Patricia Neal’s life has been more tumultuous than most Greek tragedies. But she doesn’t want or need anyone’s tears. She has weathered the crises with grace, wit and a refusal to see herself as a victim.

The Oscar-winner sits for a short but compelling interview on “Private Screenings,” premiering Monday on Turner Classic Movies. Host Robert Osborne draws juicy insights from the 78-year-old actress that will delight movie buffs.

Neal’s affair with the married Gary Cooper was one source of turmoil, and their romantic chemistry still energizes the 1949 drama “The Fountainhead.”

“I loved him,” she says. “I thought he was the most ravishingly beautiful man I had ever seen in my life.”

Years later, Neal became friends with Cooper’s daughter and widow. “That’s what life is made of,” Neal says.

The actress is mostly complimentary toward co-stars, praising Ronald Reagan (“a fabulous man”), Paul Newman and Audrey Hepburn. One exception is George Peppard, who was “a horror” on “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the beloved 1961 romantic drama.

Film fans will be disappointed that the program ignores her career since 1968 and offers no discussion of the corrosive 1957 drama “A Face in the Crowd,” director Elia Kazan or co-star Andy Griffith.

Still, the show touches on most of her film highlights. Neal says she couldn’t keep a straight face during 1951’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” but now she’s proud to be part of the sci-fi classic.

Director Martin Ritt wanted her so badly for 1963’s “Hud” that he arranged the shooting schedule to fit her needs. She won the best-actress Oscar for her stunning work as a weary housekeeper.

“I just knew what she felt, and I did it automatically,” Neal says. “I’m an instinctive actress.”

The actress describes her life simply. “I’ve got myself in trouble a lot of times,” she says. “I just don’t lie.”

“Private Screenings” is a fine testament to a resilient woman and her impressive career. TCM will present three of her films Monday: “Hud,” “The Subject Was Roses” and “A Face in the Crowd.”



PRIVATE SCREENINGS: PATRICIA NEAL

Cast: Patricia Neal, host Robert Osborne.

Where and when: The interview premieres at 8 p.m. EDT Monday on Turner Classic Movies and repeats at 11 that night.



(c) 2004, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-06-25-04 1055EDT



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