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Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,136 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Natalie Wood was always a star; her mother made sure this was true. A superstitious Russian immigrant who claimed to be royalty, Maria had been told by a gypsy, long before little Natasha Zakharenko's birth, that her second child would be famous throughout the world. When the beautiful child with the hypnotic eyes was first placed in Maria's arms, she knew the prophecy wou ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published April 9th 2002 by Three Rivers Press (first published June 12th 2001)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,136 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Natalie Wood's tragic demise still remains a Hollywood mystery. A great talent and a lovely woman gone too soon.

Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Probably one of the best bios of Natalie Wood I have ever come across, despite the uneven handling of parts of her life (too much emphasis on her early and teen years) and repetitive style. I appreciated Suzanne Finstad's attempts to get to know the real woman behind the star image. Natalie is presented as an unfailingly kind, loving, and ambitious person who was pushed into acting by a stage mother and was left with psychological issues that she began to overcome by the end of her life, but one ...more
Jul 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fifties/Sixties movie fans
Shelves: hollywoodbabylon
The best Natalie Wood biography money can buy, honest and never boring. Her unrequited romance with (gay)actor Raymond Burr, her dalliance with director Nicholas Ray and attempts at dating Warren Beatty were amusing. The amusement of course, ends towards the final chapter where her bisexual husband Robert Wagner may or may not have had an affair with creepy Christopher Walken. The last hours of her life will creep you out.
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Natalie fans, EVERYONE, biography lovers
Probably the best biography I've ever read. I couldn't put it down! Suzanne Finstad gave a fascinating, vivid, informative account of Natalie's life. Finstad did so much research for this book, interviewing hundreds of people except for RJ Wagner because he declined because she told the truth about him and he couldn't handle that. It's a very sympathetic biography and you really feel for Natalie. Whether or not you're a Natalie fan, you will love this. Pick this up for an interesting read.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
An in-depth, well-researched biography, which left me feeling both sad and angry. Sad because Natasha (Natalie) never had the chance to live a normal life but was manipulated, used and abused from childhood; angry because it seems to me that someone was allowed to get away with murder....
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Overall a well- researched and detailed account of Natalie Wood's life, especially her childhood, homelife, and her start in Hollywood. The author spoke to numerous sources and has fascinating accounts of the behind-the-scenes of Wood's iconic films. However, Finstad makes a lot of assumptions, and puts her opinions and interpretations in almost every paragraph.

The most egregious part of the author's writing is the repetition! Again and again she rephrases the same thought, driving home her opi
Nov 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
One certainly can't say this is a benign account of the star's life! If it is to be believed, it lays bare a pretty active early sex life of its subject and outs one of Hollywood's most enduring stars as a conflicted bisexual (something that said star denies vehemently.) It is, without question, a page turner but begins in tragedy, with Natalie enduring the oppression of a smothering, demanding stage mother and ends even worse, so it's not for the butterflies and candy cane set.
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Why does Natalie Wood’s gaudy life inspire mediocre bios? Because they never mention the “I’m pretty, mama! I’m a pretty girl!” scene in “Gypsy,” maybe the most brutal scene in any Hollywood movie? Because she spent her whole life in LA? Because nobody parts with a story they don’t own a piece of? Because she didn’t make more enemies? Because writers can’t resist schlocking up her stage mom or her horrible death? But “Mr. S,” the book by Sinatra’s valet, has two pages on N.W. (70-71) that are ea ...more
C.S. Burrough
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans
Anyone who even only saw 'Gypsy' (1962) would have been taken by this seemingly fresh, stunning talent. But this child veteran screen legend had already long since cemented her place in the Hollywood history with great films like 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947).

Born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents, Wood also spoke Russian and was proud of her heritage. She was pushed as a toddler, by her mother, into films.

At nine she was named the 'most exciting juvenile motion picture star of th
Sarah Cler
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read this when it first came out a decade ago, and was inspired to pick it up again. Exhaustively researched, difficult-to-put-down biography of Natalie Wood, the first really complete biography ever written on her life. A must for any Natalie Wood fan.
Rex Leonowicz
Aug 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans
She's a beautiful soul.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extremely well-researched, sympathetic, and compelling portrait of a complicated life and death. Fascinating.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a revealing and sometimes shocking revelation of Natasha Gurdin (AKA Natalie Wood), the famed child star and Hollywood icon. The author vividly paints the world into which little Natasha was born into and how how her controlling, manipulative and disillusioned mother, Maria (AKA "Mud") formed her into a star after her dream. The author pulls no punches in telling how Maria lived vicariously through her creation, "Natalie."

Natalie is shown to be a capricious, intelligent, engaging and t
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I think I fell in love with Natalie Wood when I was 7 and my parents took us to see The Great Race at the drive-in. (Strangely, that movie turned out to be one of her worst experiences as an actor.) She was enormously beautiful, and seriously talented. Still, I hadn't put all the movies she made into any sequence before, and I knew next to nothing about her life, so this book filled in a lot of information. It is, however, necessary to be interested in the subject, as the writing is enormously r ...more
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable read for the most part. The author git a bit repetitive at times telling the story of Natalie Wood's life, but the book seemed very complete to me. It covered a lot of ground. Especially interesting were the stories of her early years as a child actress in Hollywood and then the transition into more mature roles. The mother comes off as kind of a villain---maybe rightfully so if the stories told about her are to be believed. The father was a weak and sometimes violent presence in ...more
Natalie Goguen
I thought this biography was very interesting. Natalie Wood was such a talented actress. her death was a tragedy. She was young and beautiful. She had a rough child hood but she appreciated it. Natalie Wood was just a figure in her mothers imagination. She was in the movie business since she was a child. She truly was something special. fun fact.... I was named after Natalie Wood.... my dad loved her as an actress so much he decided to name his baby girl after her. Anyways Natalie had many affai ...more
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn't have a particular interest in Natalie Wood's story, but decided to start reading some bestseller biographies because everyone's life is interesting if written well!

This was a great read. The author chronicled Natalie's life from her earliest acting work as a child and used many, many friends and family interviews to build the story.

The tragedy that ended her life was probably the last 15% of the book, and included a nearly minute to minute imagining of that night -- again, with lots of
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I liked the first 3/4 of the book and found it quite an insightful look into the life of one of the most influential actresses of our time. I enjoyed hearing the stories of how she got her different roles and sympathized with her personal struggles growing up. But the thing that I found a bit frustrating was how much time was spent in the end talking about her tragic and mysterious death and all the theories surrounding it. I think it ended on such a down note, which I guess is how her life ende ...more
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting stories, though repetitive on the part of the author. The writing is not the best, but if you are a fan of Natalie Wood, it's a decent read for some perspective into her life behind the silver screen.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ever since finishing this book, I've been haunted by this actress and the thought of how she died, all alone and at sea. A magical life cut short far too soon, and the author has spoiled me for all other biographies. I couldn't put it down.
Karen Jones
Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, hollywood
Finstad is a great researcher, but her writing is melodramatic and overwrought. Many things were repeated over and over. I didn't need to know what every source thought of Natalie at every given time and I got the feeling that Finstad wanted to put every single quote in the book.
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into the life of a troubled star
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really good read. What a sad life she had and for it to end the way it did, just terrible. :( I would definitely recommend this to fans of old Hollywood, esp fans of Natalie and her films.
Annie Booker
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly sad ending of course but a really interesting insight into who she really was and why she was who she was
Alexandra the Great
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was equally parts fascinating and devastating. Natasha Gurdin was born to Russian immigrant parents- Nick, a sensitive, alcoholic father and Maria, an overbearing, superstitious mother. From the start, little Natasha showed such huge natural talent, and her mother made damn sure that she was going to be famous. The intense pressure put on Natalie Wood- as Natasha was rechristened- by her mother, as well as Natalie's own desire to succeed, left her with intense psychological scars that ...more
Bruce Danziger
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I gave this 4 stars not because it is particularly well written, but as a nod to the exhaustive research and volume of fascinating and new information about this talented, yet so tragic figure. Her death in 1981 was not an accident. Robert Wagner is responsible. And if there weren't a statute of limitations on manslaughter he would be charged.

Anyway if you like Natalie you will gobble this like an ice cream sundae.
Grace T
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I watched West Side Story last year for the first time, I was captivated by the brown-eyed beauty that is Natalie Wood. I soon afterwards watched Splendor In The Grass and Rebel Without a Cause, both among my favorite films. While strolling through Half Price Books, I came across Suzanne Finstad's critically acclaimed biography and simply couldn't pass it up.

The beginning, although slow, gave a good backstory of Natalie's mother's family, which helps us understand the strange habits of Musi
Glenna Morrison
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A meticulously-referenced biography of an enigmatic Hollywood star. This book is a compilation of all the literature surrounding the life and times of Natalie Wood. The story begins with a brief intro to her mother's life, then takes the reader from Natalie's birth to her mysterious drowning. It draws no firm conclusions, leaving us to come up with our own best guess. The book includes some wonderful photographs.
The reader has a front row seat to the saga of a childhood denied as a driven mother
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A legend lost

I found it bothersome that nearly everyone in the book has 2, 3, even 4 names in some cases right down to the dinghy. Natalie Wood lived a full even incredible life. Looking over the credits to her name you can’t help but wonder how she managed to fit it all in during her short lifetime. Her mother was a tyrannical taskmaster to challenge her child to such extremes
Barb Ross
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was really fascinated (and dumbfounded) with all of the intimacies that were so surprising to me. Probably just naïveté on my part. (Her mother was a real piece of art)
My heart broke for Natasha/Natalie through nearly 95% of the book. I was glad to read that she did have “some” moments of pure happiness. Such a beauty. Rest In Peace.
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