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Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood Paperback – April 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Natalie Wood (1938-81) came from the last generation of movie stars shaped by the Hollywood studio system, and Suzanne Finstad gives her life the all-out showbiz celebrity bio treatment in this compulsively readable book. As Finstad sees it, Wood was tortured by the conflict between her real self, born Natasha Zakharenko to Russian immigrants, and the glamorous "Natalie Wood" persona created by her ambitious mother. Wood admired rebellious actors like James Dean, her co-star in Rebel Without a Cause, but she wanted the mink coats, sexy cars, and huge salaries Warner Brothers doled out for appearances in forgettable pictures like Sex and the Single Girl. Working in films from age 6, she learned early that the way to get ahead was to please the grownups, a lesson she never really unlearned, even in her wild teens. She ditched a fiancé‚ deemed unsuitable by the studio, to marry suave rising star Robert Wagner, despite warnings from friends that he was bisexual; their first marriage ended when she found him "in a compromising position with another man," but they reunited in 1972 to become Hollywood's golden couple once more. But her attraction to more challenging artists remained; her friendship with Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken sparked the drunken quarrel that in Finstad's account led to Wood's drowning off Wagner's boat. (Chillingly, she had a lifelong fear of water.) Numerous quotes from practically everyone who ever knew Wood evoke Tinseltown's gossipy atmosphere, and Finstad's overwrought prose (she describes Wood as "bound to her mother, as if Maria were a snake coiled around her neck") sustains an appropriately high-pitched mood. Suicide attempts, reckless driving, excessive drinking, rape by an unnamed Hollywood star are all chronicled in detail that might be distasteful if the author weren't so sympathetic towards her vulnerable heroine. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Finstad (Child Bride: The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley) also served as producer of Natasha, an ABC-TV film that aired in January.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (April 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609809571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609809570
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer E. Williams on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book was so fascinating that I actually read it in one day. "Natalie Wood" continues to be a household name even twenty years after her death, but this is the first biography to focus solely and objectively on Natalia "Natasha" Zakharenko (Nat's sister Lana wrote "Natalie: A Memoir" in 1984 and Warren G. Harris also wrote a bio of both Natalie and her husband RJ Wagner). Suzanne Finstad interviewed nearly four hundred people in her research for this book and offers some startling revelations in her portrait of Natalie's life. Finstad does an excellent job of drawing a very clear distinction between the person, Natasha, and the creation "Natalie Wood" and the demons these dueling personalities created within her life. The best thing about this biography is the unwavering (and well deserved) respect Finstad has for her subject. Especially touching is Finstad's dedication of the book to Natasha "the little girl lost in 'Natalie Wood'" and her two sisters, Lana and Olga, as well as the parallel Finstad uses with Chekov's "Three Sisters". From the beginning of "Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood" where Finstad traces Natasha's geneological roots in depth, to the end of the book where Finstad examines the possible events that led to the tragic loss of this great star at such a young age, Suzanne Finstad provides the reader with the spell-binding tale of Natasha and the people and events that shaped her life. This is a MUST HAVE for any fan of Natalie Wood and/or her films.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Ginger Sugar Blymyer on June 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Suzanne Finstad pulled together an amazing biography of Natalie Wood that took years of interviews and tells the true story of Natalie's difficult life behind the scenes. Those of us who worked with her, knew her well (we thought) will be amazed at what we never suspected. I wrote my book Hairdresser to the Stars, A Hollywood Memoir about the seventeen years I worked closely with her but after reading this book, Natasha, I realize I hardly knew her. I loved her and am saddened that she could never share her life with those of us that worked closely with her. She was always a professional, an actress who only showed her lovely sides. We never knew about the darkness. Here was a beautiful woman, loved and desired by so many men, talented and wealthy and yet never achieved the happiness she desired in her life. She supported her friends in their careers and lives and yet seemed to have been left in the dark. Reading this book brought back memories and wonderful occasions along with the sadness that she left us much too soon. I think by now, if Natalie was still alive she would have said "to hell" with all this hiding my life and read the book with pleasure and a sigh of relief and would have quoted Woody Guthrie "I used to care but things have changed." Read it with love.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Noirdame on July 8, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having heard so much about this book, and having seen the ABC TV movie, "The Mystery Of Natalie Wood" (which was based on this biography), I couldn't refrain from getting a copy and seeing for myself - I have been a fan of Natalie Wood since I was a teenager. Suzanne Finstad did a commendable job, beginning from Wood's ancestral lineage (or as best could be told, since Maria Gurdin was known for misconstruing the facts and fantasizing an aristocratic or gypsy past). The Romanovs and gypsy superstitions reigned in the lives of the Gurdins, which "Mud" inflicted on her appealing second daughter, Natasha. This "Mommie Dearest" lived through this vulnerable child, all the while ignoring her other two girls, Olga and Lana, and relegating her husband Nicholai into the background. This made for tension and domestic violence within the home as little Natasha morphed into "Natalie Wood" a child actress who was her family's breadwinner. All the pressures and phobias took its toll on a frail psyche, with a stage mother from Hell always lurking in the shadows, whispering warnings of dark water, sex, and kidnapping, and never allowing her to be a child, or have playmates her own age. Although she warned Natalie about intimate involvements with unknowns or males of her own age, Mud seems to have had no problem pushing the girl towards powerful Tinsletown personalities to further her career. Even as an adolescent Natalie rebelled, the fears instilled in her scarred her for life, and played a part in many of her relationships, as well as her career.Read more ›
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Armijo on December 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I strongly recommend this book for any fan of Natalie Wood. I always liked her. Who wouldn't after seeing her films? The author kind of goes overboard by being very repetitive at times...but once you get past that you can get into what matters. The author gets good insight via interviews from various contacts which allows one to decipher what is true & what probably is not. I found it fascinating to learn that Natalie divorced her husband, Robert Wagner, (the first time) after she found him in a compromising position with another MAN. Everyone knows she was a victim of child stardom...but I'm not sure everyone knows about what an obsessive stage mother she had. All in all...there are a lot of names dropped in the book that make it very interesting for any fan. It was sad that the world lost her at such an early age. She was bound to win an Academy Award eventually...she had that excellent acting ability "in" her. I liked her more after reading the book because I could tell she was a unique lady. I was surprised to learn how she 'slept around' in her early years. Then again, the end of her life still has an aura of mystery. You, the reader, are left to determine what really happened with the tidbits of facts given.
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