Natalie Wood: TCM Greatest Classic Legends
Turner Classic Films continues to cull titles from its archives for new DVD compilations. Released alongside a new Judy Garland set is a four-DVD box entitled "TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Natalie Wood." Unlike Garland, Wood’s cinematic output and acting varied drastically with respect to quality. Yet she shared Judy’s ability to convey fragility and vulnerability in a character, and left us a number of memorable screen performances.
The first offering is the musical, "Gypsy," often panned due to its miscasting. Ros Russell’s baritone croaking notwithstanding, most of the classic Styne/Sondheim songs are expertly realized. Though physically miscast, Wood does a fine job as the shy Louise, who transforms into burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. The vividly colored, widescreen film transfer is excellent.
The 1964 "Sex and the Single Girl" is the worst of the lot. It’s a crass, dated comedy, with Natalie portraying the author of the original book, Helen Gurley Brown, and Tony Curtis as a snooping journalist. Henry Fonda sleepwalks through a supporting role as Curtis’ buddy. Lauren Bacall saves the day as Fonda’s hysterical wife. Natalie is ill at ease in this attempt at 60’s screwball comedy. Cameos by film veterans, and TV personalities don’t help much.
Featuring an Inge script, and Kazan direction, "Splendor in the Grass" is one of Wood’s finest films. She earned an Oscar nomination as a troubled teen infatuated with sexy Warren Beatty, making his screen debut. The theme of repressed, teenage, sexual desire was a more controversial topic in 1961; and viewers may grow impatient with the overwrought histrionics of the supporting cast. However, Natalie shines.
The last entry is the cultish, 1967 "Inside Daisy Clover." Either so bad that it’s fabulous, or just plain bad, "..Daisy.." features Natalie as a 1930’s street urchin who becomes America’s screen sweetheart. She weds fellow star Robert Redford, later discovering his strong preference for boys. Wildly uneven, the film juxtaposes wonderfully campy moments, with dull stretches of dialogue. Two reasons to own this film are Natalie’s kitsch, musical numbers, and Ruth Gordon, irresistible as Daisy’s eccentric mother.
The quality of the films themselves in TCM’s new compilation is inconsistent; yet the chosen selections do provide an accurate overview of Wood’s diverse filmogtaphy.
TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Natalie Wood