Monday, August 09, 2010

In Memoriam: Patricia Neal, 1926-2010




Just yesterday, before either one of us had heard of 84-year-old Patricia Neal's death in Martha's Vineyard, the Siren was having an email exchange with a friend about Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the new book about it by Sam Wasson. And the Siren mentioned that one of her several problems with the film is the treatment of Neal's character, a rich woman paying George Peppard's every bill while he works, theoretically, on a novel. She's given a nickname that shows what she means to him--an apartment number, 2E--and we're meant to see Neal as an obstacle to his destiny as an artist, not as someone trying to make things easier for a lover and getting barely concealed contempt in return. She leaves him money, the harpy! How's he supposed to write if she's doing things like that?

But, as always with Neal, there are more things in that face and that voice than the lines or blocking are meant to suggest--a pained vulnerability, the idea that she feels Peppard's shameless use of her as a wound she covers with brittle chatter and a sophisticated attitude.

In her films, as well as in her life, Patricia Neal always seemed to be giving more than she got.

In Bright Leaf, the 1950 Michael Curtiz epic about tobacco farming, Neal is the one character simmering with emotion, attracted to Gary Cooper but determined to destroy him. The scene where she turns on Cooper is the most dramatic in the movie, their sexual chemistry roiling even as she confesses how much she has hated him. When he rides out alone in the end, it seems wholly fitting, not just because he couldn't keep faith with truehearted Lauren Bacall, but also because he wasn't man enough to do anything with the passion that had been flying off Neal the entire time. He didn't deserve either one of them.

She made one earlier film with Cooper, The Fountainhead. The Siren feels obligated to mention that one, but much as she loves Neal, in truth the Siren cannot bear that movie, King Vidor or no King Vidor. Ayn Rand's fans sometimes complain the film strays too far from her novel; the Siren thinks it's a visual match for Rand's writing style, and that is no compliment. Even so, the Siren still sees Neal's warmth and intelligence glimmering behind her risible lines and motivations.

During the filming of The Fountainhead, and continuing through and after Bright Leaf, Neal had an affair with Cooper that brought her agony, as Cooper's Catholic wife refused a divorce. Cooper urged Neal to have an abortion when she became pregnant, a decision Neal grieved over for the rest of her life. Her later marriage to Roald Dahl was marked by a horrifying taxi accident involving her four-month-old son. Theo survived, but Neal's seven-year-old daughter Olivia later died of complications from measles. In 1965, as she was in the early stages of shooting John Ford's Seven Women (a part that might have been perfect for her), she suffered a catastrophic series of strokes while she was pregnant with daughter Lucy. The effects on her speech, her body and her memory were devastating, but Dahl, with savage dedication, nursed her back to life and to acting.

Less than twenty years later, they divorced when Neal discovered Dahl's longstanding affair with her best friend. Betrayal haunted Patricia Neal off-screen as much as it did on.

Her misfortunes, her philanthropy and her courage became perhaps even more famous than her work, and tinge the perception of something like The Subject Was Roses, her first major role after the strokes and a beautiful performance. But simple nobility is almost never enough on screen. Neal always showed you the struggle, how damn hard everything was--but in a way that told you pity would be an insult to such a woman. It's evident even in an earlier role, such as her magnificent work in A Face in the Crowd, where you feel her revenge on Lonesome Rhodes as a blow for every woman who ever wasted time, intelligence and love on a worthless egomaniac.

She was one of those actresses whose beauty became softer and more inviting, not less, with age. In Hud, her housekeeper character Alma fends off Paul Newman's advances with the torment of loving him emphasizing every line on her face, and yet it only adds to her magnetism. Later parts became more like Alma, such as warm, gentle Olivia Walton in The Homecoming.

Always there was that voice, its timbre joining the Tennessee accent to create a sound you anticipate the way you might yearn for a close-up of another actor. The Siren has spent this morning collecting the adjectives. Corncrake, said David Shipman (a bird, evidently--the Siren had to look that one up). Molasses, says the Times. Throaty, husky, sandpaper. And the Siren can hear all that even just reading a printed interview with Neal, like the one where she explained the fears of a young contract player at the old Warner Brothers: "Bette Davis was queen of the studio, and you couldn't just go up to her and ask her to solve your problems.

"They were real stars in those days, babe."

(Postscript: You will most definitely want to read Sheila O'Malley's tribute.)

An overdue update: Reader Carol wrote the Siren some time ago to point out that contrary to her original post, Cooper was not Catholic at the time of his affair with Neal, and that the Siren's rather harsh allusion was in error. Research shows that Carol is right. The Siren regrets the error, and the sideswipe at Cooper. Mea culpa.

100 comments:

DavidEhrenstein said...

Actually she shot several weeks on Seven Women. Anne Bancroft (who so memorable took over for her) told me all about it several years back when I had the unspeakable joy of interviewing her (and having lunch with her, and hanging out and laughing uproariously over her tales of Hollywood, Broadway and her fabulously wacky hubster.) Neal had appeared with Bancroft on stahe in The Miracle Worker. When she was asked to step in she did so immediately. "I read the script on the plane to L.A. I had no idea what it was." She had a great time doing it, and she and Ford became a mutual admiration society.

I recall seeing Patricai Neal on TV about a year and a half or so ago. She was sitting in the sudience at Ellen, and its star made a special point of pointing her out and mentioning what a great, great actress she was.

Her last film was Alman's Cookie's Fortune. It was a small role but she appeared to be having a ball. No suprise with Altman at the helm. Now they;re BOTH gone.

The Siren said...

Aha, DAvid, thanks for the correction. I will edit. Yes, Bancroft was great, but I still wonder what Neal would have been like, don't you?

Edward said...

I've always had a strange sense of personal connection with Patricia Neal. My father had a major stroke in 1972, and as he was fighting his way back to speech and motor coordination, I read a lot about her struggles, which were then very recent... it was inspiring but also a bit sad, and sadness seemed to hang over her performances throughout her career. Also a kind of bitter knowledge, especially of men and the damage they can do. And a very strong bullshit detector that always seemed on, even when her character had no lines to indicate it. You mentioned all the performances that stand out with these qualities: in A Face in the Crowd, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Hud. It's even there in The Fountainhead -- despite the crazy, ludicrous situations and dialogue (and that name, Dominique!) she displaces the monolithic Cooper to become the moral center of the movie.

The Siren said...

Edward: "Sadness seemed to hang over her performances throughout her career. Also a kind of bitter knowledge, especially of men and the damage they can do. And a very strong bullshit detector that always seemed on, even when her character had no lines to indicate it."

Wonderful. Yes, precisely.

Raquelle said...

I didn't realize how many trials and tribulations Patricia Neal went through during her life. Thank you so much for this.

Marilyn said...

We had a horror/scifi movie festival here a year or two ago, and Neal was here to talk about The Day the Earth Stood Still and promote her stroke charity. I didn't make the screening, but I went into the lobby where she was signing autographs and said hello. She was so beautiful and gracious. I really felt in the presence of greatness.

Chris Edwards said...

I'll always remember the weight she brought to roles. The Day the Earth Stood Still, a film I love, could have seemed so goofy if Patricia Neal's Helen didn't take the alien threat so seriously. And A Face in the Crowd? Many actors would have reduced Marcia Jeffries to a loser. But Neal's dignity makes her more than the sum of her bad choices.

THE FUTURIST! said...

Siren,

AS a young lad, THE FUTURIST! was introduced to many older films by his film loving father. For some reason, the pater dislike Patricia Neal intensely. It was never explained. THE YOUNG FUTURIST! was dissuaded from watching any films featuring Neal. So, all these years a strange mental block had been erected.

He recalls one day when THE FOUNTAINHEAD was on Channel 5 in New York. The dial was turned quickly. Did he not like her looks, her voice ... what was it? However, her death and your writing, among others' writings, has made THE FUTURIST! curious to what he has missed.

The Siren said...

Raquelle, even she admitted it was like a Greek tragedy.

Chris & Marilyn, I probably saw The Day The Earth Stood Still right around the same time I saw Bright Leaf--as a young teen--but the lesser Curtiz is a lot fresher in my memory than the sci-fi classic. I'm sure this surprises no one familiar with my idiosyncrasies. I'll bet that TCM shows TDTESS as part of any tribute and I'll have a chance to get reacquainted.

I also saw Patricia Neal one time on Martha's Vineyard, sitting outside a store and warmly greeting anyone who walked up to her. But I couldn't bring myself to do it; I was too awestruck. I just stood close enough to hear that voice, enthralling even just speaking pleasantries.

T_F!, what a pleasure to see you here in comments. We all have actors that we just don't get; that topic comes up frequently in these parts. Sometimes people come around, as I have to a degree on Richard Conte, for example; other times we don't. I do think Neal is very, very worth the effort, though.

Marilyn said...

Siren - I'm not a fan of ...Stood Still. It's such a fascistic piece, but the actors certainly became iconic in it, as evidenced by the long line of fans waiting to meet Ms. Neal.

StyleSpy said...

Lovely post, Siren. She was gracious, talented, beautiful -- they don't make 'em like that anymore, do they? A loss, a real loss.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I remember seeing the TV movie that was made I think in the early '80's with Glenda Jackson plying Neal with Dirk Bogarde as Roald Dahl. I remember thinking how romantic and touching the whole story was, and then later when I found out that he'd cheated on her with her best friend for 7 years, I felt as somehow cheated on as well. I thought she was a wonderful actress, who never quite got the recognition that she deserved.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The climactic scene of A Face in the Crowd where Neal's Marcia "loses it" and broadcasts "Lonesome Rhodes" (Andy Griffith) presumed-to-be-off-air comments nationwide is like nothing else in cinema. It's as if standard realistic drama were suddenlimbued with the spirit of Jacobean revenge tragedy.

I'm sure she would have been perfect in Seven Women, but I adore Anne Bacroft -- especially in the grand finale where she finishes off Mike Mazurki with a "So long you bastard!"

Dan Callahan said...

Neal's 1988 memoir, "As I Am," was a favorite of mine when I was in high school. I still love it because even though her life was so difficult, she certainly never acted like an innocent victim. She was saucy, bitchy and edgy to the last, a grown-up.

I saw her read Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" at the National Arts Club, and I got to meet her afterwards for a drink with the woman who ran that reading series. Neal signed a photo for me from "Hud" that is still framed on my wall.

"Oh, I just love Hud," she said, pronouncing "Hud" with an exaggerated Southern drawl. She had fallen a few days earlier and was wearing a bandage on her head, but she made it seem stylish; everything about her seemed extremely sly and expectant, like a big, ornery cat.

I'd like to see "The Breaking Point," which is supposed to be very good; maybe TCM will play it.

Arthur S. said...

She was a truly great actress...I love her in THE FOUNTAINHEAD which despite everything, against all odds, is a masterpiece of cinema. And of course A FACE IN THE CROWD and COOKIE'S FORTUNE.

Vanwall said...

Neal was possibly the most intelligent onscreen persona I ever saw - she was probably capable of playing a dumbed-down babe, but her eyes, and that scoolteacher drawl, woulda given it away that a smart cookie was hiding underneath the artifice. In AFITC, I was awestruck the first time I saw the booth scene where she kills Lonesome Rhodes as far as she is able to - he was her creation, after all, and the love/hate/tragedy in her face was amazingly fierce and never will be duplicated, IMHO.

She played a lot of heavily conflicted characters, because she could do it so well, and convincingly - perhaps playing from the heart of real life has it's bonuses, and I can't see her films without seeing her troubles writ large on those performances - but it must've been a kind of catharsis and a kind of hell, at the same time.

I too, can't stand "The Fountainhead", at least as a straight film, it's much better viewing as a parody, tho.

The Siren said...

Thanks A. She was a pattern for us Southern ladies to follow, all right.

Elizabeth, I should see that TV movies since it is coming up a lot. Sheila Malley (I just linked to her in the post) goes into how difficult Dahl was, and what might have made him that way, but Neal never stinted on giving him credit. She was like that.

David, I agree with all you say--the Kazan, Neal, Bancroft, all.

Dan, I will have to see that Hud picture sometime. I'd also like to see The Breaking Point.

Arthur, I can't agree on The Fountainhead but it certainly has its fans, and Neal is just about the only thing that sustained me through it, I will say that that.

Vanwall, "schoolteacher drawl" -- I am giving that one pride of place in the Neal voice descriptions.

Y., Fountainhead just didn't work for me on any level, not even parody, and in addition to Neal I love Vidor.

The Siren said...

Wait, Y., where did your comment go? Poof!

Trish said...

Not like The Fountainhead??? Hold on while I pick myself off the floor. I haven't read the book so thankfully I don't have to make comparisons, but I'm completely fascinated and always highly entertained by this film. If nothing else, I recommend it for the brilliant performance of Robert Douglas as the slippery architectural critic, but there is also Neal as a self-loathing diva, Gary Cooper as a man of no compromise, and Henry Hull. Much of it is completely over-the-top, but not in a cheesy "Liz and Dick" sort of way. Oh yes, TF will definitely be in my pocket once I'm marooned on that deserted island...

Karen said...

Well, Vanwall, you beat me to it. As I read our hostess' typically insightful and eloquent piece, all I could think was that, whoever Neal was playing, her innate intelligence always shone through--along with a sort of world-weary humor. It has always caused me to think that the actress herself must have been a helluva woman.

And, yes, that voice. Whiskey and honey. Beautiful.

slc2466 said...

God sure is lucky today- he gets to meet a truly great, inspirational woman.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I'm much like Trish in my reaction to "The Fountainhead." I adore the film, even though I think its politics are heinous. (Of Ayn Rand: "Kick her right in the Coriolanus!") But the film looks gorgeous, thanks to Robert Burks and all, and it's often inspired. And there *is* a strong element of comedy to it, notably in the quarry sequence.

Perhaps it helps, when watching "The Fountainhead," to have a certain taste for, um, *schadenfreude*?

The Siren said...

Yojimboen, I think you have somehow offended the great Google gods, because I just know I saw a lovely description of The Breaking Point, and now I'm damned if I know where it went. Drop me a line if you want me to retrieve it from my email and post it anyway. Beyond strange.

Karen, with all these people reminiscing about how wonderful Neal was in person, I am really kicking myself for not at least walking over in Edgartown and shaking her hand. But honestly, I was rooted in place.

SLC, welcome, and a lovely thought.

Trish, apparently the great Glenn Kenny admires it too, as does Arthur, and Sheila is on to something when she extols the Cooper/Neal chemistry. But The Fountainhead completely rubbed me the wrong way. I can't claim to have read the entire book either; I survived about 50 to 70 pages of it and said life is too short for this. You could say I have a major Rand problem. I didn't even like The Incredibles.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...
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MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Correction: that's the Rand book, rather than the vidor-directed film, whose politics are heineous (not a word I've used often before today).
And Neal is superb in it. Something about her self-possession when she enters the party wearing that sleeve-less Milo Anderson number ...

rudyfan1926 said...

Siren, a lovely tribute to a very classy lady. She was tough and had every right to be. Yet, all I can muster about her is a grace and graciousness. Her life off screen was anything but easy, it was a tragedy, but look at what she made of it and what it made of her. I loathe The Fountainhead and LOVE The Day the Earth Stood Still. I love her in Hud, as well. That voice unmistakable and so sad it's been silenced. RIP

Yojimboen said...

I’ll try it once more [without the hyperlink this time], followed by a second comment:

The Fountainhead does work as a parody, though I’ve always seen it more as a Sunday School tract – but I will watch it till it melts in the projector, to see her face.

Second comment:

Dan C - The Breaking Point is worth hunting down – it’s the other bookend to To Have and Have Not, or the third leg in the stool with Casablanca.

Warners bought the Hemingway book and rushed out the Bogart/Bacall movie using just the title and some of the skeleton of the story. The intent, and the result, was a sideways sequel/remake of Casablanca.

The Breaking Point is the book, with John Garfield recreating the real Capt Harry Morgan with Pat Neal as an ersatz Slim.

Garfield is at his best here and Neal has a job on her hands keeping up. (Unfortunately her blonde pageboy do wasn’t a good look for her and her performance is weakened by the obvious floozy overtones.)

Much as we all adore THAHN, it is sort of hokey tripe (Bogart, Hawks and Hemingway all admitted as much), but The Breaking Point is a kick-ass movie that goes a long way to rehabilitating Hemingway; with the added joy of watching two giants – Garfield and Neal – showing ‘em how it’s done.

The Siren said...

Y., it must be the hyperlink. My attempt to post it for you also disappeared into the ether. Well, I like that. No hyperlinks in comments? Whose bright idea was that? It won't make a damn bit of difference to the porn spammers, I can guarantee you.

Vanwall said...

I dunno - "The Fountainhead" certainly spewed something forth, yes, but as I said, for me it's a grin-cracker. Massey seems like he he never left his Wellesian Cabal - spouting venom like a stepped on diamondback; Robert Douglas does Dishonest John from Beany & Cecil - I half expected "Nyahh,ahh,ahh" to creep out of his phrase-ology; Cooper plays a piece of granite as hard and expressionless as the one he's hammering when Neal has her mental'gasm, (say, it's got squicky elements of onanism there, too!) and poor Pat, in addition to panting, had to hyperventilate practically the whole movie thru, which does nothing for her role.

To say nothing else of the bad, Albert Speer-ish, ark-ee-textural screevings and skitterings that are to pass for Rand-y living spaces. It looks very good as a basic film, tho, I do admit - the sweaty sheen of the whole thing carries thru quite convincingly, and goes well with the frothing-at-the-mouth of it, too.

X. Trapnel said...

THAHN "hokey tripe," Y? I thought it was supposed to send up the hokey moralizing of Casablanca by basing committment on personal relations ("I guess it's because I like you Frenchie, and I don't like them." Shades of E.M. Forster). There's also the K-Mart Victor Laszlo and his snooty fainting wife, plus the 3 Bs exeunting to the strains of Hoagy Carmichael rather than the Marseilles.

Still, I'm eager to see The Breaking Point.

The Siren said...

I love you all, and I love Neal too, but I ain't sitting through The Fountainhead again. Nope, not gonna do it. Just start without me.

The Breaking Point, though...you're playing my song.

Yojimboen said...

[I just tried a hyperlink test three times – it didn’t take.]

Try it again spelling out the URL:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpktNEpYG9U&NR=1

Cut and paste the URL – as is - to the address window, the h t t p should appear automatically.

My comment was:

She walked into that party like she was walking on to a yacht…

Exquisitely photographed, costumed and directed though it is, you watch this with the sound turned up it’s an SNL sketch.

Flickhead said...
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Bob Westal said...
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Sheila O'Malley said...

// Neal always showed you the struggle, how damn hard everything was--but in a way that told you pity would be an insult to such a woman. //

God, that is just so right on.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Fountainhead is enjoyable on a camp level but nothing more. (Though it obviously meant a lot to Neal and Cooper for "personal reasons")

In the immortal words of Dorothy Parker "Atlas Shrugged is not a book to be tossed lightly aside -- it should be thrown with great force."

Bob Westal said...

Absolutely lovely pieces, both yours and Sheila's, that I won't dare accompany. I'll just link to them. She was a great actress and, if everyone on the planet is to be believed an absolutely amazing woman.

Re: TDTEST. Though I've thought about that ending my entire life, as it's one of my favorite films. I hate to say it but I suppose "fascistic" is a very harsh but essentially fair reading of it, but not the only one.

You certainly can't call Klatu's (or rather Klatu's organization) solution to the atomic potential danger posed by our planet to his democratic, but I don't necessarily think that we're supposed to completely endorse the organization he works for. It's just what is and, when you think about it, they're just giving us a taste of our own medicine, not that two wrongs make a right. I think the primary motive there was to try and shake the audience into considering the truly grave nature of the atomic threat which, after all, very nearly did kill us all.

Moreover, in terms of how post-war Americans treat those different from themselves, TDTESS is, in my view, extremely humanistic and progressive.

And, yes, Patricia Neal was an extremely important part of the film. Her absolute believability at every moment in the film is absolutely crucial to its success and one of the very best things about what I consider to be a great film as much as were "Hud" and "A Face in the Crowd," to me, a bit moreso.

Artman2112 said...

Patricia Neal would most certainly be on my list of the best actresses to come out of the post-war studio system. She had class, beauty and talent to spare.

Re Trish - if you liked The Fountainhead movie then you're very likely to enjoy the book even more. I love the film too but that book is incredible!

as for tossing Atlas Shrugged with great force, hey no biggie, its a solid book and has taken a pounding for 53 years and its still going strong ;)

The Siren said...

Sheila, thanks so much. Your post is beautiful.

Bob, what an eloquent defense of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I appreciate it.

Artman, my view is along the lines of David E's, obviously, but Rand has her fans, many of them.

Yojimboen said...

Luv ya Trish, but I’m with VW and our hostess on this one. I will grant The Fountainhead is endlessly fascinating – the effort and budget Warners lavished on it guaranteed an important film; not to mention its austere beauty. Vidor captured perfectly Rand’s broad-shouldered, uber-self-confident philosophy; well, how could he not with Ayn herself writing the script and planting herself on the set. Everyone involved with it did yeoman work. Steiner’s score is hugely persuasive and Robert Burks’s cinematography is flawlessly wrought.

According to the WB Studio book, Rand based Howard Roark on Frank Lloyd Wright (whose iconoclasm extended to his famous response to a client complaining that his roof leaked, “That’s how you know it’s a roof.”) Vidor actually asked Wright to design the film, but Jack Warner put the kibosh on such highbrow nonsense (which means he wouldn’t pay for it.)

Though I think it’s a perfectly dreadful movie, I do love it. When it shows up anywhere I’m forced to watch it to the end. It’s my favorite traffic-accident movie, when it’s there, you just can’t turn away.

Vanwall said...

M Yo - I admit to watching TF many times over the years; I really, really wanted to like it because of Neal, but I gradually gave up looking for anything that spoke to me as a film, so it's been reduced to head shaking grins if it's my lot to run across it, and usually I can only get in about fifteen or twenty minutes in a sitting. Neal easily chewed the scenery 'til she et the roots and all, and barely left enough dirt to throw over the shallow graves of the others' performances. Curiously, she also looked better doing nothing in it when the script required it occasionally, a bad sign that the camera couldn't lie: she was the film, and no one else was really in it.

Thank the fates she had a huge catalog of nonpareil work to wander through in awe. The planes of her face made light- and shadow-play like no other face in film, and as Siren has mentioned, the voice, the voice...ah, the voice.

Arthur S. said...

For me THE FOUNTAINHEAD is about how mass culture has become essentially sado-masochistic, it's the principle behind big corporations, behind everything, it's about power gone nuts in the mass-media world(that's also the theme of A FACE IN THE CROWD) and the relationship between the Architect and Patricia Neal is at the centre of that. Antonioni dealt with the same themes in LA NOTTE and L'ECLISSE with greater sobriety and perception but Vidor showed things as it manifested in American society which is on the level of hysteria and camp.

Rand, who I have never read beyond being put to sleep by ANTHEM, hated the film even if Vidor insisted that she write the screenplay. His one issue was blowing up the building at the end which he didn't agree with at all. Aside from the performances by Gary Cooper and especially Neal, the film is a joy to watch for its compositions and framing alone, the black and white cinematography by a pre-Hitchcock Robert Burks is excellent.

cgeye said...

For AFITC, the scene where she psychically murders Rhodes isn't the high point; it's when that big animal comes to her door, expecting sex, but letting her know he's going for as much power as he can grab -- and she gave him the push to do it. The look on her face is that of a woman knowing she is going to hell in a big doofus handbasket. [An Andy Griffith doofus handbasket that was nevah, evah that sexy again....]

As for THE FOUNTAINHEAD, I just turn down the sound and look at the kinky pretty. I know so little about Cooper's life that I shan't call him a philanderer content to hide behind his wife and religion, but Lord, considering the defiance Neal had to cultivate just to get through that pain, it's mighty tempting.

They're past us, now. They've got a lot to talk about, where they are, and that's blessedly none of our business.

Yojimboen said...

“I know so little about Cooper's life that I shan't call him a philanderer content to hide behind his wife and religion, but Lord, […] it's mighty tempting.”

I’ll call him exactly that; and Spencer Tracy. Cooper and he were two of a kind: idols with clay feet.

Is it any different today? Not really. Today we have creatures like Mel Gibson; clay from the neck up.

gmoke said...

Patricia Neal's laugh;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUzk-1IzakM&feature=related

cgeye said...

And Ms. S.: You'd best brace yourself, for on TCM they use most of her fab shots from THE FOUNTAINHEAD, for their remembrance....

Edward said...

Interesting to read everyone's take on The Fountainhead and then watch the clip yojimboen posted... how can a movie be so great and so awful at the same time? "You're everything I've ever wanted. And that's why I hoped I'd never meet anyone like you." It's like all of Groucho Marx's best lines played absolutely straight. You could slip "I can see you at night, bending over a hot stove... but I can't see the stove" into that script and it would fit perfectly.

The Siren said...

It's okay, Cgeye, I knew there'd be a lot of The Fountainhead in tributes because Neal was so damn beautiful in that movie. Oh well. Over the course of my blogging let's-go-ahead-and-call-it-"career" I have tried to learn to let it all hang out regarding the things I don't like as well as the things I do. The Fountainhead's visuals are like a long-ass slideshow taken by tourists with great camera equipment and lighting but inexplicable taste. And I think Edward's analysis of the dialogue is spot-on. We can talk all day about how the movies are a visual medium, but dialogue matters. The Fountainhead is also a talky movie, and the talk hurts my ears.

Anyway, Cooper. The original sentences I devoted to him in this post were considerably harsher than the ones I left in, if that tells you anything. However, Sheila's far more understanding take on the affair made me rethink, and she points out too that Neal was always forgiving toward Cooper when someone brought him up in an interview. He did love Neal, even separated from his wife for a few years, and seems really to have considered divorce, but in the end the old ties were too strong. That is certainly not a bad thing. Talking Neal into the abortion is what sticks in the Siren's craw, as she's known more than one person over the years who was oh so anti- and yet, back against the wall of an unwanted pregnancy, suddenly managed to find an exception in the old conscience. ("What are you doing?" someone asked when they saw W.C. Fields reading the Bible. Fields: "Looking for loopholes.") But Cooper was afraid for his career, and there were a LOT of people doing unsavory things in that period for the same reason.

Anyway, Sheila's piece made me think that if Neal showed a generous spirit to her old love, it wasn't seemly for me to presume to judge him more harshly.

And on film I often love Cooper. But not in The Fountainhead.

swhitty said...

Siren,

Thanks so much for this.

Yes, that voice. The temptation for metaphor is too strong, perhaps, but for me the sound was all about experience, and pleasures already taken. The last inch of bourbon at the bottom of a bottle. The messy sheets at the foot of the bed.

She was something, all right.

Love her as Alma in "Hud." That very mature sexuality, that no-nonsense, no-frills, uncombed, barefoot ease. (Speaking of Bancroft, at one early point, Neal was reportedly going to play Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate" -- what would that film have been like then?)

You know that Paul Newman worried people would think Hud was the hero -- they did, and I have to say, they still do. I showed it about a year ago to an audience, and afterwards one woman strenuously stood up for the character. Melvyn Douglas was the villain, she insisted; Hud was only standing up for himself.

Well, I'm sure that's how Hud would have seen it, anyway. If he chose to take a close look at anything at all.

Again, thanks for this. And it's definitely time to watch "A Face in the Crowd" again (although I fear that will only put me on a new reverie about Lee Remick...)

DavidEhrenstein said...

“I know so little about Cooper's life that I shan't call him a philanderer content to hide behind his wife and religion, but Lord, […] it's mighty tempting.”


Oh it's a ot better than that if you add the fact that he (like Clark Gable) was a rent boy in his youth. When Visconti came to visit Hollywood someone asked "What's the biggest reason why you wanted to come here?" and the Count enthusiastically replied "GARY COOPER!!!!"

Trish said...

"You're going to marry a big hero!" boasts Neal's clueless fiance in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

"I'm not marrying anybody!" she declares.

Well done, Ms. Neal.

pvitari said...

Briefly interrupting the discussion of The Face in the Crowd, The Fountainhead, Hud and The Day the Earth Stood Still -- I'd like to put in a plug for the little known Diplomatic Courier, starring Tyrone Power as a post-WWII courier for the State Department who gets caught up in all sorts of nefarious spy situations in post-war Trieste. The cast includes Miss Neal as a wealthy American tourist (or is she), Hildegarde Knef, Stephen McNally, and Karl Malden, with brief appearances by Lee Marvin and Charles Buchinski (the future Charles Bronson). Director: Henry Hathaway. While not quite the nerve-wracking thriller it should be, it is good enough to keep you watching -- with that cast, it would be hard not to be!

http://yfrog.com/3d94491769j

Trish said...

Thanks for the tip, pvitari! Look forward to it.

I also like The Hasty Heart, although it is a bit claustrophobic and talky. Now I'll duck...

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Yes, for "Diplomatic Courier"! An odd, memorable film. It's not every spy drama that offers Hildegarde Knef, Patricia Neal, *and* a Bette Davis impersonation ...

Bob Westal said...

Siren, thanks for the sweet remark.

Re: "The Fountainhead" -- the one and only time I saw it was at the old, long gone Fox Venice Theater, a revival house, on a double bill with "Citizen Kane." Clearly, half the theater had come for "Kane" and the other half appeared to be Rand fans there for "The Fountainhead." Those of us there for "Kane" couldn't stop laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing -- Vidor's fascinating over the top visuals only adding to the fun. The Rand fans, I gathered, were not pleased by all that liberal laughter, but seeing as Venice was and is the Berkeley of Southern California, they shouldn't have been surprised.

I'll say this, after the train in the tunnel in "North by Northwest" symbolism doesn't get any more obvious than the late, great Ms. Neal as the frigid protagonist watching super-macho Gary Cooper use a jackhammer on a brick wall and reacting so memorably.

I also couldn't help laughing at the part about altruists being the cause of the world's problems. Yup, the world can take a few Hitlers and Stalins, but it's Albert Schweitzer and Gandhi that will be the death of us!

@DavidEhrenstein -- Are you sure about that rent boy thing? I just saw that same story attributed to Tallulah Bankhead. Make of that what you will.

The Siren said...

Stephen, I really wonder about people who admire Hud the character. I mean, which part gets them? Selling the diseased cattle? Attempted rape? I always thought it was a comment on Newman's supernal charisma--and Hud was possibly the high-water mark of his handsomeness--but still.

P. & Mrs HWV, Diplomatic Courier also sounds like my kinda thing.

The Fountainhead on a double bill with Citizen Kane is one of the most cockamamy, and yet oddly logical, double features I have ever heard of.

Artman2112 said...

"I also couldn't help laughing at the part about altruists being the cause of the world's problems. Yup, the world can take a few Hitlers and Stalins, but it's Albert Schweitzer and Gandhi that will be the death of us!"

well if you're going to totally misunderstand and misrepresent a writer, do it big.

Nora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Westal said...

Artman --

I really don't want to hijack this thread with a debate over objectivism, because that is truly not the point here.

Suffice it to say, however, that I have found the novel's famed speech online and, while I might have exaggerated a bit for (attempted) comic effect or perhaps remembered something in the movie not approved of by Rand or misremembered it entirely (the memorable quotes over at IMDb didn't have anything on altruism, though I'm sure the word comes up in the movie), it's pretty clear that Roark/Rand blames altruism for totalitarianism. The logic seems like nothing but twisted sophistry to me, but your mileage obviously varies. That's cool.

Artman2112 said...

i have no desire to hijack this thread either, and for the record i am not an objectivist. but i have a great admiration for Rand, her work, her ideas and especially the character of Howard Roarke. he is one of my greatest sources of inspiration.
i didnt see any reason for the bashing going on in this thread when it was supposed to be about Patricia Neal and it irks me when i see Rand being trashed time after time, usually by people who have barely read her work! and belive me watching the film version of the Fountainhead is NOT going to give anyone more than a preliminary glossing over of her philosophical ideas.
anyway, i will reply to your answer very briefly in accord with my understanding of Rand's principals:
no it isnt the cause per se, totalitarianism (and socialsm, communisim, facism, collectivism, statism, etc, etc) is merely the result of the altrusitic morality being practiced to its fullest and broadest extent.

pj said...

Hud was devoured by his father and other adults before he turned 17. All the while he was expected to work and sacrifice in service to an old man's cattle ranch fantasy while the world stood right in front of him offering a way out. A villain would have killed the old man 20 years before the movie even began. But Hud stayed and he worked and you know he will keep his promise to his brother; his share will be there whenever he wants it. His decency makes the assault on Alma worse if that's possible. It's nasty and ambiguous and tough to sort out. Truth is, Alma is the hero and she does what any true hero should do. She leaves.

cgeye said...

Apropos of nothing, I'm watching KISS ME, KATE, and thinking, "this is a real movie. Why not restore it to 3-D? Even if they've lost some of the original elements, computer tech could extrapolate from even a few scenes, for reconstruction".

C'mon. Ann Miller tapping upskirt, Bob Fosse launching himself from the upper corners in 3-D. You know you want it....

cgeye said...

... and now I feel guilty that KMK's the only film in which I can tolerate Kathryn Grayson, God rest her soul. Her voice, the anti-Neal, cloying in a way as to clearly replace Miss MacDonald on the MGM roster. In fever dreams I imagine her conjoined with Jose Iturbi and a grand piano... oy.

But here she's intelligent, truly witty, touching -- everything she ain't in her other MGM programmers. Ah, the magic of Cole....

The Siren said...

@Artman, you're a relatively new commenter, and you're welcome here. I mean that. But let me explain a bit, for the record, how things work. Yes, this is a Patricia Neal thread, but topics often wander here. We like it that way. If you stick around long enough, we may even hit George Brent or Frank Borzage.

However, I don't think that discussing Rand is inappropriate here. The Fountainhead is one of Neal's most famous films, and if you scroll up you'll see several people defending it from my scorn, including (most eloquently) Arthur S., whose painful task it has been before also to defend the likes of Anthony Mann from my sideswipes. But truly, it is quite natural to bring up Rand in the context of discussing The Fountainhead. You could go so far as to call it inevitable. Discussing that movie without discussing her is like discussing Citizen Kane without mentioning Orson Welles. She was, after all, the source and the screenwriter.

Commenters here can and do speak for themselves, but since I'm the originator here--I started it, right there in the original post--I will be clear, albeit I hope polite. This is my place. I'll bash Rand if I feel like it. I'll bash her in this thread, I'll bash her in an Arthur Freed unit thread, I'll bash her writing style, her philosophy, her HUAC testimony, her hats, I'll even bash Alan Greenspan if for some reason the crabby impulse should strike.

And you may, of course, respond, again politely. Speaking of Citizen Kane, that's the one rule. No Kane bashing.

Cgeye, it took me a while to come around on Grayson; MGM sopranos are an acquired taste, even when they're as pretty as she was. But the movie that did it for me, aside from the quite splendid Kiss Me Kate, was Seven Sweethearts. A slight, sweet fairy tale, with S.Z. Sakall as the stubborn but lovable papa, Van Heflin as the tough reporter, Grayson as the traditional youngest-and-loveliest daughter and Marsha Hunt as the beautiful, self-regarding older sister. There's a love scene in the parked car in the rain that just enchanted me.

And it was directed by (drum roll) Frank Borzage. Oh look, there he is...

Karen said...

If you stick around long enough, we may even hit George Brent or Frank Borzage.

Hey, don't forget The Red Shoes!

The Siren said...

Oh no, really I am (temporarily, guys, temporarily) Red Shoe-d out. And poor Frank is feeling neglected. Plus, Warner Archive just released Living on Velvet and several other Brent/Francis vehicles.

The Siren said...

And oh, I almost forgot--don't know where you are, Cgeye, but they are showing Kiss Me Kate in 3-D at the Film Forum Aug. 15th and 16th. Unfortunately I'll be in Paris.

Karen said...

Unfortunately I'll be in Paris.

Oh, that IS unfortunate.

Seriously: what is one to make of a statement like that?

The Siren said...

All right, THERE I will admit I deserve a rebuke. Sort of. It's a family visit for us. There might even be EuroDisney. Does that earn me an "unfortunate"? No? How about a heat wave?

X. Trapnel said...

EuroDisney--Paris.

"I die of thirst beside the fountain"--Francois Villon

Trish said...

Arthur S. and David both mentioned "camp". I tend to think of camp as 50s melodrama, but if TF is camp, then are The Wicked Lady and The Man in Grey also camp? And how about The Big Knife? That definitely out-camps TF in my opinion, and is not nearly as entertaining...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Quite sure, Mr. Westal.

As for Kathryn Grayson while she's known to the movegoing public for her lovely face and delitful/annoying trilling voice she was known in Hollywood fo a balcony you could do Shakespeare from. In fact so genrously endowed was Ms. Grayson's upper region that wardrobe had to strap her down lest she overexcite certain members of the general pubic -- and thereby discombobulate those who'd simply "come to hear the singing"

That's why I find the finale of Ziegfeld Follies so inadvertently dramtic. As she sings "There's Beauty" everywhere with Minnelli chorus girls running about a set covered in magenta foam she raises her arms high. This brings out the Grad Guy Grand in me. Wouldn't it be great if her bra gave way right then?

Trish said...

Oh, THAT Paris! The real Paris - the one with the 7 1/2 hour flight time??? ;) I'll drink a toast to you, Siren, as I celebrate my birthday next month at the gloriously tacky Paris Las Vegas resort, atop the fake Eiffel Tower.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Bonjour Paris!

Karen said...

Ah, lovely, David! There's no following THAT.

Yojimboen said...

(David E’s hyperlink seemed to work, I’ll try one.)

After all this Rand-omization, the mere mention of Kiss Me Kate is like a palate-cleansing white grape. Most of the film is available in chunks on Youtube. It’s probably Porter’s dirtiest musical; the lyrics were laundered mercilessly by MGM, but some stuff got through:

Ann Miller:
“…I’m a maid who would marry
And would take double-quick
Any Tom, Dick or Harry
Any Tom, Harry or Dick!
(A dick-a-dick – a-dick-a-dick…)

At which point, in case you didn’t get it, Miller yanks her skirts up crotch-high.

This is the major dance number. (I think it’s a clip from That’s Entertainment)

For the purists, the dancers are Tommy Rall (whose ten-feet-off-the-floor entrance shouts, “Up yours, Nijinsky!) and Ann Miller; Bobby Van and Jeanne Coyne; and Mister Robert Fosse and the lady whose name must be whispered in reverence and awe: Carol Haney.

For the trivia maniacs – and aren’t we all – this is the first time Fosse got to direct on film. Hermes Pan and George Sidney took pity on the youngster and let him choreograph his and Ms Haney’s pas de deux.

It’s not long; all it took was 65 seconds to forever change movie and Broadway musical choreography.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

I was lucky enough to see Ms. Neal at a screening last February- I was in complete awe and yes, she still had that magnificent voice, good humor, and a strong, warm spirit.

gmoke said...

I would like to see how Anton Walbrook would have handled Ayn Rand, perhaps as directed by Frank Borzage.

I suspect that Mr Walbrook would have enjoyed performing with Ms Neal.

DavidEhrenstein said...

He would have adore patricia Neal, but he wouldn't have given Alice Rosenbaum the time of day.

"From This Moment On" has a fascinating history. Porter wrote it for Out of This World, but it was cut out of town. Cannily he inserted it inot the movie version of Kiss Me Kate and it became one of his biggest hits.


Fosse and Haney studied with Jack Cole. But Fosse quickly developed his own style and you can see its birth in this number. He was short with no "turn out" at all -- so he turned in instead.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here he is again -- in a film I doubt many of you have seen.

cgeye said...

"It’s not long; all it took was 65 seconds to forever change movie and Broadway musical choreography."

That's the joy of this movie; on top of the usual MGM professionalism and talent, we get this *newness* that tugs us into the future. Simply. Gorgeous.

(and Mr E., *pshaw*. I saw that movie in the theatre, and even the special preview THE FRIGGIN' CAROL BURNETT SHOW did with Fosse his own self. I was blessed to dig what Fosse brought to us, before he passed.)

Yojimboen said...

…And then they gave Fosse a whole movie to choreograph.

Karen said...

Here he is again -- in a film I doubt many of you have seen.

Oh, David, what a place to issue a challenge like that!

I remember thinking, when I first saw The Little Prince, "Oh! So THAT's where Michael Jackson got his moves!"

The Siren said...

Hee! I saw that movie, at an age when I didn't know Fosse from Fudd. I did not like it, but I *did* like him.

That dance in Kiss Me Kate is epoch-shattering, all right. Wish Carol Haney had done more movies.

Vertigo's Psycho, I am so jealous of all the people who met Neal! It's amazing how every last one of them says it's a good memory. Every single person!

Trish, I love those old Gainsborough melos and find them much, much sexier than The Fountainhead. There's an element of real romance in them--to the sappy Siren, an essential element of the erotic--that the Vidor film lacks. Still want to see Fanny by Gaslight (to American eyes, there is no way to put that title in a sentence without giggling) and Madonna of the Seven Moons. May try for those in Paris, think they are Region 2 only.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And speaking of real romance, it's Norma Shearer Day on TCM today. Wall-to-wall Norma into the wee smalls.

Karen said...

Still want to see Fanny by Gaslight (to American eyes, there is no way to put that title in a sentence without giggling)

I trust you know it's even more difficult to keep a straight face if one is British?

Yojimboen said...

Ta very much, Karen.

Trish said...

I like Phyllis Calvert and Stewart Granger as a screen team! Madonna of the Seven Moons is a little different, but very good. I haven't seen Fanny By Gaslight either.

By the way, Siren -- I am in the middle of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, having had a good laugh now that your earlier comment about Marius Goring makes more sense to me. For the brief time he was on screen, he was hilarious! Nothing at all like his Red Shoes stick-in-the-mud....

DavidEhrenstein said...

Albert Lewin is marvelously bonkers.
He started out at MGM as part of the Thalberg "brains trust," but didn't get to make a movie until he was 50

As the George Sanders Fan Club (aka. this blog) knows he was Lewin's favorite actor. However he saved his full descent into total deleriousness of Ava Gardner and James Mason.

There's a wonderful sceen in Mes Petite Amoueuses, Jean Eustache's great film about his teenage discover of girls, girls, girls, where our hero goes to the movies to see {andora and the Flying Dutchman

A rather radical choice for an "impressionable child" from a small French town. No wonder he grew up to make The Mother and the Whore

Yojimboen said...

`Speaking of Lewin, David, didja ever see his last film The Living Idol? It's thrillingly, deliciously bad; but what a poster!

DavidEhrenstein said...

TCM ran it a couple of years back.

Lewin collected pre-Columbian art, and this was his cinematic fantasy about it.

All films featuring Lilianne Montevecchi are required viewing.

There's a great book about Lewin, Botticelli in Hollywood by Susan Fellman (Twayne, 1997) Do try and score a copy of you can.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Liliane sings Cole Porter

gmoke said...

Carol Haney was really something. According to IMDB, she did more TV than film work but Youtube seems to have clips only from KMK and PG.

I bet she loved "The Red Shoes" (but Gene Kelly and Bob Fosse even more).

Yojimboen said...

Carol Haney’s biggest contribution to film dance was in Invitation to the Dance, Gene Kelly’s animated fantasy and, perversely, a movie in which Haney herself never appeared. Kelly made the dances on himself and Haney – their performances were filmed, then Haney was rotoscoped and replaced by animation
.

Haney was Kelly’s assistant choreographer on all his successful musicals; her death at 39 robbed dance-lovers everywhere of a remarkable woman. She, Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera were every bit as important to the dance as any Kirov, NYCB or ABT prima ballerina. (Forgive the pompous didacticism, folks, it’s just that I really, really liked Carol Haney.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Nothing pompous or didactic about it. Her death was an incalculable loss.

I love her most for "Steam Heat" from The Pajama Game

X. Trapnel said...

I think the poster is very artistic.

gmoke said...

Carol Haney, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera - yes, yes, yes, Yojimboen.

In any clip of Haney, you can see a whole person with lots and lots going on beneath that marvelous movement and surface.

I had the good fortune to see Chita Rivera on Broadway in "Bye Bye Birdie" once long ago, when I was a kid. Wow.

Bob Westal said...

I learned a little about Carol Haney while I was doing my Fosse-thon thing a few years back. Amazing talent -- sad there isn't more of her to see now.

cgeye said...

This is a very, very good collection of folks who are great, and danced with the greats --

http://www.google.com/search?q=you+tube+dancers+over+40

I would spend hours there, if I could....

And I think this multi-part tribute to Peter Gennaro has a bit of him dancing with Carol Haney:
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=F8498114DE0C38EC

Trish said...

Standouts for me this week both featured the aforementioned Ms. Bancroft. I watched the excellent New York Confidential and listened to the audio commentary (which was disappointing). I was blown away by Anne Bancroft, even though I felt her character came to a rather abrupt end. It's almost as if her ending was re-written...

I also caught Nightfall with Bancroft and the disarming charmer, Aldo Ray. A good week...