauntedly out across the footlights….

Her long narrative speeches became declamations, incantations
of virtuosity in breath-control and diction, always clear and coher-
ent no matter what speed or urgency they were taken. At times, the
urgency and speed of them made me quiver and stiffen in my seat.
The pulsing “Run, run, run!” describing her reaction to the sight of
the murdered poet Sebastian’s corpse was followed by a huge, saw-
edged, diminuendo scream torn from her depths, shattering and ter-
rifying in impact. And the final numbed sentence, the last, still half-
incredulous words, “White … wall,” hung with paralyzing hollow
slowness in the awed, electrified air of the auditorium….

I heard once or twice the saliva rattle in my taut throat; and when
she straightened, she appeared ten feet tall. As the curtain fell …
there was a silence in the house which continued momentarily after-
wards, before the engulfing thunder of applause….

Why do I reprint those sensations at such length now? Because they
reflect, in my view, the quintessence of what acting in the theatre may
afford us.

—Douglas McVay, “The Art of the Actor,” Film and Filming, 1973

-1-

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Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • A Note from Kirk Douglas ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Part 1 - Actress 1
  • 1 - Beginnings 2
  • 2 - Progress 14
  • 3 - Broadway 28
  • 4 - Stock 40
  • 5 - Warner Brothers 50
  • 6 - Gary Cooper 62
  • 7 - London 74
  • 8 - Hollywood 86
  • 9 - Tinseltown 98
  • 10 - 20th Century-Fox 106
  • 11 - Purgatory 118
  • Part 2 - Survivor 131
  • 12 - New York 132
  • 13 - Roald Dahl 146
  • 14 - Marriage 158
  • 15 - England 170
  • 16 - Career 182
  • 17 - Triumph 192
  • 18 - Tempest 208
  • 19 - Tragedy 226
  • 20 - Stardom 238
  • Part 3 - Legend 251
  • 21 - Illness 252
  • 22 - Comeback 270
  • 23 - Roses 282
  • 24 - Television 300
  • 25 - Independence 312
  • 26 - Divorce 326
  • 27 - Serenity 336
  • Appendix - Career 349
  • Notes 385
  • Selected Bibliography 413
  • Index 419
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