My 10 Favorite Spunky Natalie Wood PicturesFeb 16, 2003 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Happy Viewing!
Poor, enigmatic Natalie. Elvis wanted to marry her, but his mother didnt like her. Why, one has to wonder. Born of Russian immigrants who were almost incomprehensible, Natalie (Natasha) as a child slipped her way into the movies because of the unrelenting persistence of her loving mother. Before long the impish, little girls flair for acting charmed the public as well as movie producers and directors who began casting her as a leading lady in wonderfully compelling movies. I repeatedly welcome many of her movies into my life, even though I havent reviewed one of them until now and her cameo in The Candidate cant really count.
Two other actresses have merited their own tributes, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, and Natalie Wood is likewise a stunning woman of short stature (5) and passionate, contagious joy who transforms the screen no less than our doting hearts. If you have a craving for a certain type of movie, she will not disappoint you with her variety of roles and may easily spark conversation afterwards.
In order of theatrical release:
The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947): Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director. R.A. Dick, novel. Philip Dunne, screenplay. Natalie plays the small daughter of Gene Tierney who is a widow in 1900 that moves them into a seaside cottage, soon to find it still occupied by the rascally ghost of a sea captain (Rex Harrison). George Sanders joins in on the fun to make the ghost, well, rather jealous! A beauty of a love story only rivaled by its comedy.
Miracle On 34th Street (1947): George Seton, director and screenplay. Valentine Davies, story. Natalie plays the precocious daughter of widow Maureen OHara who comes to believe in Santa Claus (brilliant Edmund Gwenn) and so does her mother and a neighbor who takes his convictions all the way to court. A timeless Christmas classic.
Rebel Without A Cause (1955): Nicholas Ray, director and story. Irving Shulman, adaptation. Natalie costars opposite James Dean and Sal Mineo in this gorgeous tale of troubled teens in conflict with their parents and each other. Ive read that Mineos Plato may have been a closet homosexual, but he just seems desperate for love to me. A thriller as well as tender love story.
The Searchers (1956): John Ford, director. Alan Le May, novel. Frank S. Nugent, screenplay. Natalie is the niece of Civil War veteran John Wayne, who has been stolen by Indians. Wayne vows to find and rescue her, being joined by a half Indian relative in his five-year search. This is a western with a lot of heart and unpredictable westernness.
Kings Go Forth (1958): Delmer Daves, director. Joe David Brown, novel. Merle Miller, screenplay. Natalie has a dead black father and protective white mother who left America for racially-tolerant France to raise her. During World War II she meets a much older Frank Sinatra, then playboy and trumpeter Tony Curtis. She falls for Tony and he for her, but Frank tells him of her blood. War scenes, romantic locations, charisma, but not quite like the book.
Splendor In The Grass (1961): Elia Kazan, director. William Inge, screenwriter. Natalie falls hopelessly in love with an off limits rich boy (a steamy Warren Beatty), and he for her it would seem, but they are forced to separate and to deal with life the best they can. Natalie fights back from hysteria to mental health in a frustratingly bittersweet love story.
West Side Story (1961): Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, directors. Robbins, staging. Arthur Laurents, play. 10 Oscars. Natalie, a Puerto Rican, and Richard Beymer, a white, fall in love as a modern Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet, in a gang-divided west side of New York City. Snappy dancing, mushy and wild singing, its a mesmerizing ride! Leonard Bernstein Oscar-winning music in a musical that influenced all following.
Gypsy (1962): Mervyn LeRoy, director. Arthur Laurents, screenplay. Natalie proves she can move beyond the clutches of her puritanical mother (a riveting Rosalind Russell) and becomes a famous stripper. Karl Malden plays sweet, bemused Herbie and Morgan Brittany, then Ann Jillian as sister June. Many intense issues are explored here with style.
Love With A Proper Stranger (1963): Robert Mulligan, director. Arnold Shulman, screenplay. Natalie, a good Catholic girl, finds herself pregnant and single after an impulsive night with Steve McQueen. They decide to raise money for an abortion, but will they go through with it? Great sizzle and fun repartee between the stars!
The Great Race (1965): Blake Edwards, director and story. Arthur A. Ross, screenplay. Natalie is in the chaotic midst of Jack Lemmon (evil Professor Fate) and Tony Curtis (heroic The Great Leslie) with Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, Arthur O Connell and Vivian Vance in this pie fighting (tribute to Laurel and Hardy), car racing slapstick comedy. This takes place back when automobiles were seen as suspicious luxury! For the family.
Tragically Natalie died by drowning in 1981 while making a comeback in the movies after a turn to television with husband Robert Wagner. She made many other movies I either havent seen or arent as much of a standout as the ten above, including ones with Wagner (All The Fine, Young Cannibals), Gene Kelly (Marjorie Morningstar), Robert Redford (besides The Candidate, there was Inside Daisy Clover), Christopher Plummer (Inside Daisy Clover) and Robert Culp (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice).
She may not be as Oscar worthy as Audrey Hepburn or as sensual as Marilyn Monroe, but she has a lot of spunk, earthiness and burgeoning sexuality. Who knows what heights she might have climbed as an actress if she had had the chance? What if she had married Elvis? At least we can be grateful for the movies she did leave us and, like me, continue to thoroughly enjoy them.
My Review of The Candidate
My Audrey Hepburn Tribute
My Marilyn Monroe Tribute
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