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Natalie Wood: A Life by Gavin Lambert
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Natalie Wood: A Life

by Gavin Lambert

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Gavin Lambert knew Natalie Wood, but he manages to refer to himself very rarely in this biography of the famous actress who drowned mysteriously one night on the family yacht. Nor does he manage to shed much light on the peculiar events of that sad ending, although he clears away the debris of gossip and hearsay spread by unscrupulous people who were out to make a buck. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW)

What he does do is present his subject first and foremost as an actress, shedding considerable light on the “studio system” of the time, which consciously compromised her sincere attempts to be an actress, rather than simply a movie star. He also explains her lifelong fear of dark water, the result of an unscrupulous director and her stage mother, who conspired to trick her in a movie scene where a bridge collapses. Their purpose was for the child to register genuine fear – which she did -- but she almost drowned, and never got over the trauma. Her mother observed no limits in promoting Wood’s career, even turning a blind eye to her daughter’s affair at 16 with Nick Ray, a man in his forties and the director of Rebel without a Cause, although she put a stop to Natalie’s simultaneous affair with the young Dennis Hopper, who could offer her daughter no career opportunities. (END OF SPOILERS)

Lambert lets us see how these beginnings guided Wood’s life, but all along the way he shows genuine sympathy for a woman who never got past a few excellent roles, and suffered the humiliation of so many terrible ones in which she was over made-up and under directed. His final chapter outlines again the progress of her career on a purely professional basis, carefully describing each scene in which she achieved real acting skill and artistic brilliance. Natalie would have appreciated that. I came away with more respect for the writer than the subject, who in the final analysis was a very pretty woman whose talent was never fully realized. ( )
1 vote kambrogi | May 15, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375410740, Hardcover)

She spent her life in the movies. Her childhood is still there to see in Miracle on 34th Street. Her adolescence in Rebel Without a Cause. Her coming of age? Still playing in Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story and countless other hit movies. From the moment Natalie Wood made her debut in 1946, playing Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles’s ward in Tomorrow Is Forever at the age of seven, to her shocking, untimely death in 1981, the decades of her life are marked by movies that–for their moments–summed up America’s dreams.

Now the acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, whose twenty-year friendship with Natalie Wood began when she wanted to star in the movie adaptation of his novel Inside Daisy Clover, tells her extraordinary story. He writes about her parents, uncovering secrets that Natalie either didn’t know or kept hidden from those closest to her. Here is the young Natalie, from her years as a child actress at the mercy of a driven, controlling stage mother (“Make Mr. Pichel love you,” she whispered to the five-year-old Natalie before depositing her unexpectedly on the director’s lap), to her awkward adolescence when, suddenly too old for kiddie roles, she was shunted aside, just another freshman at Van Nuys High. Lambert shows us the glamorous movie star in her twenties—All the Fine Young Cannibals, Gypsy and Love with the Proper Stranger. He writes about her marriages, her divorces, her love affairs, her suicide attempt at twenty-six, the birth of her children, her friendships, her struggles as an actress and her tragic death by drowning (she was always terrified of water) at forty-three.
For the first time, everyone who knew Natalie Wood speaks freely–including her husbands Robert Wagner and Richard Gregson, famously private people like Warren Beatty, intimate friends such as playwright Mart Crowley, directors Robert Mulligan and Paul Mazursky, and Leslie Caron, each of whom told the author stories about this remarkable woman who was both life-loving and filled with despair.

What we couldn’t know–have never been told before–Lambert perceptively uncovers. His book provides the richest portrait we have had of Natalie Wood.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:15 -0400)

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"Now the acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, whose twenty-year friendship with Natalie Wood began when she wanted to star in the movie adaptation of his novel Inside Daisy Clover, tells her extraordinary story. He writes about her parents, uncovering secrets that Natalie either didn't know or kept hidden from those closest to her. Here is the young Natalie, from her years as a child actress at the mercy of a driven, controlling stage mother ("Make Mr. Pichel love you," she whispered to the five-year-old Natalie before depositing her unexpectedly on the director's lap), to her awkward adolescence when, suddenly too old for kiddie roles, she was shunted aside, just another freshman at Van Nuys High. Lambert shows us the glamorous movie star in her twenties - All the Fine Young Cannibals, Gypsy and Love with the Proper Stranger. He writes about her marriages, her divorces, her love affairs, her suicide attempt at twenty-six, the birth of her children, her friendships, her struggles as an actress and her tragic death by drowning (she was always terrified of water) at forty-three." "For the first time, everyone who knew Natalie Wood speaks freely - including her husbands Robert Wagner and Richard Gregson, famously private people like Warren Beatty, intimate friends such as playwright Mart Crowley, directors Robert Mulligan and Paul Mazursky, and Leslie Caron, each of whom told the author stories about this remarkable woman who was both life-loving and filled with despair." "What we couldn't know - have never been told before - Lambert perceptively uncovers. His book provides the richest portrait we have had of Natalie Wood."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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