There’s always that one person who is the light and life-force of a family. That person who is the connecting dot for everyone who makes each and every person – stranger or not feel special and loved just with their presence. For me, that person was my Great Aunt – Mama Cleo. For Natasha Gregson Wagner, it was her mom Hollywood legend Natalie Wood.
Natalie Wood was the epitome of what a movie star represented to me. She seemed beautiful, kind, smart, immensely talented and the very first time I ever saw her on screen was in a film called ‘Inside Daisy Clover.’ Of course, being a musical theatre geek, I was entranced by her Maria in ‘West Side Story’, but my favorite Natalie Wood film is ‘Marjorie Morningstar.’ I can remember the first time I saw each of those films with my Mom and remember being fascinated with Natalie Wood. It seemed there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. I vividly remember where I was the day I got the news. On a bus while overseas entertaining our troops on a USO tour when the news broke of her death and I was devastatingly heartbroken. It felt like part of my childhood had just been disintegrated.
Having been part of the Hollywood fabric since the age of 4 and born to Russian immigrants, Natalie Wood’s life, legacy and family have put on full display courtesy of her daughter Natasha Gregson-Wagner. There’s been so much focus oh how she died that Natasha wanted to remind fans of her body of work and love of family, which has been overshadowed over for years by her death and the manner in which she departed this realm.
Candid, heartfelt interviews with her daughters, close-friends, husband Robert Wagner and Natasha’s biological Dad – Richard Gregson. We hear how Natalie navigated through her characters, her stealth work ethic and details straight from Robert Wagner about that infamous night on the Splendour where her life would meet its final chapter.
It should be noted how brave Natasha (who bears an uncanny resemblance to her mother physically and vocally) is to approach this subject matter considering that she was so young at the time of Natalie’s Woods demise. Especially since the case has captured media attention for decades accusing RJ Wagner and Christopher Walken of foul play. Can you imagine losing your Mom and having the media for decades accuse your father of her death and then having the case re-opened more than once? It’s absolutely unimaginable and yet, Wood’s daughters Natasha, Katie and Courtney made it through with the help of therapy and family.
And then there’s Natalie’s sister Lana Wood contributing to the media circus. It’s like constantly pours salt in an old wound that hasn’t been allowed to quite heal properly. Yet, heal it must. However, just like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and numerous other celebrities who became iconic, Natalie Wood will live on through her films, her children and the legacy left through those who knew her best.
Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman whose work, willingness to fight for equal pay on sets for herself and others before it became acceptable or fashionable and someone who left a legacy of kindness, eloquence and exuberant energy is a legacy that will shine on for a lifetime.
Produced and Directed by Natasha Gregson Wagner for HBO, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is streaming on right now.