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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In this insightful biography, screenwriter Gavin Lambert turns an illuminating spotlight on the generous heart, fragile spirit, and underrated talent of Hollywood icon Natalie Wood, the glamorous star whose life was cut tragically short at age 43 by a mysterious drowning off the coast of Catalina.
Revealing a world of shocking exploitation, Lambert describes how Wood (born Natasha Gurdin) was "handled" all her life -- first by a stage mother straight out of Central Casting, a manipulative Russian fabulist who pushed Natalie into stardom at age five and instilled in her daughter lifelong fears and insecurities; then by a studio system that wielded power with draconian severity. One of the few movie moppets to successfully segue into adult films, Wood was a cash cow for Warner Bros., yet she had pitifully little control over her own career. Over four decades she appeared in more than 50 films, wringing quality performances out of lackluster roles and proving her acting chops in a handful of gems like Rebel Without a Cause and Splendor in the Grass.
Lambert examines how early betrayals and emotional abuse surfaced in pathological fears (especially of the "dark waters" that, ironically, claimed her life), in an unshakable "Russian" melancholy, and in her innate mistrust of people. Indeed, the one high point in a love life filled with spectacularly bad choices was Robert Wagner, the compassionate soul mate she married twice.
What distinguishes this biography from other Hollywood tell-alls is a conspicuous absence of malice. With the same affectionate understanding he brought to his lives of George Cukor and Norma Shearer, Lambert has captured the enigmatic essence of Natalie Wood. Anne Markowski