The Biography of Natalie Wood

Book - 2001
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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 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.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Harmony Books, c2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780609603598
Characteristics: viii, 454 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm


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Aug 12, 2017

A more complex and accomplished bookend. of sorts to Marti Rulli's "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour," Suzanne Finstad's "Natasha" offers an absorbing account of the life and legend of actress Natalie Wood, born Natasha Gurdin nee Zakharenko in 1938.
Finstad places particular emphasis on the influence of Wood's family, particularly her troubled Russian immigrant parents, indomitable Maria (nicknamed "Mud") and weak-willed, alcoholic Nick (known in the family as "Fahd").

The star-struck Maria was the architect of the movie star personality who would become known worldwide as Natalie Wood. As she emerges in these pages, Maria Gurdin is a difficult woman to admire, given the dark, gypsy superstitions with which she tormented her daughters, and her willingness to do literally anything to make her pretty middle child, Natasha, a Hollywood Star. Finstad's perceptive analysis shows how the vulnerable Natalie was always essentially two people, shy, wistful Natasha and driven, ambitious Maria.

Maria lived for and through Natalie, walking right up to the line of pimping her young and vulnerable daughter, teaching her to be a pleaser (especially of powerful men) while ignoring to the point of criminal neglect even the most basic needs of her youngest child, Lana. (The oldest daughter Olga emerges as a remarkably kind and self-reliant person, remaining emotionally close to her sisters while wisely distancing herself from her mother's fanatical obsession with fame.)


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