(Both UK and US covers of books shown where appropriate)
WOOD: A LIFE”
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.
THE BIOGRAPHY 0F NATALIE WOOD”
BY: SUZANNE FINSTAD – 2001
(UK cover and synopsis - 2nd cover US book)
IN THIS EXPLOSIVE NEW BOOK SUZANNE FINSTAD PUTS AN END TO THE MYSTERIES AND TELLS THE MOVING, SOMETIMES SHOCKING STORY OF THIS BEAUTIFUL AND EXTRAORDINARY WOMAN.
Natasha is the first substantive biography of Natalie Wood (born Natasha Zakharenko) – a woman who has been hailed, along with Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, as one of the top three movie goddesses of all time.
Here, then, is Natalie’s story: from emotionally abused and exploited child star to troubled teen, through her years as a top international movie star and sex symbol and her relationships with Elvis Presley, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, and Robert Wagner, and concluding with the shocking revelations about her long-unsolved drowning.
Natasha is based on years of exhaustive research into Natalie’s turbulent life and puzzling death. Author Suzanne Finstad found deep insights in the paper trail Wood left behind and conducted near 400 interviews with friends, family, co-stars, film crews, lovers, attorneys, and the police officials and coroner (the celebrated Dr. Thomas Noguchi) who investigated her death. Natasha also contains dozens of unpublished photographs from the private family albums of Natalie’s friends, family and co-stars.
Beyond her dark, hypnotic beauty and her unbroken success as a child star, ingénue, and mature actor, Natalie Wood possessed an enduring star quality that continues to entrance both women and men. Natasha is a book we’ve long been waiting for.
STAR-CROSSED LOVERS “NATALIE AND R.J.”
BY: WARREN G. HARRIS – 1988
(UK paperback cover - no hardback released in UK - and synopsis - 2nd cover US book)
Taking the reader from their early years working under the old Hollywood Studio System, to the final, shattering hours before Natalie Wood’s life mysteriously ended. “Natalie & R.J.” brings the magic and the madness of these legendary lovers brilliantly alive. Natalie, the child star of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, spotted R.J. for the first time when he was a handsome eighteen-year-old whose mentors included Gary Cooper and Clark Gable. She knew in her heart that one day R.J. would be her husband. But their first marriage was a tempestuous one, torn apart by gossip columnists and Natalie’s sensational liaison with Warren Beatty. Their separate marriages each made were doomed relationships in which they tried to forget the memories they shared together.
But the story of Natalie and R.J. does not end there. For amid career jealousies, extramarital affairs, and a painful suicide attempt by Natalie, there existed a love and friendship that knew no boundaries. And in poignant, compelling, often heartbreaking words, author Harris recounts the fabled remarriage of these adored – and adoring – superstars…two people whose commitment to each other and whose careers as actors and producers were at their peak when it all came to an abrupt end one night in the waters off Catalina Island.
The announcement of Natalie Wood’s untimely death on November 29, 1981, shocked and saddened movie fans the world over. A vivacious blend of beauty, talent, vulnerability and sex appeal, Natalie had always been appreciated as something special, and consequently her passing affected many people in a special way. For some there was a sense of almost personal bereavement, as though a cherished daughter, sister or sweetheart had been lost.
For several reasons this familiar identification with Natalie was understandable. She had, after all, grown up in front of – and along with – her public during the forty-three years and various stages of her life. At the beginning of her career she charmed audiences as a versatile, natural child actress. Known as “The Pigtail Kid”, she became the archetypal little sister: funny, endearing or bratty, depending on the role. Easing through the difficult years of early adolescence, she became the Eisenhower’s era’s most idealised – and imitated – teen-age girl. As the restless on-screen companion of James Dean and the off-screen date of Elvis Presley, she was admired and envied by young girls everywhere.
In the years of her greatest success, the 1960s, Natalie was box-office champ, second only to Elizabeth Taylor as America’s favourite sexy superstar. Through the course of fifty films, several of which are considered classics, she earned three Oscar Nominations and dozens of popularity awards within an industry that affectionately dubbed her “Hollywood’s Princess”. By the time of her death, she was regarded as much for her seasoned talents as for her enduring beauty. Although tremendously proud of her lasting stardom, Natalie might have demurred at the thought of being called a legend, but thanks to films and television, her spirited performances will enchant future generations for years.
This is the book that only Natalie Wood’s sister could have written – a warm but devastatingly frank account of the life of a beautiful woman who was a Hollywood star from the age of five. Never out of the limelight, her passionate love-affairs, family fights, stormy marriages and bitter divorces all made headlines during her lifetime, and controversy still surrounds the circumstances of her untimely death by drowning at the age of only forty-three.
Natalie Wood emerges as an impulsive, sometimes reckless person, who could be ruthless in her dealings with other people – even those she loved. During her love affair with Warren Beatty the air would resound with screams if her were late – or unfaithful. When Beatty came back into her life she turned down the Faye Dunaway role in Bonnie and Clyde because she was afraid to leave her psychiatrist – a catastrophic career miscalculation. Of Natalie’s two marriages to Robert Wagner, her sister comments: “They had to live out the dream the world had imagined for them whether or not it went sour.”
In Warren Beatty and others the Wood sisters – Natalie the dark-eyed seductress, Lana the sexpot with the big bust – sometimes swapped lovers and compared notes. When Natalie wanted to know what kind of lover Ryan O’Neal was Lana, speaking from experience, told her. “He was like having a glass of champagne, without knowing too much about the various brands of champagne. Special, that is, but not a whole lot more.” Lana had fewer reservations about her big moments with Alain Delon and Sean Connery, but Natalie’s judgement of Elvis Presley was, “He can sing but he can’t do much else.” Her feelings about other close friends and associates, including Steve McQueen, James Dean, John Wayne, Nicky Hilton, Robert Redford, Nick Adams, Dennis Hopper, Tommy Thompson and Christopher Walken, also emerge during the course of her sister’s narrative.
Also revealed, for the first time, are the facts surrounding Natalie’s near-fatal suicide attempt, her weight problem, her dependence on pills, her anxiety over getting older and her search for good film roles. There were even plans for a comeback on the stage. The star who had had it all and somehow lost her grip on it tells her sister near the end, “You know what I want? I want yesterday.”
“I cry for her often,” concludes Lana, “I expect I always will.”