Book: Natalie: A Memoir by Her Sister
Writer(s): Lana Wood
Amazing book. I fell in love with Natalie Wood years ago when I first saw her in a film, and I remember being crushed when I learned she was dead (she drown in 1981). Other than her films, I knew little about her, and my searching for a biography went unanswered (they are all out of print). I ordered this one from Barnes and Noble's website, which has a terrific out-of-print section. This book is as much about Lana as it is Natalie, and at first that bothered me (who cares about the sister!) but gradually I grew to love Lana too. The early section, about their childhood, is the most poignant, as despite the significant age differences, the two were remarkably close. As they grew older, however, rifts developed, often with years going by with them barely speaking. Tragic, especially as Lana seemed to exist solely as a reflection of her sister, and when Natalie wouldn't acknowledge her, it struck me as horribly cruel. It's a sad book, thought provoking and challenging. It makes me question my own desires for wealth and/or fame, and it raises many questions in regards to the meaning and purpose and use of talent. Though the book is obviously written from Lana's point of view, it's extremely well-done (I don't know if she had help) and the perspective is so balanced it comes across as very truthful. Natalie is revealed a star practically from birth, who was both naive and remarkably adult. For instance, she never had any training as an actress, and while that shows in some of her films, in others her performances are nothing short of startling. In an event that reveals much about star life, Natalie, in her twenties, once flew to New York by herself (no manager) and called her sister to tell how she'd gone shopping and actually written a check (her first). She apparently never had much understanding of money (though her advisors invested it well and she was very wealthy when she died), and I got the impression that she didn't help her sister financially more out of ignorance of what it was like to be poor than spite. The differences between the famous and the not famous are revealed in many striking details, and the stories of encounters with big stars (for instance, Lana's tryst with Sean Connery) are fascinating, though gossipy. Natalie was a tragic figure: while successful, popular, and beautiful, she was obsessed with her appearance (i.e. worried about not looking good), frustrated in love (almost all her marriages ended in divorce), and spent most of her life in therapy (she even turned down the lead role in Bonnie and Clyde because it required location shooting in Texas and she'd be away from her therapist for two months). The wages of fame, I guess. I can see where being a star and having to be "on" constantly (always with the clever phrase, beautiful look, etc.) would be a huge burden.