Most helpful positive review
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"That's how it's gonna be you'll see! You're gonna hear from me!"
on March 2, 2013
Here we have one of the latest additions to TCM's noteworthy "Greatest Classic Legends" film collection, this time highlighting the late and still sorely missed Natalie Wood. The choices are eclectic, four varied films ranging from 1961 to 1965 when Ms. Wood was at the height of her stardom, beauty and power as an actress. This quartet ranges from excellent, good, a quirky failure, and one true clunker. Thankfully all are presented in wide screen versions, with "Gypsy" and "Inside Daisy Clover" in the letterbox format, and the price at $19.32 on "Amazon" is certainly reasonable. Below a brief review of each:
*****" Splendor in the Grass" (1961) This story of two hormone ridden teenage lovers in late 1920's Kansas was scripted by one of the premier American playwrights of the 1950's William Inge, and was his last notable success. Deenie Loomis (Natalie Wood) and Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty) are deeply in love, but are forced to repress the passion and natural sexual longing they feel for one another due to their parental upbringing and the social mores of the time. Deenie's mother (Audrey Christie) drives home the point that Deenie as a "nice" girl should not be experiencing these "urges", and if she does must sublimate them, and NOT give in to wanton male lust. Bud's blustering, good ole boy, wealthy father (Pat Hingle) who believes Bud can do better socially than Deenie, advises Bud to quench the fire in his belly by bedding a "bad" girl on the sly. Ultimately, this leads to tragedy. With her portrayals of Maria in "West Side Story" and especially Deenie, both in 1961, Natalie Wood's budding talents as a dramatic actress came into full bloom. She has a radiant vulnerability as this dewy, innocent young girl, who is shattered and broken by her unfulfilled love for Bud, and emerges sadder, wiser and clear eyed to the realities of life. The scenes of Deenie's mental deterioration and nervous breakdown are harrowing and heartbreaking. Ms. Wood was deservedly nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. This is Warren Beatty's screen debut, and although not as yet in a league with Ms. Wood, he acquits himself well, and the chemistry is potent between them. Noted director Elia Kazan does a skillful job and draws excellent performances from all including Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden, and Zohra Lampert. The extras here are the theatrical trailer, and an Oscar nominated cartoon "Beep Prepared".
****"Gypsy"(1962) One of Broadways' greatest musicals was turned into this gaudy, splashy spectacle, that cries out for one of the memorably creative directors of movie musicals such as Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen to take the helm rather than the pedestrian Mervyn LeRoy. As most people probably know, this is based on the "memoirs" of the legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, her rise through vaudeville and burlesque, in the shadow of her sister "Dainty June", both driven relentlessly by their tornado of a mother, Rose. Playing Ethel Mermans' penultimate Broadway role as Mama Rose, is Rosalind Russell who does very fine acting. Although Ms. Russell firmly denied it, she was dubbed in her songs, and the film is poorer for it, doing a serious disservice to a glorious classic score. Since Merman wasn't considered box office, it's a shame that Judy Garland who was enjoying relatively good health and spirits and a red hot comeback at the time this was being made wasn't cast. Her renditions of the songs "Some People","Small World", "Everything's Coming up Roses" & "Rose's Turn" would have been singularly thrilling. Fortunately, Ms. Wood is inspired casting as Louise Hovick , the ugly duckling who becomes the celebrated stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee. As the overlooked, neglected Louise, she has a touching gaucheness and sweetness, yet she effortlessly achieves a believable metamorphosis into the sleek, glittering Gypsy. She's gorgeous, and playfully sexy in the extended "Let Me Entertain You" strip number, she was one of my first crushes when I saw this film on television when I was twelve. Russell and she excel in the dressing room scene as Gypsy and Rose clash, both standing toe to toe with one another, and are equally good in the final reconciliation scene. Besides the trailer, there are two musical outtakes "You'll Never Get Away from Me", and "Together, Wherever We Go", plus yet another Oscar nominated cartoon "The Pied Piper of Guadalupe".
**"Sex and the Single Girl" (1964) Yep, you guessed it, this would be the clunker. Using just the title from Helen Gurley Brown`s notorious 1962 bestseller, it's silly, more than slightly vulgar and fairly dull. Packed with stars Wood, Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Mel Ferrer and Edward Everett Horton, the only virtues are seasoned pros Fonda and Bacall as a tempestuously married couple and Wood's beauty and charm. Surprisingly the leering screenplay is credited to author Joseph Heller of "Catch 22" fame. Yet another Oscar nominated cartoon "Nelly's Folly", (are we beginning to see a pattern here, all Warner Brother's Oscar nominated cartoons?) plus the ubiquitous trailer comprise the extras.
***"Inside Daisy Clover" (1965) For Natalie Wood the failure of this film really hurt, she had put a lot of herself into this cautionary tale penned by Gavin Lambert from his novel of the same name of one "Daisy Clover" who has a meteoric rise as a young singing film star in 1930's Hollywood (genus Judy Garland) who is nearly destroyed in the process. In both "Gypsy" and especially this Ms. Wood felt she could bring her own truth to her portrayals of these two young girls prodded and molded into stardom. Ms. Wood as a child & teenage star had to deal with a pushy stage mother that lived her ambitions through her, and Wood also came up through the studio system. As Daisy, Ms. Wood is at first a tough little waif, who is soon engulfed and undone by the pressures of stardom. She has a raw edge, fueled by an underlying anger and is considerably effective, but the film itself never quite comes together, and is flawed, yet has its intriguing moments. This is another star studded cast, Robert Redford in one of his first film roles, Christopher Plummer, Ruth Gordon, and Roddy McDowell. Gordon in a hammy, over the top performance inexplicably got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod, but didn't win. What deserved at least an Oscar Nomination if not the trophy itself is a marvelous Judy Garland type song by Andre and Dory Previn entitled "You're Gonna Hear from Me!" This was presented in two versions both work equally well, a slow, quiet ballad used as Daisy's screen test and then as rousing production number for Daisy. Unfortunately, Ms. Wood was dubbed but the un-credited singer does evoke at times the vocal tones of Judy Garland.
With the exception of "Sex and the Single Girl", this collection is a carefully chosen representation of Ms. Wood's talent, and well worth a look. What would have been a perfect substiution for "Sex..." would have been her low keyed, underplayed Oscar nominated role in 1963's "Love with the Proper Stranger."