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The Movies That Starred Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood was a movie star with a true-blue quality. In old clips, anxiety, sadness and resilience ripple across her skin and pool in her brown eyes.


Her sudden death shocked Hollywood. New evidence shows she left her husband’s yacht in the middle of a dark night and went into a dinghy, where she died.

John Ford’s epic Technicolor adventure is a Western masterpiece. The story is morally complex and sweeping, combining action with a dark anti-hero character study, complemented by one of John Wayne’s finest performances as Ethan Edwards. The movie’s shots of Utah’s Monument Valley are breathtaking, and it’s often considered to be among the most beautiful movies ever made. It also helped to establish the style of action cinema that would be largely dominated by CGI-heavy blockbusters for decades to come.

In fact, The Searchers has become something of a “cult film” for western fans, with many naming it among their favorite films of all time. But it’s important to remember that when the film was first released in 1956, many critics were not very impressed. A young Cahiers du Cinema critic wept after his first viewing of the film. He found the story “preposterous in its plotting, spasmodic in its pacing, unfunny in its hijinks, bipolar in its politics and alternately sodden and convulsive in its acting.”

Of course, some of that criticism is valid. For one thing, the film does tend to be a bit racist in its depiction of Indians. And the character of Ethan is a little too much of a loner antihero to be entirely likable. However, it’s difficult to say whether or not the film was intended to endorse these attitudes. After all, most audiences of the day were not nearly as enlightened as we are today.

But there are other reasons why The Searchers stands the test of time. It’s a drama of obsession and paranoia that isn’t always easy to watch. It’s a portrait of an individual in the grip of a destructive compulsion that he doesn’t have the strength to fight on his own. And it’s a reminder that even the most hardened of people can only hold onto such a state for so long before life intrudes on them again.

In short, The Searchers is a drama of darkness and despair with moments of light and hope. It’s a movie that should be seen at least once, if only to see what all the fuss is about.

The Bride Wore Boots

Over the course of her legendary career, Barbara Stanwyck did it all — romantic dramas, westerns, film noirs and screwball comedies. Despite the fact that some of her directors occasionally dropped the ball, she was one of those rare performers who seemed comfortable in any genre.

This 1946 comedy of marital misunderstandings and jealousies features Stanwyck as Sally, the owner of a horse breeding farm whose Civil War historian husband Jeff (Robert Cummings) cannot stand the sight of horses. The resulting squabbles are only exacerbated when flirtatious Southern debutante Mary Lou Medford (Diana Lynn) insinuates herself into their lives, and by Sally’s scheming ex-lover Lance Gale (Patric Knowles).

It takes a while for the slapstick to kick in, but when it does, the film rates a few laughs. Irving Pichel’s direction is unfussy and effective, though the story never quite soars above the mundane.

The movie’s cast is solid — and even includes young Natalie Wood as Sally’s obnoxious daughter Carol, and Gregory Muradian (also known as Robert Benchley) as the couple’s handyman. But it’s Stanwyck who steals the show, as always.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release is presented in 1.37:1 full frame with an atypically fine black and white transfer that has excellent contrast, fine film grain, and no egregious scratches or flaws. The audio track is a lossless mono track that sounds impressively clean, with no hiss, crackle, or clicks.

While The Bride Wore Boots isn’t a great comedy, it is a pleasant little diversion that can be enjoyed at home. It may not rank among the best films in Stanwyck’s illustrious career, but it is well worth a look. As an added bonus, this Kino release is part of a three-film Barbara Stanwyck Collection that also includes Internes Can’t Take Money and The Great Man’s Lady.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

The lovely Gene Tierney and the handsome Rex Harrison star in this enchanting film about a widow who moves into a haunted seaside cottage and builds a friendship with its ghostly former owner. Unlike many of the horror films that emerged during this time, this one takes a more lighthearted approach to the supernatural – the ghost of Captain Gregg isn’t there to frighten his tenant, but to help her and give her hope for a brighter future.

Having defied her conventional in-laws, London widow Lucy Muir (Tierney) rents a secluded cottage by the sea and soon discovers that it is haunted by the ghost of its deceased previous owner, sea captain Daniel Gregg (Harrison). At first she is fearful, but gradually she and the testy ghost become friends as they build a unique relationship. When faced with her dwindling means of support, she agrees to write the captain’s colorful life story, and in the process finds herself falling for him.

This is a delightful film that has a special appeal for children as it shows that ghosts can be helpful and even lovable. The movie hews closely to the novel by R. A. Dick and is augmented by a fine supporting cast including George Sanders doing his usual caddish bit, Edna Best as her daughter and the housekeeper, Robert Coote as Mr. Coombe, and a very young Natalie Wood as the ghost’s granddaughter.

The movie also strayed slightly from the novel in some of the dialogue, but overall it is an excellent adaptation that is both charming and moving. It is definitely worth your time, and if you happen to have the book, read it as well – it is a classic in its own right.

While the movie is a romance that is both delightful and moving, it also contains some of the most touching scenes ever filmed about forgiveness and unconditional love. It is truly a masterpiece, and one of my all-time favourite movies. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and is certainly a movie that every person should see at least once.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Director Peter Bogdanovich, who cast Wood in his debut film Love With a Proper Stranger, helmed this drama that examines the sexual revolution of the ’60s. Its upwardly mobile protagonist, Bob (Robert Culp), comes back from a freethinking group encounter session with an elevated sense of honesty and announces to his wife Carol that he’s been having an affair. She doesn’t mind at first, but when her good friends Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon) join in, a mate-sharing foursome ensues.

This is a very different kind of Natalie Wood movie, one that’s almost a comedy and is certainly the most irreverent film she ever made. Its story is based on a real-life incident, and it’s an indication of just how far the actress could push the envelope.

Wood was a movie star of the first magnitude, and she’s certainly still considered to be a cultural icon today. The doc doesn’t take a pejorative tone towards her, but it also avoids sleazy tabloid-style reporting on the mysterious circumstances of her death at age 42.

Bouzereau’s interview material includes archival home movies and interviews with family members, friends, and co-workers. She sifts through a wealth of material to give the viewer an intimate portrait of the actress as she evolves from a rebellious teenager in Rebel Without a Cause into one of the most popular stars of Old Hollywood.

It’s a shame that the documentary doesn’t devote more time to examining her stormy relationships with Wagner and Richard Gregson. It’s also a pity that it doesn’t mention an even more disturbing cataclysm in her life: the rape that occurred on the set of Splendor in the Grass and was hushed up by the studio as if she had committed murder.

Despite these disappointments, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is a heartwarming tribute to an actress who left a rich legacy behind and left her fans wanting more. It’s a must-see for anyone who admires this classic beauty. But for those who know her work, the doc doesn’t add much to the body of knowledge that already exists.