Born Patsy Louise Neal, the actress made her stage debut at age 15, won a Tony for her performance in the Broadway production of Another Part of the Forest (1946), made her film debut in John Loves Mary (1949), and won a Best Actress Academy Award for Hud (1963). The buzz of Broadway and the glamour of Hollywood were tempered by a large measure of personal tragedy. In 1960, Neal's infant son suffered brain damage when his stroller was crushed between a bus and a taxi in New York City. Two years later, her oldest child, Olivia, died at age 7 of measles encephalitis. And one year after receiving her Oscar, Patricia Neal suffered a series of strokes that left her in a coma. When she emerged, she couldn't read, walk, or speak. She made a miraculous recovery, giving birth to a daughter six months after brain surgery. Neal returned to the screen in 1968 in The Subject Was Roses, a performance for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Neal had been suffering from lung cancer and was 84 at the time of her death in Edgartown, Mass.
Neal was married to the former Royal Air Force fighter pilot turned children's book author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach) for 30 years before their divorce in 1983. They had five children.