It seemed that life knocked her down just to see if she’d get back up. But she did, every time, surviving the death of a child, the near death of another, numerous health problems, and her husband’s affair with her best friend.
Neal died yesterday of lung cancer at age 84, after a life of incredible highs and devastating lows.
Read on to learn 10 things about this fascinating mom and grandmother.
1. Neal graduated from high school in Knoxville before going to Hollywood.
2. She started a five-year affair with married actor Gary Cooper in the late 1940s, getting pregnant with his child and getting an abortion, before finally breaking it off.
3. She married Dahl in 1953, and they had five children.
4. Their oldest daughter, Olivia, died of the measles at age 7.
5. Another child, Theo, almost died after a taxicab hit his baby carriage. But he made a full recovery.
6. She starred in several classic movies during the ’40s and ’50s, including “The Fountainhead” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
7. But she’s best known for “Hud,” the 1963 film for which she won an Academy Award.
8. Just two years later, she suffered a stroke that robbed her of her speech and walking abilities, forcing her into years of rehab. Dahl helped her recover through extensive physical therapy.
9. She and Dahl divorced in 1983. She detailed the divorce in her autobiography seven years later, saying that her husband had been having an affair with her best friend.
10. Dahl, the author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” died in 1990. Though they parted on bad terms, Neal said he remained the love of her life.