Since 1983, what I learned about Natalie Wood had grown from a fan magazine portrait to a deep comprehension of a woman who tried to juggle it all.
She is legend.
I recently learned that a teacher needed a copy of a Natalie film entitled A Cry in the Night because she will be teaching a course examining the sexual revolution and is using Natalie’s life and career to teach the course.
Natalie is in the Encyclopedia Britannica. True legends are used in classrooms and make it to encyclopedias.
Natalie once said (Filmbug.com: On Being a Child Actor): “I spent practically all my time in the company of adults. I was very withdrawn, very shy, I did what I was told and I tried not to disappoint anybody. I knew I had a duty to perform, and I was trained to follow orders.”
On screen you often saw a fragile woman, but nothing was further from the truth. George Segal worked with her on The Last Married Couple in America in 1979. After her death, he said that everyone on the set had felt the need to protect her, but in reality she was stronger than all of them put together.
Yet nothing in Natalie’s accomplished career supersedes what she had perfected for her private life. When someone makes everyone around them happy and comfortable, a lot of work goes into the effort. Natalie always cared unconditionally for her family and friends, and she helped virtually every single person in that circle, continually. But even when Natalie drew away, it was an act of love and concern. She had learned when to stop enabling but still remained everyone’s rock of security to the day she died.
There is a song Natalie liked to sing as a young adult called When the World Was Young (artist Peggy Lee). You can picture Natalie with her cigarette holder tilted away, sitting at a night club table, a wine glass with lipstick imprint in front of her, smiling as she felt these words:
Motherhood served as the catalyst that took Natalie to her decisive moment in life. When she held her daughter Natasha in her arms, she cradled her own lost childhood simultaneously. What she had missed, she now had returned. Her recaptured love with R.J. Wagner only intensified her desire to maintain the steadiness of her maturity.
Natalie Wood, the actress, was a consummate professional. Her personal favorite performance was in This Property Is Condemned. Her favorite film was West Side Story. As a woman, she was a vivacious blend of everything fun, sexy, chic, and beautiful—on and off the studio set. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, unless rules change, will never offer Natalie a lifetime achievement Oscar, as The Academy does not offer posthumous special awards, and lifetime achievement awards fall into that category. But, of all the things Natalie would have wanted since 1981 would be for her daughters to find contentment in life. Natalie’s daughters have grown into beautiful women. They were raised and cared for with love.
Natalie’s daughters always provided her with a complete sense of satisfaction that no studio job or award would ever be able to match. True contentment in life almost always comes down to loving and being loved. Natalie Wood cherished her Natasha and Courtney, her two daughters who filled her with pride.
Natalie knew exactly what she wanted in life. She wanted a normal life for her children, and she wanted contentment for her parents, her sisters and their children. She wanted to act. She valued her career. She wanted to continue loving. Natalie embraced life. She was a happy woman trying to work out some problems and emotions at the time of her death, but she deserves better than what she has since been dealt.
She was thought of in the industry as a survivor. Personally and professionally, she was a survivor. She still survives. That's what legends do.