Skip to main content

Patricia Neal (1926-2010) Papers

Identifier: 31/6/108

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Patricia Neal Papers, filling 80 boxes, span the years 1926-2011 and comprehensively document both Neal's professional career and personal life. Materials include clippings, correspondence, documents, theatre and movie ephemera, photographs, and artifacts.

The collection is organized into fifteen series: biographical materials; correspondence; speeches and performances; awards, interviews, and appearances; materials relating to the publication of As I Am; financial materials; film and stage productions; personal materials; subject files; playbills and pamphlets; newsclippings; photographs; scrapbooks; and oversized items and artifacts.

Biographical materials includes personal artifacts, including a baby book created by Neal’s parents, stationery, and family notes; legal documents, such as family passports and Neal’s English driver’s license; and biographical information, containing genealogy, biographical sketches, and Neal’s detailed star charts.

Correspondence covers the span of Neal’s life, including personal, professional, and fan letters, from childhood to her retirement on Martha’s Vineyard.

Neal exchanged correspondence with many costars and celebrities, including Ann Bancroft, Kirk Douglas, Andy Griffith, Samuel Goldwyn, Larry King, (President) Ronald Reagan, and James (Jimmy) Stewart. Correspondence with actors and actresses include love letters from actor Peter Cookson, who appeared with Neal in John Loves Mary (1949). Many of the letters from Gary Cooper, written during his affair with Neal, were destroyed, but a few remain. Cooper rarely signed his letters, and sometimes used the name ‘Reg’ when writing to Neal, or to Chloe Carter and Jean Valentino, with whom Neal was living, in an attempt to protect himself from public scandal. In addition to letters from Cooper, the collection contains what is identified as a key to Cooper’s dressing room at Paramount Studios.

Letters from all of the Dahl children are included in the series, including several from Ophelia Dahl in Haiti, where she worked with Paul Farmer. Family letters pertain mostly to the Neal-Dahl divorce and family finances. Letters from Felicity Dahl detail royalty payments made to Neal from Dahl’s estate. Dahl’s extended family wrote to Eura Petrey Neal while Neal recovered from her strokes in England. These letters contain updates on Neal’s health and descriptions of Dahl’s rehabilitation program. Correspondence with Valerie Eaton Griffith covers the years 1969-2010 and details the recovery and philanthropy work on which the women collaborated, under the foundation founded by Griffith, the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association. Both Neal and her mother regularly corresponded with Mother Dolores Hart. While Neal wrote As I Am she spent a significant time working with Hart, and this is reflected in the letters.

Neal corresponded throughout her career with social worker/educator Dr. Sonia Austrian. These letters discuss Neal’s family life and health, and Roald Dahl’s literary career (Dahl’s correspondence with Austrian is also included in the collection).

Speeches and performances, dating between 1950 and 2005, include talks Neal gave while working for lecture bureaus, and at philanthropy events, acceptance speeches, and memorials for friends. In addition to these speeches are copies of song lyrics, including "Moon River," "As I Am," and "Send in the Clowns."

The awards, interviews, and appearances series includes awards Neal received between 1950-2007, including the honorary degrees she received from Rockford College, the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and Arkansas State University. Larger honorary degrees are placed at the end of the series. Accompanying the award certificates for each year are correspondence and programs pertaining to the award ceremony, as well as any additional information relating to the event. Similarly, this series contains schedules, programs, media coverage, and correspondence concerning public events and interviews made by Neal between 1948 and 2009.

Items related to Neal’s autobiography, As I Am, include copies of the book itself, source material, photographs, correspondence, articles and reviews. Neal wrote the book in collaboration with Richard DeNeut and Mother Dolores Hart; her correspondence with them, as well as with their publishers, date between 1987-1990. Also included is the royalty statement crediting DeNeut with fiscal rights. Articles and reviews of the book date just after the original publication, in 1988. Several drafts with corrections and questions for review form the bulk of the series. The series also contains correspondence and legal agreements regarding the 2004 reissue.

Financial materials cover the years 1965-2005. Documents include receipts, annual tax returns, and legal documents relating to both Neal’s and Roald Dahl’s finances, as well as financial paperwork from their 1983 divorce.

Film and stage productions date from 1949-2007. Each production folder contains various related material including promotional posters, contracts, reviews, publicity photos, scripts, and some correspondence.

Personal materials include medical records and documentation, such as bills, x-rays, insurance forms, and correspondence, ranging from 1973-1990. The series also contains legal documents relating to the Neal-Dahl divorce, as well as correspondence from the Lewitas & Yohonn law firm, which represented Neal.

Subject files range from 1937-2011 contain a wide variety of materials, including DMV forms, information on Theater at Sea cruises attended by Neal, records relating to the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and charity boards Neal served on, materials related to the Gary Cooper Academy Awards tribute, items from her high school, including reunion newsletters and class photos; Northwestern material, including the 1946 Syllabus in which she is named the Syllabus Queen, various copies of song lyrics, and genealogical records.

The playbills and pamphlets series contains mostly playbills from productions Neal was in as well as from performances she attended. Particularly noteworthy items in this series include a pamphlet from a recital at Lutkin Hall, likely the last performance given by Neal at Northwestern University, as well as a playbill from Another Part of the Forest, Fulton Theatre, 1946.

Neal kept extensive files of interviews, reviews, and profiles. Most of these newsclippings files are taken from U.S. publications, though many also come from British newspapers, and some from international news sources. The series also contains two linear feet of magazines, in most of which Neal is featured. These date between 1926 and 2010. Also included here is an autographed copy of Elia Kazan’s autobiography, A Life.

Photographs, ranging in date from the 1920s to 2010, consist of personal and professional photos. Most undated photographs are placed at the end of the series, although some have been incorporated into the appropriate decade.

Early photos depict the young Patricia Neal and her family members. Others document her time at Northwestern University.  Production photos include both official promotional photos, and informal photos taken on set. Photograph of the Dahl family range from the Neal-Dahl wedding and honeymoon in 1953 through the remainder of Neal’s life, with a large number of family photos dating from the 1960s and 1970s. Neal’s recovery from her strokes is depicted in personal and magazine photos.

Additionally, Neal received several autographed photos from celebrity acquaintances, including Hank Aaron, Bob Barker, Whoopi Goldberg, Buddy Ebsen, Natalie Wood, Lee Meriwether, and Rosie O’Donnell.

Neal compiled a dozen scrapbooks, dating between 1942 and 2006. Most of the scrapbooks chronicle her high school and Northwestern University years, and her career pre-stroke. She compiled three post-stroke scrapbooks, along with later birthday and photo albums.

A number of oversized items and artifacts, including film posters, framed portraits, keepsake photo albums, honorary degrees, large medical x-rays, oversized publications, and larger awards, have been arranged and housed appropriately to their preservation needs.


  • 1926-2011
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/10/2011


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection may contain sensitive materials and is restricted; consultation with University Archivist is required prior to use.


80.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



The personal papers of stage, movie, and television actress Patricia Neal fill 80 boxes and span the years 1926-2011. The papers comprehensively document both Neal’s professional career and personal life. Materials include clippings, correspondence, documents, theatre and movie ephemera, photographs, and artifacts.


Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by surname of the correspondent. Speeches are arranged chronologically where possible. Awards, interviews, and appearances are arranged chronologically. (Note: some items in this series are placed later in the collection due to size restrictions. See notes in the container list.) Items related to As I Am are arranged by file type. (Two copies of the book, a first edition hardback as well as a publisher imprint given to Neal, are at the start of the series.) Financial materials are organized chronologically. Film and state productions are arranged alphabetically by production. Subject files are arranged alphabetically by topic. Playbills and pamphlets are arranged alphabetically by item title. Newsclippings are in Neal's original order, chronologically by year and alphabetically by production and subject; the magazines are arranged chronologically by publication date. Photographs are arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

Lucy Dahl (Accession #s 11-89 and 11-98 on May 13, 2011, and June 17, 2011); Ophelia Dahl (Accession #s 11-164, 12-8, and 12-17 on September 2, 2011, January 10, 2012, and January 24, 2012).

Source of Acquisition


Method of Acquisition

The Patricia Neal Papers were donated to the University Archives by Lucy, Ophelia, Tessa, and Theo Dahl, 2011.

Separated Materials

Items removed from the collection include two audio tapes: “Speech and discussion with Patricia Neal/Abbey of Regina Laudis,” 1971 (AC# 2276) and “AT&T Project: Those Who Care, Patricia Neal, narration only,” n.d. (AT# 2209).  A collection of DVDs have also been separated and moved to the audiovisual collection in University Archives. They are numbered #360-#389, and include film clips, interviews, award ceremonies, Neal’s high school class reunion, as well as a “digital scrapbook.” In addition, seventy-five videocassettes have been removed to the audiovisual collection, numbered #2837-#2912.

Artifacts and oversize materials have been wrapped and remain with the collection in the final series excepting four very large awards which have been removed to the artifacts collection, numbered as follows:

1. Edwin Forrest Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, 1994.

2. Womancare of the Year Award, Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, 1989.

3. Fort Sanders Hospital Foundation Award, n.d.

4. Mother of the Year Award, Hebrew Home for the Aged, 1983.

Processing Information

Benn P. Joseph, 2012; Naomi Herman-Aplet, 2012; Ben Julia, 2011.

Guide to the Patricia Neal (1926-2010) Papers
Benn P. Joseph
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US