Sunday, May 10, 2020

Yeah, I cried. So what?

There's a documentary about Natalie Wood on HBO that takes her from her birth to immigrant Russian parents to her death in Catalina. Produced by her daughter, Natasha Gregson-Wagner, it concentrates more on the period preceding her 1981 death, and that's fine with me. It's always bothered me that Natalie Wood is considered more a drowning victim than an actress.

There are many clips from her movies and interviews, but also excerpts of her unpublished autobiography, written for a woman's magazine. Wood seems like a smart, self-aware woman who wanted it all: family and career.

She never chose to be an actress. Her stage mother engineered her early career. But she came to derive satisfaction from it. She learned her craft and was aware of her worth to the producers. In the 60s and 70s, she was remarkable for her willingness to exercise her power and insist on being treated as equal to her male costars.

She chose to be a mother, worked hard at it, and her daughters love and miss her still. I was also touched that her step children -- Josh Donen and Katie Wagner -- felt welcome in Wood's extended family. If there was any tension between Wood and Robert Wagner's former wife (and it would be only natural if there was), she made sure the children never felt the effects.

Her friends and costars are interviewed. Mia Farrow, Mart Crowley, George Segal, Robert Redford and Robert Wagner are among those who share their memories. Next to her daughters, Redford and Wagner were toughest for me. Because they've grown old before my eyes (Redford is 83, Wagner is 90) and Natalie wasn't given that opportunity. She is forever frozen at 43. I miss seeing how a woman with her sensitivity and sensibility approached aging.

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