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Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood

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Natalie Wood was always a star; her mother made sure this was true. A superstitious Russian immigrant who claimed to be royalty, Maria had been told by a gypsy, long before little Natasha Zakharenko's birth, that her second child would be famous throughout the world. When the beautiful child with the hypnotic eyes was first placed in Maria's arms, she knew the prophecy wou Natalie Wood was always a star; her mother made sure this was true. A superstitious Russian immigrant who claimed to be royalty, Maria had been told by a gypsy, long before little Natasha Zakharenko's birth, that her second child would be famous throughout the world. When the beautiful child with the hypnotic eyes was first placed in Maria's arms, she knew the prophecy would become true and proceeded to do everything in her power — everything — to make sure of it. Natasha is the haunting story of a vulnerable and talented actress whom many of us felt we knew. We watched her mature on the movie screen before our eyes — in Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story, Splendor in the Grass, and on and on. She has been hailed — along with Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor — as one of the top three female movie stars in the history of film, making her a legend in her own lifetime and beyond. But the story of what Natalie endured, of what her life was like when the doors of the soundstages closed, has long been obscured. Natasha is based on years of exhaustive research into Natalie's turbulent life and mysterious drowning in the dark water that was her greatest fear. Author Suzanne Finstad, a former lawyer, conducted nearly four hundred interviews with Natalie's family, close friends, legendary costars, lovers, film crews, and virtually everyone connected with the investigation of her strange death. Through these firsthand accounts from many who have never spoken publicly before, Finstad has reconstructed a life of emotional abuse and exploitation, of almost unprecedented fame, great loneliness, poignancy, and loss. She sheds an unwavering light on Natalie's complex relationships with James Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Raymond Burr, Warren Beatty, and Robert Wagner and reveals the two lost loves of Natalie's life, whom her controlling mother prevented her from marrying. Finstad tells this beauty's heartbreaking story with sensitivity and grace, revealing a complex and conflicting mix of fragility and strength in a woman who was swept along by forces few could have resisted. Natasha is impossible to put down — it is the definitive biography of Natalie Wood that we've long been waiting for.


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Natalie Wood was always a star; her mother made sure this was true. A superstitious Russian immigrant who claimed to be royalty, Maria had been told by a gypsy, long before little Natasha Zakharenko's birth, that her second child would be famous throughout the world. When the beautiful child with the hypnotic eyes was first placed in Maria's arms, she knew the prophecy wou Natalie Wood was always a star; her mother made sure this was true. A superstitious Russian immigrant who claimed to be royalty, Maria had been told by a gypsy, long before little Natasha Zakharenko's birth, that her second child would be famous throughout the world. When the beautiful child with the hypnotic eyes was first placed in Maria's arms, she knew the prophecy would become true and proceeded to do everything in her power — everything — to make sure of it. Natasha is the haunting story of a vulnerable and talented actress whom many of us felt we knew. We watched her mature on the movie screen before our eyes — in Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story, Splendor in the Grass, and on and on. She has been hailed — along with Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor — as one of the top three female movie stars in the history of film, making her a legend in her own lifetime and beyond. But the story of what Natalie endured, of what her life was like when the doors of the soundstages closed, has long been obscured. Natasha is based on years of exhaustive research into Natalie's turbulent life and mysterious drowning in the dark water that was her greatest fear. Author Suzanne Finstad, a former lawyer, conducted nearly four hundred interviews with Natalie's family, close friends, legendary costars, lovers, film crews, and virtually everyone connected with the investigation of her strange death. Through these firsthand accounts from many who have never spoken publicly before, Finstad has reconstructed a life of emotional abuse and exploitation, of almost unprecedented fame, great loneliness, poignancy, and loss. She sheds an unwavering light on Natalie's complex relationships with James Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Raymond Burr, Warren Beatty, and Robert Wagner and reveals the two lost loves of Natalie's life, whom her controlling mother prevented her from marrying. Finstad tells this beauty's heartbreaking story with sensitivity and grace, revealing a complex and conflicting mix of fragility and strength in a woman who was swept along by forces few could have resisted. Natasha is impossible to put down — it is the definitive biography of Natalie Wood that we've long been waiting for.

30 review for Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ana O

    I didn't know who the hell I was. I was whoever they wanted me to be. An amazing biography of Natalie Wood's fascinating, yet tragic life. She is truly one of my favorite actresses and Hollywood legends of all time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Probably one of the best bios of Natalie Wood I have ever come across, despite the uneven handling of parts of her life (too much emphasis on her early and teen years) and repetitive style. I appreciated Suzanne Finstad's attempts to get to know the real woman behind the star image. Natalie is presented as an unfailingly kind, loving, and ambitious person who was pushed into acting by a stage mother and was left with psychological issues that she began to overcome by the end of her life, but one Probably one of the best bios of Natalie Wood I have ever come across, despite the uneven handling of parts of her life (too much emphasis on her early and teen years) and repetitive style. I appreciated Suzanne Finstad's attempts to get to know the real woman behind the star image. Natalie is presented as an unfailingly kind, loving, and ambitious person who was pushed into acting by a stage mother and was left with psychological issues that she began to overcome by the end of her life, but one fear never left her - hydrophobia - her fear that she would one day drown, which sadly and tragically came true. Theories that her death may not have been an accident (I for one, never believed it was) and what lead to her first marriage to Robert Wagner ending (I was glad to see it confirmed that Natalie did not have an affair with Warren Beatty as has been alleged, but rather found Wagner with another man), were very eye-opening and leaves you questioning why there was such a cover-up. Natalie was a talented actress with a vulnerable quality, a loving mother and a fine person who certainly deserved a longer life and happiness. Many people who knew her were interviewed, except Wagner (he refused to meet with Finstad, and denies the allegations) and Natalie's daughters, who no doubt have been brainwashed by Daddy. The book is flawed, but paints a vivid picture of Natalie's life.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    The best Natalie Wood biography money can buy, honest and never boring. Her unrequited romance with (gay)actor Raymond Burr, her dalliance with director Nicholas Ray and attempts at dating Warren Beatty were amusing. The amusement of course, ends towards the final chapter where her bisexual husband Robert Wagner may or may not have had an affair with creepy Christopher Walken. The last hours of her life will creep you out.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Probably the best biography I've ever read. I couldn't put it down! Suzanne Finstad gave a fascinating, vivid, informative account of Natalie's life. Finstad did so much research for this book, interviewing hundreds of people except for RJ Wagner because he declined because she told the truth about him and he couldn't handle that. It's a very sympathetic biography and you really feel for Natalie. Whether or not you're a Natalie fan, you will love this. Pick this up for an interesting read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Overall a well- researched and detailed account of Natalie Wood's life, especially her childhood, homelife, and her start in Hollywood. The author spoke to numerous sources and has fascinating accounts of the behind-the-scenes of Wood's iconic films. However, Finstad makes a lot of assumptions, and puts her opinions and interpretations in almost every paragraph. The most egregious part of the author's writing is the repetition! Again and again she rephrases the same thought, driving home her opi Overall a well- researched and detailed account of Natalie Wood's life, especially her childhood, homelife, and her start in Hollywood. The author spoke to numerous sources and has fascinating accounts of the behind-the-scenes of Wood's iconic films. However, Finstad makes a lot of assumptions, and puts her opinions and interpretations in almost every paragraph. The most egregious part of the author's writing is the repetition! Again and again she rephrases the same thought, driving home her opinion multiple times within a page or two. Then it pops up again throughout the book. I have no doubt Natalie's mother was a manic fame-seeker and poor role model for her daughter but sentences like "...the interweaving of Maria's personality with Natasha's; Natasha's identity complex; and Mud's total domination of her movie star daughter." get repeated ad nauseum throughout the book. A good editor could easily cut this book by a third and not lose anything relevant. There are also contradictions throughout in regards to the author's descriptions of Natalie's personality and whether she was promiscuous or not, her level of drinking, her healing from psychoanalysis, and finally the tragic details of her last days. I learned a lot about Natalie Wood, but wish more of the focus was on her relationships with cast and crew, and less on the author analyzing and summing up each family member or friend in Wood's life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Why does Natalie Wood’s gaudy life inspire mediocre bios? Because they never mention the “I’m pretty, mama! I’m a pretty girl!” scene in “Gypsy,” maybe the most brutal scene in any Hollywood movie? Because she spent her whole life in LA? Because nobody parts with a story they don’t own a piece of? Because she didn’t make more enemies? Because writers can’t resist schlocking up her stage mom or her horrible death? But “Mr. S,” the book by Sinatra’s valet, has two pages on N.W. (70-71) that are ea Why does Natalie Wood’s gaudy life inspire mediocre bios? Because they never mention the “I’m pretty, mama! I’m a pretty girl!” scene in “Gypsy,” maybe the most brutal scene in any Hollywood movie? Because she spent her whole life in LA? Because nobody parts with a story they don’t own a piece of? Because she didn’t make more enemies? Because writers can’t resist schlocking up her stage mom or her horrible death? But “Mr. S,” the book by Sinatra’s valet, has two pages on N.W. (70-71) that are easily the best thing written about her, which made me hungry to try this one. It’s sleazoid where Gavin Lambert’s is saintly, yet neither really gets her opaque charisma. Also, neither explains why Natasha Gregson Wagner stopped being famous. What happened with that?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    One certainly can't say this is a benign account of the star's life! If it is to be believed, it lays bare a pretty active early sex life of its subject and outs one of Hollywood's most enduring stars as a conflicted bisexual (something that said star denies vehemently.) It is, without question, a page turner but begins in tragedy, with Natalie enduring the oppression of a smothering, demanding stage mother and ends even worse, so it's not for the butterflies and candy cane set.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ☆Ruth☆

    An in-depth, well-researched biography, which left me feeling both sad and angry. Sad because Natasha (Natalie) never had the chance to live a normal life but was manipulated, used and abused from childhood; angry because it seems to me that someone was allowed to get away with murder....

  9. 5 out of 5

    C.S. Burrough

    Anyone who even only saw 'Gypsy' (1962) would have been taken by this seemingly fresh, stunning talent. But this child veteran screen legend had already long since cemented her place in the Hollywood history with great films like 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947). Born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents, Wood also spoke Russian and was proud of her heritage. She was pushed as a toddler, by her mother, into films. At nine she was named the 'most exciting juvenile motion picture star of th Anyone who even only saw 'Gypsy' (1962) would have been taken by this seemingly fresh, stunning talent. But this child veteran screen legend had already long since cemented her place in the Hollywood history with great films like 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947). Born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents, Wood also spoke Russian and was proud of her heritage. She was pushed as a toddler, by her mother, into films. At nine she was named the 'most exciting juvenile motion picture star of the year'. Three years on, she was judged Child Star of the Year by the Children's Day National Council of New York. Successfully transitioning from child star to ingenue at sixteen, she co-starred with James Dean and Sal Mineo in 'Rebel Without a Cause', (1955). For this Natalie was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. In 1961, Wood played Maria in the musical 'West Side Story', a major box office and critical success. That same year she appeared opposite Warren Beatty in Elia Kazan's 'Splendor in the Grass', earning Best Actress Nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and BAFTAs. She managed longevity as well as was possible, maturing appropriately into more adult productions like 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' (1969), a comedy about sexual liberation. After that she got the idea into her head that family must come first, that her movie career was finished. Had she lived into old age she may well have become what actresses like the wonderful Lauren Bacall did - a living legend. She was already close. There was her extraordinary beauty, her two marriages to the one man, heart throb Robert Wagner and, finally, her tragic premature death by drowning, fulfilling her worst fear (of water). This is a well researched, quality biography that does Natalie justice. We are left feeling informed, satisfied, without having intruded too crassly into this star's personal life. We feel we have celebrated a likeable woman with a fascinating career. And a little sad for her. A tasteful tribute by a classy writer on a true and timeless star.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Cler

    Read this when it first came out a decade ago, and was inspired to pick it up again. Exhaustively researched, difficult-to-put-down biography of Natalie Wood, the first really complete biography ever written on her life. A must for any Natalie Wood fan.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karen Jones

    Finstad is a great researcher, but her writing is melodramatic and overwrought. Many things were repeated over and over. I didn't need to know what every source thought of Natalie at every given time and I got the feeling that Finstad wanted to put every single quote in the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rex Leonowicz

    She's a beautiful soul.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    An extremely well-researched, sympathetic, and compelling portrait of a complicated life and death. Fascinating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I think I fell in love with Natalie Wood when I was 7 and my parents took us to see The Great Race at the drive-in. (Strangely, that movie turned out to be one of her worst experiences as an actor.) She was enormously beautiful, and seriously talented. Still, I hadn't put all the movies she made into any sequence before, and I knew next to nothing about her life, so this book filled in a lot of information. It is, however, necessary to be interested in the subject, as the writing is enormously r I think I fell in love with Natalie Wood when I was 7 and my parents took us to see The Great Race at the drive-in. (Strangely, that movie turned out to be one of her worst experiences as an actor.) She was enormously beautiful, and seriously talented. Still, I hadn't put all the movies she made into any sequence before, and I knew next to nothing about her life, so this book filled in a lot of information. It is, however, necessary to be interested in the subject, as the writing is enormously repetitive. Finstad writes like a journalist, interviewing everybody she could get access to, and using long quotes which reiterate what has already been said. This perhaps works best in the long coverage of that last ill-fated weekend before she drowned in what seems to have been a combination of alcohol-fueled accident and alcohol fueled negligence by her husband Robert Wagner. I would have liked more insight into her films and her acting, but Finstad seems more interested in her relationship with her mother (admittedly fraught with good and bad details), her fear of drowning and water, her wearing of what she referred to as The Badge - the identity of Natalie Wood the star, and her nearly life-long love of Wagner.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    I didn't have a particular interest in Natalie Wood's story, but decided to start reading some bestseller biographies because everyone's life is interesting if written well! This was a great read. The author chronicled Natalie's life from her earliest acting work as a child and used many, many friends and family interviews to build the story. The tragedy that ended her life was probably the last 15% of the book, and included a nearly minute to minute imagining of that night -- again, with lots of I didn't have a particular interest in Natalie Wood's story, but decided to start reading some bestseller biographies because everyone's life is interesting if written well! This was a great read. The author chronicled Natalie's life from her earliest acting work as a child and used many, many friends and family interviews to build the story. The tragedy that ended her life was probably the last 15% of the book, and included a nearly minute to minute imagining of that night -- again, with lots of testimonials from people involved. In the end, I cared for Natalie and her children so much, and her ending felt not Hollywood tabloid or scandalous, but just simply horribly sad.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Contreras

    This was a revealing and sometimes shocking revelation of Natasha Gurdin (AKA Natalie Wood), the famed child star and Hollywood icon. The author vividly paints the world into which little Natasha was born into and how how her controlling, manipulative and disillusioned mother, Maria (AKA "Mud") formed her into a star after her dream. The author pulls no punches in telling how Maria lived vicariously through her creation, "Natalie." Natalie is shown to be a capricious, intelligent, engaging and t This was a revealing and sometimes shocking revelation of Natasha Gurdin (AKA Natalie Wood), the famed child star and Hollywood icon. The author vividly paints the world into which little Natasha was born into and how how her controlling, manipulative and disillusioned mother, Maria (AKA "Mud") formed her into a star after her dream. The author pulls no punches in telling how Maria lived vicariously through her creation, "Natalie." Natalie is shown to be a capricious, intelligent, engaging and talented child actress who grows into a young girl with dreams of 'true love." Unfortunately, her many love affairs leave her scarred. Her marriages (two to Robert Wagner) also leave her disheartened but with two girls - the joys of her life. In the end, Natalie Wood grows into a vulnerable woman who spent two decades in therapy and one who battled her mother for control of her life. Her lifelong superstitious nature and fear of drowning eventually weaken her and ends in her tragic drowning. Ms. Wood wore her "badge' (stardom) with gallantry but also battled to carve out a private life for herself. The author mixes in mystery, folklore, myths, gossip, secrets and truth in telling a wonderful tale of a tragic and magical life of only 44 years. Bravo!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Very enjoyable read for the most part. The author git a bit repetitive at times telling the story of Natalie Wood's life, but the book seemed very complete to me. It covered a lot of ground. Especially interesting were the stories of her early years as a child actress in Hollywood and then the transition into more mature roles. The mother comes off as kind of a villain---maybe rightfully so if the stories told about her are to be believed. The father was a weak and sometimes violent presence in Very enjoyable read for the most part. The author git a bit repetitive at times telling the story of Natalie Wood's life, but the book seemed very complete to me. It covered a lot of ground. Especially interesting were the stories of her early years as a child actress in Hollywood and then the transition into more mature roles. The mother comes off as kind of a villain---maybe rightfully so if the stories told about her are to be believed. The father was a weak and sometimes violent presence in Natalie's life. I'd have loved to have been told who the powerful and well-known actor was who supposedly raped Natalie at a young age was. The author teased us with him a few times throughout the book but would never give specifics----most likely for legal reasons. In the end, Natalie comes off as a very likable and well-liked person, who was eager to please---even to the detriment of her own mental health. Tragic but engrossing story of a really good actress and by all accounts, a very nice person.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Goguen

    I thought this biography was very interesting. Natalie Wood was such a talented actress. her death was a tragedy. She was young and beautiful. She had a rough child hood but she appreciated it. Natalie Wood was just a figure in her mothers imagination. She was in the movie business since she was a child. She truly was something special. fun fact.... I was named after Natalie Wood.... my dad loved her as an actress so much he decided to name his baby girl after her. Anyways Natalie had many affai I thought this biography was very interesting. Natalie Wood was such a talented actress. her death was a tragedy. She was young and beautiful. She had a rough child hood but she appreciated it. Natalie Wood was just a figure in her mothers imagination. She was in the movie business since she was a child. She truly was something special. fun fact.... I was named after Natalie Wood.... my dad loved her as an actress so much he decided to name his baby girl after her. Anyways Natalie had many affairs with co-workers and producers. she had some accidents in her teenage years. but she got past them and didn't let anything stop her from acting. Natalie Wood was an amazing person and especially amazing as an actress!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Claudine

    I liked the first 3/4 of the book and found it quite an insightful look into the life of one of the most influential actresses of our time. I enjoyed hearing the stories of how she got her different roles and sympathized with her personal struggles growing up. But the thing that I found a bit frustrating was how much time was spent in the end talking about her tragic and mysterious death and all the theories surrounding it. I think it ended on such a down note, which I guess is how her life ende I liked the first 3/4 of the book and found it quite an insightful look into the life of one of the most influential actresses of our time. I enjoyed hearing the stories of how she got her different roles and sympathized with her personal struggles growing up. But the thing that I found a bit frustrating was how much time was spent in the end talking about her tragic and mysterious death and all the theories surrounding it. I think it ended on such a down note, which I guess is how her life ended. I like to be uplifted at the end of a book and didn't find it here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Ever since finishing this book, I've been haunted by this actress and the thought of how she died, all alone and at sea. A magical life cut short far too soon, and the author has spoiled me for all other biographies. I couldn't put it down.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bella

    Interesting stories, though repetitive on the part of the author. The writing is not the best, but if you are a fan of Natalie Wood, it's a decent read for some perspective into her life behind the silver screen.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    A fascinating look into the life of a troubled star

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Glick

    She was something, we just forget how much. Can't wait until Natasha and Katie decide to write something.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Really good read. What a sad life she had and for it to end the way it did, just terrible. :( I would definitely recommend this to fans of old Hollywood, esp fans of Natalie and her films.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    Incredibly sad ending of course but a really interesting insight into who she really was and why she was who she was

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra the Great

    This book was equally parts fascinating and devastating. Natasha Gurdin was born to Russian immigrant parents- Nick, a sensitive, alcoholic father and Maria, an overbearing, superstitious mother. From the start, little Natasha showed such huge natural talent, and her mother made damn sure that she was going to be famous. The intense pressure put on Natalie Wood- as Natasha was rechristened- by her mother, as well as Natalie's own desire to succeed, left her with intense psychological scars that This book was equally parts fascinating and devastating. Natasha Gurdin was born to Russian immigrant parents- Nick, a sensitive, alcoholic father and Maria, an overbearing, superstitious mother. From the start, little Natasha showed such huge natural talent, and her mother made damn sure that she was going to be famous. The intense pressure put on Natalie Wood- as Natasha was rechristened- by her mother, as well as Natalie's own desire to succeed, left her with intense psychological scars that would stay with her throughout her life. Natalie's greatest fear was of deep, dark water and she had recurring nightmares of drowning- a nightmare that tragically came to ironic fruition Thanksgiving weekend in 1981, when Natalie was only 43. It was totally shattering reading about Natalie's childhood- her mother, convinced that Natalie was destined to be a star, did everything to assure her daughter's success. To get her to cry, for example, Maria took Natalie off by herself and produced a beautiful butterfly in a glass jar. She then opened it, picked up the insect, and tore off its wings, sending Natalie into hysterics. Maria then cheerfully informed the director that she was ready to do the scene. When Natalie was a little older (I want to say eight years old?) she was doing a scene in which she was to cross a bridge over a rushing river in a rainstorm. The bridge was meant to collapse as soon as Natalie finished crossing, but it malfunctioned, collapsing with Natalie still halfway across. In the struggle to hold on against the current, Natalie's wrist broke, and her mother, fearing that time spent healing the broken bone would take away job opportunities, insisted that Natalie would be okay without seeing a doctor. Naturally, the bone never healed properly, and Natalie was left even more traumatized by water. Most disturbing though, is the speculation that Maria allowed Natalie to be used sexually in order to procure jobs. She would encourage the child to sit in director's laps, giving kisses and hugs, and performing little songs and dances. Now, while this speculation is just that, there's an undeniable creep factor to the stories of little Natalie's interactions with producers and directors. When she grew older, Natalie was taught to equate sex with danger (her mother told her horror stories about pregnancy and childbirth, and the potential damage that a too-well-endowed man could inflict upon her small body), unless sex could get her a job. Thus, sixteen-year-old Natalie began an affair with director Nicholas Ray, who would cast her in Rebel Without a Cause (a role Natalie badly wanted) and change her career. There is a horrific story about Natalie being brutally raped at sixteen or so by a well-known Hollywood star (who remained unnamed throughout the book, and I've never found out exactly who it was). Apparently, the assault was so brutal that Natalie was left bleeding for days, and when it didn't stop, she had to inform her mother what had happened. Rather than press charges, Maria let it go, fearing that any attention would damage the star's reputation and cost Natalie her spot as a rising young actress. Truly, Maria would not allow anything to jeopardize Natalie's chance at stardom, even if it meant that Natalie would have to keep her devastating assault quiet and allow her assailant to go free. That is truly monstrous. Finstad has researched Natalie's life extensively. She really dug deep to find who Natalie was- or rather, who Natasha was underneath "The Badge" of Natalie Wood. She shows what a genuine, kind, gentle person Natalie was, how loyal she was to her family and friends, and how gracious she was towards her fans. It made me happy to read about just how much she loved her daughters and her mission to let them have a proper childhood, and how she wanted them to grow up without any of the crippling fears that she had as a child. When Maria became enamored of Natalie's first daughter, poignantly named Natasha, whispering to her that she was special, that she was destined for greatness, Natalie, remembering her own lost childhood, put an immediate stop to it. She'd be damned if she would allow her daughter's childhood to be destroyed. Natalie was tiny, (only five feet tall!) but she was a total Mama Bear. I love that. Finstad quotes excessively, but to me, that's not a huge problem. As Natalie is no longer around to quote, the next best thing is the quotes from those who knew her. So I'm good there. Finstad does, however, get kind of repetitive at times, driving certain points into the ground, to where they don't become any less tragic, but do become slightly blunted. There's really only so many times you can read "Maria's fears and superstitions were projected onto and absorbed by Natalie" or "Natalie always struggled to reconcile Natalie Wood with Natasha Gurdin" before you start wondering if Finstad thinks you still don't get it. The last chapter discusses the events leading up to Natalie's death and the subsequent investigations that eventually went cold until the case was declared closed. Everything about her death is still so sketchy, absolutely nothing seems to make sense. Why, if Natalie was so phobic of dark water and not at all a strong swimmer, would she take the dinghy out on her own? Why did Robert Wagner wait over two hours after he noticed Natalie missing to alert authorities? Why do his statements to investigators and police contradict? Why was the dinghy used in the search for Natalie? And, most haunting of all, why was a family who reported hearing a woman crying for help and men's voices mockingly assuring that they were coming for her virtually ignored by investigators? The entire thing is just so fishy, and although it could be nothing more than a tragic accident, the details are all so contradictory and nothing really adds up. Dennis Davern, the captain of the Wagners' boat, has his own version of what happened that night, and, although it makes for a juicy story, I feel as if he's just looking to cash in. I mean, the man took his story to tabloid papers rather than legitimate ones. Just my two cents: Robert Wagner totally did it might not have actually murdered Natalie Wood, but he sure as shit knows what happened that night. He owes it to her children to come forward. If he loves Natalie, as he always maintained, he'll come forward. Justice for Natalie The tragic, anomalous events of Natalie's sad, last, lost weekend off Catalina Island, leading to her greatest fear realized- drowning in deep, dark, water- have been speculated about and exploited throughout the twenty years since she died, threatening to eclipse the memory of her poignant performances and the grace with which she lived her life, which is how she should be remembered

  27. 4 out of 5

    Grace Turner

    When I watched West Side Story last year for the first time, I was captivated by the brown-eyed beauty that is Natalie Wood. I soon afterwards watched Splendor In The Grass and Rebel Without a Cause, both among my favorite films. While strolling through Half Price Books, I came across Suzanne Finstad's critically acclaimed biography and simply couldn't pass it up. The beginning, although slow, gave a good backstory of Natalie's mother's family, which helps us understand the strange habits of Musi When I watched West Side Story last year for the first time, I was captivated by the brown-eyed beauty that is Natalie Wood. I soon afterwards watched Splendor In The Grass and Rebel Without a Cause, both among my favorite films. While strolling through Half Price Books, I came across Suzanne Finstad's critically acclaimed biography and simply couldn't pass it up. The beginning, although slow, gave a good backstory of Natalie's mother's family, which helps us understand the strange habits of Musia/Maria/Marie. It really picked up after Natalie's birth and I couldn't put it down. Suzanne walks us through what was left of little Natasha's childhood, her Hollywood debut, her rebellious teenage years, her relationships, motherhood, and her unusual "never-not-glamorous" movie star habits from age 14 until her death. It reveals some of the best and worst moments of Natasha Gurdin's life, all of which were unknown to me before I read this book. There were moments I found myself skimming through, but not terribly often. In fact, more often than not, I had to be forced to put the book down! To anyone who is interested in Natalie Wood, the workings behind Hollywood, and one of the most mysterious cases of drowning to hit the tabloids, I %100 recommend this book to you!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lori Weyrick

    Too long and repetitive This is the second book I have read about Natalie Wood....this gave a good overview of her difficult and SAD upbringing...her mother, Maria (Mud) drove her to stardom and lived through her daughter, Natasha's fame....Natalie was the sole support of her family as a child/ teen actor. Her mother pushed her into relationships that could advance her career but not necessarily her happiness....fame came before all else. Talent, beauty and fame became her downfall....especially a Too long and repetitive This is the second book I have read about Natalie Wood....this gave a good overview of her difficult and SAD upbringing...her mother, Maria (Mud) drove her to stardom and lived through her daughter, Natasha's fame....Natalie was the sole support of her family as a child/ teen actor. Her mother pushed her into relationships that could advance her career but not necessarily her happiness....fame came before all else. Talent, beauty and fame became her downfall....especially after meeting Robert Wagner (RJ) ... a self-absorbed alcoholic who was instrumental in her drowning death off of Catalina and wasn't held accountable for his actions (actually non-action)....book was far too long and kept repeating the same themes over and over....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Glenna Morrison

    A meticulously-referenced biography of an enigmatic Hollywood star. This book is a compilation of all the literature surrounding the life and times of Natalie Wood. The story begins with a brief intro to her mother's life, then takes the reader from Natalie's birth to her mysterious drowning. It draws no firm conclusions, leaving us to come up with our own best guess. The book includes some wonderful photographs. The reader has a front row seat to the saga of a childhood denied as a driven mother A meticulously-referenced biography of an enigmatic Hollywood star. This book is a compilation of all the literature surrounding the life and times of Natalie Wood. The story begins with a brief intro to her mother's life, then takes the reader from Natalie's birth to her mysterious drowning. It draws no firm conclusions, leaving us to come up with our own best guess. The book includes some wonderful photographs. The reader has a front row seat to the saga of a childhood denied as a driven mother lived out her own dreams vicariously through her middle child. As you follow the story, you can't help but wonder if one of Natalie's best known films, Gypsy Rose Lee, wasn't actually a biopic.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Myrna

    A legend lost I found it bothersome that nearly everyone in the book has 2, 3, even 4 names in some cases right down to the dinghy. Natalie Wood lived a full even incredible life. Looking over the credits to her name you can’t help but wonder how she managed to fit it all in during her short lifetime. Her mother was a tyrannical taskmaster to challenge her child to such extremes

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