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Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0609809571, Paperback)Natalie Wood (1938-81) came from the last generation of movie stars shaped by the Hollywood studio system, and Suzanne Finstad gives her life the all-out showbiz celebrity bio treatment in this compulsively readable book. As Finstad sees it, Wood was tortured by the conflict between her real self, born Natasha Zakharenko to Russian immigrants, and the glamorous "Natalie Wood" persona created by her ambitious mother. Wood admired rebellious actors like James Dean, her co-star in Rebel Without a Cause, but she wanted the mink coats, sexy cars, and huge salaries Warner Brothers doled out for appearances in forgettable pictures like Sex and the Single Girl. Working in films from age 6, she learned early that the way to get ahead was to please the grownups, a lesson she never really unlearned, even in her wild teens. She ditched a fiancé‚ deemed unsuitable by the studio, to marry suave rising star Robert Wagner, despite warnings from friends that he was bisexual; their first marriage ended when she found him "in a compromising position with another man," but they reunited in 1972 to become Hollywood's golden couple once more. But her attraction to more challenging artists remained; her friendship with Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken sparked the drunken quarrel that in Finstad's account led to Wood's drowning off Wagner's boat. (Chillingly, she had a lifelong fear of water.) Numerous quotes from practically everyone who ever knew Wood evoke Tinseltown's gossipy atmosphere, and Finstad's overwrought prose (she describes Wood as "bound to her mother, as if Maria were a snake coiled around her neck") sustains an appropriately high-pitched mood. Suicide attempts, reckless driving, excessive drinking, rape by an unnamed Hollywood star are all chronicled in detail that might be distasteful if the author weren't so sympathetic towards her vulnerable heroine. --Wendy Smith
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:54:13 -0500)
A portrait of the film actress describes Wood's youth as an abused and exploited child star and troubled teen, her years as a top movie star, her romances, her two marriages to Robert Wagner, and her tragic drowning death.
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