Monday, August 9, 2010

Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Revered stage and screen actress Patricia Neal passed away today at age 84. Ms. Neal won an Academy Award for her performance in Hud and was nominated for her performance in The Subject Was Roses; both terrific movies featuring performances by an amazing woman who fought her way back from a series of strokes, the first of which left her unable to speak or walk.

Most of the major news outlets have covered only that much of her career, failing to mention her performance as Mrs. Keller in the original production of The Miracle Worker; her marriage to children's author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Matilda) or her role opposite future President Ronald Reagan in the romantic comedy John Loves Mary. Personally, I will remember Ms. Neal best as Helen Benson in director Robert Wise's (The Haunting) thoughtful 1951 Sci-Fi drama, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

WWII had recently come to an explosive (to say the least) end and the threat of nuclear annihilation was on almost every American's mind as the Cold War started it's 30+ years of scaring both children and adults. School kids were taught to "Duck and Cover" via partially animated films (as if that would actually help) and personal bomb shelters were all the rage when Wise and screenwriter Edmund H. North made their iconic movie about an alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his robot Gort, who were sent to Earth to warn us that unless we stopped our evil, war-like ways, we risked destruction at the hands of the peace-loving aliens throughout the galaxy. Ms. Neal was the human envoy who made personal contact with Klaatu and managed to deliver the classic line (without giggling) to Gort, thereby stopping his pre-programmed destruction of the planet.

Forget the godawful 2008 Keanu Reeves remake and take the time to watch this thoughtful and surprising anti-war film, which still pops up now and then on AMC and TCM (though I imagine it will get some play, now that Ms. Neal has passed). You won't be disappointed.

More, anon.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

A fascinating & affective performer... not really beautiful, but earthy when needed & sophisticated when called for.

The Subject Was Roses- A+