Natalie Wood, A Life
After reading Natalie Wood, A Life by Gavin Lambert, the first thing that came to my mind was this:
“The author has taken a larger than life legend who is remembered and discussed by FAR too many for her death rather than her life… and he has focused on what she SHOULD be remembered as… a woman. He has put her life, as she lived it, into the forefront and the way she lost her life into the background. As it should be.”
As a Natalie Wood fan, I will always feel a great deal of gratitude to Gavin Lambert for this. If you follow (or have seen) my shenanigans on Twitter, you know I tweet incessantly about the stars of old Hollywood – pictures, quotes, thoughts, film reviews, book reviews, etc. Inevitably, any time I post Natalie Wood pictures or quotes, at least one (usually more than one) comments about her death. When people hear the name, they instinctively want to talk about how she LOST her life rather than how she LIVED her life.
I hate that so much!!
I also hate that people want to blame Robert Wagner for her death – allow me to say, up front, I do not believe he had anything whatsoever to do with her death. He had so much to do with her life and with how much she enjoyed it and with the love they shared – this should be the focus and I can only hope that, one day, it will be.
This book has brought so much more information to me that I never had before. So much so that I found myself taking notes! Before beginning Natalie Wood, A Life (Amazon link), I had what I believed to be a pretty good idea who Natalie Wood was and a pretty good handle on who the woman behind the great beauty and talent was…. suffice to say, my bucket of knowledge wasn’t even half full!
She was, unquestionably, one of the most complex, mysterious (in many ways), and fascinating people I’ve ever read about. She was equal parts strong and vulnerable – a combination that leaves my head spinning. She had her share of fears and anxieties and yet fought them tooth and nail. The fact that she carved out a remarkable career as the battle raged on leaves me speechless.
In the age of social media and fast-paced living, I try to keep my book reviews brief. I’d rather my friends (that’s you!) completely read a few heart-felt words than to skim over a million of them and miss the important stuff. Some people tend to ramble (that’s me!), so they have to reign themselves in any way they can. A summarized bullet-point list helps me with my reigns!
What I Love, and More Importantly, What You’ll Love About This Biography:
- The fact that Robert Wagner, one of the most important people in Natalie’s life, contributed greatly to the book. He knew her better than anyone and shared so much, so openly, with the wonderful author.
- The behind-the-scenes and in depth look at Natalie’s films. You learn more about her co-stars, how she felt about many of them (I read and re-read the pages about her and James Dean!), and what the roles meant to her and her career.
- Beautiful photographs – many of which I’ve never seen before. I absolutely love each one.
- Gavin Lambert is an exceptional writer. He writes in a manner that feels like you’re sitting in Starbucks talking with him about a subject (old Hollywood) you’re both passionate about. He is informative, an impeccable researcher, clear, concise, and uncommonly entertaining.
- Each chapter begins with one, two, or three quotes after the title that help set the tone for the chapter you’re entering. They’re brilliantly done and provide that little extra something that separates a good book from a great book.
- Natalie Wood, in Gavin Lamberts’ hands, is treated with great respect and affection. The fact that she was human, like the rest of us, is clear and… quite frankly… makes me love her even more.
- As I said at the start, the greatest accomplishment of this book is putting the focus on Natalie’s life rather than her death. And what a life it was!
Natalie Wood battled her personal demons but carved out a wonderful career and lasting legacy in spite of them. In the end, it may look like these demons won but look again – Natalie won. She remains in so many of our hearts and is remembered, loved, and celebrated to this day.
I hope you’ll grab a copy of Natalie Wood, A Life (Amazon link) and get to know her even better than you may know her now. She was extraordinary in every way.
The University Press of Kentucky sent me this wonderful book in exchange for telling you about it – all of the opinions and the photo are my own!