More Than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood Book Review

When Natalie Wood died from accidental drowning in November of 1981, it was a tragedy. Wood, who was then in her early 40s, was at the height of her power as a performer. For her fans, it was a loss. For her eldest daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, it was a life-changing event.

In 2020, Gregson Wagner published her memoir, More Than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood. Starting with her mother’s early years as a child actor, she takes us through Wood’s career, her marriages, her untimely passing, and growing up in the shadow of a parent who was taken far too soon. Gregson Wagner was raised after her mother’s death by her stepfather, Robert Wagner, with input from her birth father, Richard Gregson. Though she grew up to become a functioning adult and successful actress in her own right, the loss of her mother left a void that can never be filled.

The first thing I wanted to do after I finished reading the book was to call my own mother. It’s a story of heartbreak, growing up, and making peace with the past. I absolutely loved this book. Though I have yet to experience what Gregson Wagner went through (and I hope to not have to for many years), the emotion radiated from the pages. If I could have, I would have given her a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

More Than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood is available wherever books are sold.

Flashback Friday-The Mystery Of Natalie Wood (2004)

For a certain generation of movie goers, Natalie Wood is their movie star. A product of the old Hollywood studio system, she grew from a precocious child star to an adult actress whose varied roles left an indelible mark on audiences. Sadly, she drowned in 1981, leaving behind not just a grieving family, but a respected body of work.

In 2004, the television biopic, The Mystery Of Natalie Wood aired. Starring Justine Waddell as Natalie Wood and Michael Weatherly as Robert Wagner, the television biopic is the story of Natalie Wood’s life and career before her untimely passing nearly 36 years ago.

A biopic has to walk a fine line. While it must respect the life of the person who is being profiled, it must also be entertaining to audiences.As a biopic, it’s not bad. I’ve seen worse.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday-James Dean Double Feature-Rebel Without A Cause (1955) & Giant (1956)

Every generation has that actor. He or she is the icon of that generation and that time. Their lives and career are often tragically cut short, but their work lives on.

James Dean will always be remembered as the rebellious young man who lived fast, died young and is still revered, 60 years later, as one of the greatest actors of his era.

In 1955, he starred with Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo in Rebel Without A Cause, the ultimate teenage rebellion movie.

Jim Stark (James Dean) is a rebellious young man with a colorful past. He moves to a new town with his parents. They hope that with this fresh start, the past will be behind then. But where Jim goes, friends and foes alike are made.

This movie was one of the first to give a voice to the then teenage generation. 60 years later, the clothes, language, music and technology may have changed, but the emotions and the experiences of teenagers are the same.

A year later, Dean starred in Giant, opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Based on the novel of the same by Edna Ferber, it is the  multi-generational story of a Texas cattle rancher and his family. Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) is a Texas cattle rancher who is in Maryland buying horses. He falls in love with Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), the daughter of the man that he is buying horses from. A rivalry with cowboy (who will later on strike it rich as an oil tycoon), Jett Rink (James Dean) stretches over two generations.

This movie has it all. Multi-layered characters, an engaging story and three of the best actors of all time.

I recommend both.

RIP Phillip Seymour Hoffman

A long time ago, Billy Joel wrote “Only The Good Die Young”.

He should have said only the great die young.

James Dean, Natalie Wood, River Pheonix, Heath Ledger, James Gandolfini.

Sometimes the greatest talents aren’t destined to die of old age. They die well before that, when they are still at the peak of their greatness.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s name can now be added to this list.

He died this morning of an apparent drug overdose.

I saw him in the most recent revival of Arthur Miller’s classic play, Death Of A Salesman.  While he was a few decades younger than the character and Brian Dennehy, who had played the character in the previous revival, it felt like I was seeing this play and introduced to this character for the first time.

His Willy Loman was a man of big dreams, caught between the past and the present, between dreams and reality. It was an incredibly powerful performance. I wish I had seen it more than once.

My heart and my prayers go out to his friends and family.

While he is gone from this world, his work and his legacy will remain.

RIP

 

 

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