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Even before her own illness, her life often was touched by misfortune. Besides her daughter’s death, an infant son nearly died in 1960 when his carriage was struck by a taxi.

Neal also suffered a nervous breakdown, and had an ill-fated affair with Gary Cooper, who starred with her in “The Fountainhead.”

“I lived this secret life for several years. I was so ashamed,” she told The New York Times in 1964.

The strokes at first paralyzed her and impaired her speech. After recovering, she limped and had bad vision in one eye. A 1991 biopic about her travails starred Glenda Jackson as Neal.

In 1999, she starred in her first feature film in 10 years in the title role in Robert Altman’s “Cookie’s Fortune.”

She said at the time that movie offers had been scarce in recent years.

“I don’t quite understand it, but nobody calls me and nobody wants me. But I love to act.”

Neal was born in a mining camp in Packard, Ky., the daughter of a transportation manager for the South Coal & Coke Co. After leaving Knoxville, she attended Northwestern University and then struck out for Broadway.

Her broadway credits included “A Roomful of Roses,” “The Miracle Worker” (as Helen Keller’s mother, Kate) and a revival of Hellman’s drama “The Children’s Hour.”

She made her screen debut in 1949’s “John Loves Mary,” that also starred Jack Carson and Ronald Reagan.

Her three Emmy nominations were all for roles in notable drama specials: Besides “The Homecoming,” they were “Tail Gunner Joe,” a 1977 drama about Sen. Joe McCarthy, and a version of the tragic World War I story “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

Among Neal’s children is Tessa Dahl, who followed in her father’s footsteps as a writer. Tessa Dahl’s daughter is the model and writer Sophie Dahl.

Friends said her sorrows gave her an inner toughness that brought new power to her screen portrayals.

“I don’t lie down. … I’m fightin’ all the way,” she said in 1999.

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