Patricia Neal to receive lifetime award

April 22, 2008 6:19:27 PM PDT
At 82, Patricia Neal still has that delightful voice husky yet elegant as she recalls her favorite films of her career.

"`A Face in the Crowd,"' she says of the 1957 movie in which she starred opposite Andy Griffith. "Elia Kazan directed. I loved that one. ... Andy Griffith was gorgeous.

"I also loved 'Hud' (with Paul Newman in 1963) because it won me the Oscar. And 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' (the 1951 science fiction classic). I thought it was hysterical when I made it, but they loved it."

Neal, who was born in Packard, Ky., and grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., returned to Tennessee to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Nashville Film Festival.

Singer-actor Lyle Lovett, who co-starred with her in Robert Altman's 1999 film "Cookie's Fortune," was scheduled to present the honor Tuesday night.

"I'm delighted to be getting this in this state," said Neal, who graduated from Knoxville High School.

Neal, who now lives in New York, draws out words like "delighted" and "gorgeous" and often punctuates stories with a deep, hearty laugh.

"I did monologues all over the place," she says of her early days. "I then went to Northwestern University (to study drama) because they insisted I go. I went there two years and my father died my first year there. They insisted I go back another year and I did. I went on from there to New York and I got a job almost at once."

From Broadway she headed to Hollywood where her first films included a memorable role opposite Gary Cooper in "The Fountainhead" in 1949.

She returned to Broadway for "A Roomful of Roses" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" before opening a second and more successful chapter of her film career with "A Face in the Crowd," Kazan's portrait of political demagoguery.

Neal is candid about her past, including her affair with Cooper (he was married at the time and 25 years her senior), her debilitating strokes in the 1960s (she had to relearn to walk and talk) and her leading men (her favorite, naturally, was Cooper).

She made a courageous comeback from her illness with "The Subject Was Roses" (1968) which earned her an Oscar nomination. Her return was dramatized in the 1981 TV movie "The Patricia Neal Story" with Glenda Jackson portraying her.

Today, Neal continues to travel with New York's Theatre Guild and will appear with Billy Ray Cyrus in the upcoming movie "Flying By." She says she loves to work, always has. When she first went to New York, she recalls, "I got up every day, every day, on the streets, on the streets, on the streets. I wasn't real snobby about it."