University Library hosts new exhibit on alumna-turned-famous actress

The library is currently showcasing an exhibition on celebrity actress and Northwestern alumna, Patricia Neal. The exhibit even includes her unused tickets for the Oscars.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

The library is currently showcasing an exhibition on celebrity actress and Northwestern alumna, Patricia Neal. The exhibit even includes her unused tickets for the Oscars.

Ally Mutnick, Assistant Campus Editor

University Library is currently home to an exhibit full of pictures and artifacts of Northwestern alumna Patricia Neal, an Academy Award-winning actress who studied theater at Northwestern from 1943 to 1945.

The exhibit, which will be on display until March 22, includes nearly 100 of Neal’s personal items in six display cases that span from the library’s entrance at the Information Commons to the Periodicals and Newspaper Reading Room. Neal’s daughters Lucy and Ophelia Dahl donated the items to the University.

 “It’s a really good collection of stuff and it obviously could have been sold somewhere,” said manuscript librarian Benn Joseph, the exhibit’s curator. “But according to her daughters, Patricia Neal was very fond of her time here at Northwestern.”

Highlights of the exhibits include photos of Neal in NU plays, her personal letters from numerous celebrities including President Ronald Reagan and Paul Newman, a lock of her hair from her baby book and her unused Oscar tickets from 1964, the year she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

The items document Neal’s life from her childhood to her home life with her husband, author Roald Dahl and their five children, to her return to acting after suffering a severe stroke that left her unable to walk or speak.

The exhibit has programs and pictures from the NU production of “Twelfth Night,” where Neal starred as Olivia — in 1955, she named her first daughter after the character — and pictures of Neal with her sisters in NU’s chapter of Pi Beta Phi sorority.

Though she left after her sophomore year to pursue an acting career, Neal was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts from NU in 1994. Neal was in the School of Communication and  studied acting under well-known professor Alvina Krause.

“It’s kind of cool to have this person who was a celebrity and has all this Northwestern stuff in her collection, has all these ties to the university,” said Joseph, who narrowed down the items in the exhibit to half of the orignal donation size.

The University will host a grand opening of the exhibit on February 15. There will be a screening of “Hud,” the 1963 film for which Neal received her Oscar, at the Block Museum of Art. Lucy and Ophelia Dahl are expected to attend, according to University archivist Kevin Leonard.

Leonard, who worked with the Dahl sisters to procure the items, said the exhibit is unique from others NU has showcased because Neal’s life story appeals to a lot of people. Those interested in what NU was like in the 1940s, in the performing arts or even in medicine can find something to view in the exhibit, he said.

“I had never heard of her,” said Weinberg sophomore Rachel Sachs. “Getting to know her in the context of Hollywood and her husband is really interesting.”

Sachs said she had not seen many people stop to view the exhibit when they walked into the library.

“It’s a shame that it’s in this hallway and everybody just walks by it,” she said. “They should make it a bigger deal.”

Leonard said the University was “delighted” that Neal’s daughters chose to give her artifacts to the school. He said he thought students who view the exhibit would find her story inspiring because of her success in her career and her recovery from her health issues.

“She’s known because of her acting ability but her life was most remarkable in a number of ways,” he said. “We’ve been after that stuff for a long time and we’re most grateful it found its way here.”

Correction: A previous version of this story omitted one of Neal’s daughters, Lucy Dahl, who donated to the exhibit. The Daily regrets the error.