TCM celebrates Patricia Neal

Posted by puguh on Friday, January 21, 2011

TCM celebrates Patricia Neal, On what would have been her 85th birthday. Patricia Neal was born January 20, 1926 and died August 8, 2010, just five months short of her 85th birthday. To celebrate the Knoxville, Tennessee native's life and career,TCM is presenting a selection of some of her best-loved films Thursday, January 20.

The day-long celebration begins at 7/6c withThe Fountainhead, from 1949. Based on the book by Ann Rand, The Fountainheadstars Gary Cooper as an architect hired to design the world's tallest building. Among his obstacles, a corrupt boss and affection for a married woman (Neal).

At 9/8c Neal plays second banana to Doris Day in the 1949 musical comedy, It's a Great Feeling. This movie is a film buff's dream, as it is presented as a sort of behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking, casting some of Hollywood's biggest names behind and in front of the camera as themselves in a tale of trying to get a Jack Carson movie made, despite the fact that no one wants to work with him. Among the then-heavy hitters making guest appearances are directors King Vidor, Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz. In addition toCarson in the lead, a cavalcade of Warner Bros. stars including: Dennis Morgan, Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper,Jane Wyman, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford,Ray Heindorf, Maureen Reagan, Sydney Greenstreet and of course our birthday girl, Patricia Neal. On the fictional side, Bill Goodwin and Doris Day play Carson's fictional producer and his unknown co-star, respectively.

Up next 10:30/9:30c is the romantic comedy, John Loves Mary (1949). This marked Neal's film debut and co-stars Ronald Reagan. In a sweet opening sequence, Mary (Neal), the daughter of an American Congressman, learns that her soldier boyfriendJohn (Reagan) is returning after four years in the war. She attempts to recreate the last time they saw each other, but her plans are spoiled by the arrival of John's army buddy, Fred (Jack Carson). Further complicating things, John confides in Fred that Fred's presumed-dead girlfriend Lilly (Virginia Fields) isn't dead after all, and furthermore, in order to reunite them, John had to marry her so she could enter the US.

Politics play a part in the next film in TCM's Neal tribute at 12:15/11:15c with 1952's Washington Story. As reporter Alice Kingsley, Neal, while in D.C. hoping to expose corrupt goings on, meets and falls for Congressman Joseph T. Gresham, played byVan Johnson. With doubts of the congressman's honor and true intentions in question, Alice investigates him while he pursues her. Typical for it's day, there's mix-ups and of course a much-anticipated happy ending.

One of Neal's more interesting films, Psyche '59 from 1964 airs at 1:45/12:45c. The film's title is explained in the plot. Allison (Neal) lost her sight five years earlier as the result of a fall during a pregnancy. Doctors deem the blindness psychosomatic, the result of all all the trauma. But wait, there's more. Allison's younger sister Robin (Samantha Eggar) returns for a visit, but Allison's husband Eric (Curt Jurgens) doesn't seem pleased. Robin then begins to date Paul (Ian Bannen) and later, Eric reveals toPaul that he slept with Robin years ago. When Allison's sight begins to return, as a result of yet another fall, she keeps things to herself, sensing something between her sister and her husband. Her suspicions are confirmed when sees the two of them embracing and the true reason for the blindness is revealed.

Then it's The Subject Was Roses (1968), perhaps Neal's most remember role, with the exception of her Made-for-TV turn as Olivia Walton in The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, the film that preceded the classic Waltons TV series. Neal plays Netty Cleary, mother to returning young veteran Timmy (Martin Sheen). When Timmy discovers he's returning to a house nearly divided, he attempts to reconcile his parents. While out with his fatherJohn (Jack Albertson), Timmy suggests he buy roses for Netty. Under the direction of Ulu Grosbard, Neal and Albertson were each nominated for their work, withAlbertson taking home the coveted golden statuette. Neal had won her sole career Oscar some five years prior for her work in the film Hud.

1971's The Road Builder (the film's UK release title) aka The Night Digger is up next at 5:30/4:30c. Based on Joy Crowley's novel, Nest in a Falling Tree, the film features Neal as 35-year-old spinster Maura Prince, who works part time and spend the rest caring for her vindictive blind mother Edith (Pamela Brown). When a mysterious drifter arrives looking for temporary work, Edith is surprisingly taken by the young man and offers him a job as handyman. Fans of 1975's documentary Grey Gardens might find some eerie similarities between The Night Digger's fictional plot and the then-future documentary about Jackie O.'s similarly situated aunt and niece. It's also interesting that Neal's Maura works as a part time speech therapist and walks with a slight limp, two things Neal knew plenty about, having suffered multiple brain aneurysms some five years prior to the making of this film, Neal had to relearn to walk and talk.

On the subject of her off-screen life, TCM rounds out Neal's birthday tribute with a rebroadcast of their original program, Private Screenings: Patricia Neal. In this rarely seen 2004 interview,TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne chats with Neal about her career and life in this one-of-a-kind inside look at her legacy on and off the screen.

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