|Patricia Neal with the robot Gort in 1951's science fiction classic 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.'|
Without a contract at Warner Brothers, deep into her four-year, now-public affair with the very married Gary Cooper, and recovering from an abortion that would haunt her for three decades, Patricia Neal faced a challenging year in 1951.
“I was no longer the young darling of Hollywood,” she recalled in her autobiography, As I Am. “I was the unsympathetic side of a triangle. Gary sensed my increasing anxiety and grew more tender toward me. Actually, he was under as much tension as I was. I could see it in his face, feel it in his body. But of course, he did not talk about it. I did not know he was becoming very ill.”
Luckily, Neal secured a three-film deal at Twentieth Century Fox.
“My first film of the new Fox contract was going to be a science fiction thriller called ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ I was not encouraged in the least, but I did not want to begin my career at Fox by going on suspension. The director was Robert Wise, who had been good to me in the past. He believed in the project and wanted me to do it. I am very glad I said yes. I worked with an old friend, Hugh Marlowe, and a new one, Michael Rennie.
“I do think it’s the best science fiction film ever made, although I admit I sometimes had a difficult time keeping a straight face. Michael would patiently watch me bite my lips to avoid giggling and ask, with true British reserve, ‘Is that the way you intend to play it?’
“The press was relentless now. They followed me everywhere, even onto the set, but I would not speak to them. The publicity department made up responses for me to their questions about Gary. So in print, I could be vague (‘We’re just good friends’) or cute (‘If I were in love with him, I’d be silly to advertise it. After all, he is a married man.’) or even haughty (‘I do wish people would find something else to talk about’).
“Dear Michael, who was as exasperated as I was, thought I should honor their questions with my favorite line from the film.
“ ‘Miss Neal, did you break up Gary Cooper’s marriage?’
“’Klaatu barada nikto!’”