Monday, July 20, 2009

Natalie Wood

July 20, 1938 - November 29, 1981

A complete product of the studio system, Natalie Wood was also one of the very few child stars to successfully navigate her career through the treacherous adolescent years, and finally into adult stardom.

It's difficult to pinpoint her appeal; Nat wasn't really a very good actress, although she appeared in some of the most acclaimed films of her period - from Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Searchers (1956) to Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story (both 1961). Oddly, the greater her celebrity grew, the worse her films got: her run of big budget, ultimately disappointing star vehicles between 1964 and 1966 (Sex and the Single Girl, Inside Daisy Clover, This Property is Condemned, Penelope) helped earn her the Harvard Lampoon Worst Actress Award - although Natalie had the last laugh by accepting the "honor" in person and winning the Harvard boys over with her good humor and charm.

This, then, may be the secret of her success: Natalie Wood was cute. She was appealing. She wrinkled her nose when she laughed, and she laughed a lot. And even when she matured into an undeniably beautiful, curvaceous woman, Nat still seemed more like your kid sister playing grown up than an actual vamp.

This made her sudden, awful death at age 43 from drowning all the more shocking and sad - it was difficult to believe that someone so ebullient, someone who had spent nearly their entire life in front of the camera, someone we felt we all knew as a kid sister, was gone.


  1. TJB you keep tempting me don't you?? That is one hell of a pearl necklace

  2. I remember exactly where I was that Sunday when the radio played news of her death. I was driving back to the wretched college that I had enrolled in, and the news announcer read the story. I was stunned. It wasn't that she was a good actress, because she was more "over the top" than subtle (she delivered her lines as pronouncements rather than nuanced scripting), its just that she was there and she was comforting. And then there was the whole Robert Wagner love story athat was on agian off again on again... So her death is just one of those milestones that you always remember, even on the days when you forget where you left your cell phone or when your father died...

  3. wow...very astute, your analysis of her. I hadn't thought of it before, but you're spot on, as usual.

  4. Natalie was indeed a VERY GOOD ACTRESS!
    She is still greatly missed!

  5. I can barely watch "Tomorrow is Forever" where she plays a little refugee girl adopted by Orson Welles without bawling. She's so cute and fragile and tender. Knowing that her childhood was only a step above Christina Crawford's (or maybe worse depending on what you believe) and that her life was cut so tragically short later on. It makes me sad. I don't know if I think she was a great actress, but I do think she really tried to be and nailed it on some occasions.