Monday, February 23, 2009

Boxed Set Reviews: The Natalie Wood Collection

The Natalie Wood Collection is your one opportunity to own a solid piece of the ethereal star's legacy. It's a must-have for any Natalie Wood fan or anyone who collects prize box sets. The box set design is gorgeous with alternating colors of lavendar, white and purple and promotional images of Natalie Wood from Sex and the Single Girl. Each of the 6 films comes in it's own full-sized keepcase. Four of the films are new to DVD and Gypsy and Splendor in the Grass are remastered editions. You can purchase Sex and the Single Girl and Splendor in the Grass separately but all the other films are exclusive to the box set.

And now comes my confession. I am not a Natalie Wood fan. Like Frank with Doris Day, I am apathetic to Natalie Wood. I do now have a greater appreciation for The Face. I was really hoping that this box set could win me over, but in the end, I just enjoyed the movies more so than the actress.


Mini Reviews

Bomber B-52 (1957) - Karl Malden stars as airforce worker Chuck Brennan who has a gripe against Colonel Herlihy (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and will do anything to break up Herlihy's romance with his daughter Lois (Natalie Wood), even if it means leaving the job he loves so dearly.

Thoughts - This is Karl Malden's movie and Natalie Wood just looks nice in her outfits. The flight dramas with the B-52s are excellent and suspenseful. Slow start but makes up for it quickly. My favorite film in the box set by far. The aerial cinematography is stunning.


Gypsy (1962) - Story about a stage mother whose passion for show business overshadows the needs and wants of her two daughters and her fiancee. Based on the early life of burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee.

Thoughts - Rosalind Russell carries the movie as the loony stage mom and she outshines both Karl Malden and Natalie Wood. The vaudeville and burlesque musical numbers are all top-notch. The film is beautifully remastered and the colors really pop! Visually stunning.



Cash McCall (1960) - A light-hearted corporate drama about greedy Cash McCall (James Garner) who buys companies only to dismantle them and make a profit out of the loss. He goes soft when Lory Austen (Natalie Wood) comes into his life. When the opportunity to by the Austen Plastics company arises, he jumps on the chance to win Lory back after a bad beginning to their romance.

Thoughts - I enjoyed this film. It's got a lot of flaws, especially the anti-climactic ending and Natalie Wood's matronly hair style. Yet it's stylish, light, fun and interesting. If you are a fan of Executive Suite or even Mad Men, you'll enjoy this film.

Splendor in the Grass (1961) - A coming-of-age story circa 1920s about Deanie (Natalie Wood) a young high school teen who is dating the captain of the football team and most popular boy in school Bud (Warren Beatty). They both must supress their lustful desires to align themselves with society's mores. Bud goes elsewhere to relieve himself and Deanie goes crazy.

Thoughts - This is an excellent study in gender roles and sexuality. Sexual repression and the treatment of sexual expression as viewed amongst both sexes demonstrates the unfairness of double-standards. An Elia Kazan classic! See my previous post about this film


Sex and the Single Girl (1964) - Self-help book fictionalized into a story of sex psychologist Helen Brown (Natalie Wood) who falls for tabloid reporter Bob Weston (Tony Curtis). He is planning an expose on her and to do so pretends he is his friend Frank Brodercik (Henry Fonda) who has significant marital problems with wife Sylvia (Lauren Bacall).

Thoughts - I was disappointed in the movie. It could have been a lot better. It was slow-paced, bizarre and silly to the point of confusing. Maybe this will grow on me, but for now I think Pillow Talk (1959) seems like a much better movie with a similar conceit.



Inside Daisy Clover (1965) - 15-year old Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) is a foul-mouthed, scrappy tomboy living in poverty. Her talent for singing finds her in the seedy show business of 1935's movie industry. As she gains fame, her life falls apart. She leans on leading man Wade Lewis/Lewis Wade (Robert Redford), who is as equally as disturbed as her.

Thoughts - This film salvaged Natalie Wood for me. She does a superb job as a disturbed teenager and the melt-down scene in the studio is beautiful. This film is not nostalgic for the 1930's, rather it's a look at the movie business of the past in an avant-garde way that only a good mid-1960s film could accomplish!

Purchasing Links
(Stimulate that economy with a nice fat juicy purchase)

Please make sure you go to Sarah's Cinema Splendor blog. She is the ultimate Natalie Wood fan and will surely be posting a review of this box set soon. Watch that space!

19 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about Natalie Wood. She was very pretty, you've got to give her that. I think she might have been one of those people who baffled Hollywood. They just didn't know what to do with her.

    I've seen Cash McCall. I really didn't like Natalie in it at all, but James Garner was awful cute! My opinion of him actually soared after seeing that film. :)

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  2. Very much enjoyed your overview of the set. My set just arrived last week (thanks to a nice B&N gift card from a client, grin). I'm especially interested in BOMBERS B-52 -- I have enjoyed similar-sounding Cold War films such as SABRE JET -- so I was glad to see that you found that one particularly enjoyable.

    I've got lots of unfamiliar '60s movies to watch between this and the Warner Romance Collection!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  3. Raquelle,
    Being a musical person I must admit I haven't seen the movie version of Gypsy. I don't know why. It may have something to do with the fact Rosalind Russell plays the part of Mama Rose, a role that simply IS Ethel Merman to me. I can't see why Merman was overlooked here. Russell may be great in it but to me Gypsy without Merman is like Sound Of Music without Julie Andrews, no one else could do it. I'm willing to give it a try though. Great review as usual!

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  4. Wood was an A lister but her career in retrospect doesn't resonate that deeply.

    She was in both West Side Story and The Searchers and while very pretty, was miscast and an annoyance to many viewers and critics, both then and now.

    She was cute in so many - Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, as well as the ones you mentioned.

    Her oddest film was probably the last one she did - Brainstorm.

    I too enjoy the mid 50's cold war films - Bombers B-52. Another one fun to watch is X-15 (1961) with Mary Tyler Moore.

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  5. YAY thanks for mentioning me! I've been cooking up a review and the only movie I still need to watch is Bombers B-52. (Btw, the link to my blog goes to some crazy thing en espanol. There's a hyphen between cinema and splendor) :)

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  6. Great reviews! I have wanted to see "Cash McCall" for a long time!

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  7. I think 'Splendor' is the clear winner here; an undeniable classic, by any standard. For mine, her best work.

    Keep up the great posting.

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  8. I've never been much of a Natalie Wood fan but I do enjoy the film Splendor in the Grass - more so for Warren Beatty - but the boxed set does look like a nice collection for a cinephile.

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  9. I think Natalie Wood's big problem may have been that she didn't choose movies that resonated particularly well with people over time, not in the same way that, say, Doris Day did. I mean, it is hard for me to remember many of her films beyond Splendour in the Grass, Sex and the Single Girl (and that just because it is a sex comedy), West Side Story, and a few others. In fact, when I think of Natalie it is not as an adult, but as the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street.

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  10. Casey - I think Natalie Wood is more legacy than actress. Does that make sense? Oh yes. I give James Garner 5 Humunahs for Cash McCall. YOWZAH!

    Laura- Please tell me what you think of Bombers B-52 when you see it. I've read lots of negative reviews, but I loved it!

    Sarah - Sorry about that. Fixed now. I needed to make sure I paid homage to the ultimate Natalie fan.

    Millie - It's a fun movie. Just don't take it too seriously.

    Robby - Warren Beatty is great in Splendor in the Grass. I love to hate him in that film, even though generally I'm not a fan.

    Mercurie - You are dead right. I don't know much about Natalie Wood so I don't know if she was typecast or had a bad agent, but her roles were generally poor.

    Mandingo - Thanks!! I have to apologize because I had to delete your second comment. It's not relevant to this post or to the blog in general. And my Valentine's day comment on Ginger's blog was a joke.

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  11. Jonas - Yeah, you may want to stay away from Gypsy then. :-)

    Bill - I agree with you that she was miscast. From what I saw in Inside Daisy Clover, she definitely had potential. I have Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice on my Netflix queue. Looks like a fun and out there movie.

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  12. I, too am apathetic re: Wood, and bought this set with the same kind of appreciation-boosting hopes that you speak of. I still haven't watched any of them though--I'm quite looking forward to Daisy Clover, at least.

    the one Wood moment (aside from good fun in Miracle on 34th Street, of course) that has always stayed with me is that scene in the classroom in Splendor in the Grass, where she breaks down--it's intensely affecting!

    Dave

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  13. OMG Anagramasci!

    That classroom scene in Splendor in the Grass is my favorite Natalie Wood moment! It is so memorable! In the one acting class I took in high school (for fun) I always tried to emulate her...the way she suppressed her tears, the way she tried to retain her humility by trying so hard to hide her breakdown, and the fact that she just ran off mid sentence...

    Racquelle, you are such a role model for the rest of us movie bloggers. I can't speak for everyone, but you always inspire me.

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  14. Angramasci - Let me know what you think of Inside Daisy Clover when you see it!

    Nick - Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate them very much. BTW, there is no "C" in my name. So I thought I'd pass the "C" back to you since it's not in yours either. :-)

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  15. sorry...i am the king of typos and bad spelling.

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  16. Her best performance to me was This Property Is Condemned with Robert Redford...I have that one in my collection. I do love Natalie, she had a beautiful face and figure and I did like her acting. Check her out in Brainstorm, her last flick, too!

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  17. Gorgeous collection indeed...My favorite of hers is Splendor in the Grass. Natalie and Warren just sizzled. Gypsy is no doubt a classic

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  18. Natalie was a good actress when she had an excellent director ... Kazan, Pollack, Robbins,etc.

    For me, aside form Splendor.. her best performance was in Love With the Proper Stranger w/ Steve McQueen

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  19. Especially in light of the recent resurgence in Natalie Wood memories due to media coverage of her death renewed inquest, I found this link and have been thinking about her as an actress.

    In my mind, she was beautiful, yes, but also had a potential there that hadn't been completely all tapped yet, including a part of her acting and personality that would have manifested themselves maybe in a later film directors' generation, in later decades.

    Rather than a great actress, I think of her more as an iconic one who, in the history of film, was associated with a few extremely iconic and good films and who was greatest when in the company of great film acting ensembles.

    Also, I think that after her bigger early 1960s roles, she or her agent maybe didn't always make the best casting interest choices and she became associated with a number of mid-1960s movies that had a kind of assembly-line, B-movie feel and filming look about them.

    I always thought that what made her great in West Side Story was the emotion and reaction in her eyes to situations and other actors. That, I think, was one of her actor strong points.

    I really believe that had she lived, she would have done well by doing more independent or foreign films, and less big-production Hollywood potential "blockbusters," and for some reason maybe working with directors such as Woody Allen or Barbra Streisand. I think that their quirky directing approaches and movie theme choices would've brought out the best in those qualities of Natalie's that I believe were her more untapped ones that, again, I think would have resonated more in her performances in the more mature Natalie, had she lived.

    I agree that I think that Hollywood didn't know quite what to do with her--I believe that she was ahead of her time and just didn't totally fit the square peg of traditional Hollywood film themes, styles, and settings, which in my opinion was a good trait.

    I wish that she had lived to have had a chance to act, do and be the choices that she and others would've loved to have seen her accomplish in later lifetime years.

    Thank you for this great Blog!

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