Monday, May 11, 2020

Natalie Wood: The lies that remain repeated (C.I.)

Natasha Gregson Wagner.   Let's start with that lie.  It's Natasha Gregson.  She's not been adopted by Robert Wagner.  Her father was Natalie Wood's second husband Richard Gregson who passed away in 2019.  After Natalie Wood died, Wagner became her legal guardian.  He didn't become her adopted father.

Why does it matter?

Well a tacky 'documentary' and Jill St. John -- also not a real last name -- make it matter.

Natasha had a troubled life after her mother died in 1981.  In the HBO 'documentary' NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, you see a damaged Natasha.  And I feel for her.  And I didn't want to write about it.  Then it became apparent it would have to turn up in a piece Ava and I wrote together.  That was going to create another problem because I knew Natalie and Ava didn't so, throughout the article we'd write, we'd be using the construct "one of us knew Natalie" repeatedly.

Natasha's Natalie's daughter as is Courtney and I'm fine with them having their fantasy of their mother.  What does it really matter?  Let 'em say whatever they want, they lost her.

That was my attitude before I watched the program.  And then I watched and it was one lie after another.  Does Mart Crowley think this or that?

Who gives a f**k?  He was paid by Robert Wagner and he was attracted to Robert Wagner.  In the last years of her life, Natalie couldn't even stand him anymore.  Apparently that's one of many details that no one bothered to tell Natasha about.  I saw Natasha last in the '00s when she was doing a play.  By saw, I mean spoke with after the performance.  So maybe a good portion of the blame goes to me because anytime I've spoken to Natasha or Courtney, I've just spoken of the positive.

The 'documentary' is pure garbage.  It's one lie after another and, clearly, those lies originate with Robert Wagner.  "RJ" -- little Robert Junior.

At one point, Natasha's ripping apart her grandmother -- Natalie's mother.  Was Maria Stepanovna Zakharenko a bit of a drama queen?  Yes, she was.  No one who knew "Mud" would deny that.  Natalie was aware of it as well and that she took Mud's drama with a grain of salt.  She also happened to love her mother.  That's a detail RJ wants to erase.  I had no idea his venom and hate was being transferred to his daughters as truth.

RJ didn't like Mud the first time he married Natalie.  He loathed her the second time and he loathed Lana Wood, Natalie's sister.

He had a reason for loathing them and it's not in the documentary but we'll get to it in a moment.

Right now, let's note Jill St. John -- professional arm walker.  A woman who had many acting opportunities and managed to fail in each one.  She's by far the worst Bond girl ever (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) as she starts out as tough and brittle Tiffany Case and that lasts for all of two scenes.  She never has a handle on the character -- but isn't that the hallmark of her non-performances which include EIGHT ON THE LAM and TONY ROME.  It's not that she didn't have the chance to shine, it's that she blew every chance she was ever given.

By contrast, Lana Wood walks away with DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER in her brief scenes.  She's real, she's believable and she's likable.  Maybe that's why Jill's always hated Lana?

In the 'documentary,' Jill sneers that Lana's name really isn't "Wood."  No, it's not.  But that doesn't make Lana a liar.

It does make Jill a liar.  When did "Lana Wood" become her name?  Her parents gave her the name when she was ten years old and making her film debut in THE SEARCHERS.  In the John Wayne film, Natalie played Debbie and Lana played Debbie as a young child.

That's a detail Jill runs past because she's bitter and she's angry.

Watching NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, anyone who actually knew Natalie knows that Jill and RJ should be thrilled.  Their lies have been bought by Natasha.

Crazy "Mud" just a fanatic that Natalie couldn't stand, right?


Natalie loved her mother and she loved her sister.  Did that mean she always liked them?  No.  They had plenty of conflicts -- especially true of Mud.  Natalie had far less conflict with Lana and she enjoyed being big sister and indulged Lana in many things.  Lana was not the perfect little sister.  Her lively love life was only one of the things that frequently stressed Natalie out.

Stressed her out because she cared about and loved her sister.

RJ and Jill work overtime to pretend that love never existed.

RJ has told the tale -- true or false -- that Lana took all the clothing left her by Natalie in the will and sold it.


If it's true, what does it matter.  Lana and Natalie didn't wear the same size.  Lana was taller than Natalie, Lana's hips were wider than Natalie's, Lana's breasts were bigger than Natalie's.

Lana wasn't starring in HART TO HART and making dime from CHARLIE'S ANGELS.  If Lana chose to sell clothes that she could not wear to have money that she needed, no one should blame her and certainly Natalie wouldn't have blamed her.

But it's that sort of thing -- or, in the 'documentary,' Jill hissing that Wood isn't Lana's real last name -- that is used to discredit Lana.

Lana loved her sister and Natalie loved Lana.  She trusted Lana and she trusted her a lot more than she trusted RJ.

Mud didn't trust RJ at all.

Why don't the girls -- Natasha and Courtney -- know their aunt and why didn't they know their grandmother after Natalie died?

RJ couldn't stand for them to be around.

RJ didn't want Mud around at all even when Natalie was alive.

We're told, in the 'documentary,' that Robert loved Natalie so much that there's no way he could have killed her.

That's cute.  Not true, but cute.  And a number of us who knew Natalie avoid weighing in publicly because we know how important fantasy was to Natalie.  She didn't have the picture perfect life.  She worked hard to convince herself that she had it but part of the return to work was dealing with the reality that marriage number two to RJ wasn't shaping up to be worth all she was putting into it.

Now grown ups can feel that way and grow through it, absolutely.  But that reality did exist and it's obvious that in the fairy tale Natasha's been raised with, reality never included it.

She spews at Mud, laughs about that stupid grandmother who foolishly thought Natalie would die in dark water.  And, Natasha wants you to know, that fear is so stupid and her mother was in the pool all the time and who isn't afraid of dark water?  Ha ha ha ha.  Right?


Natalie didn't like going on Robert's boats -- big or small -- and she was haunted by water -- non swimming pool water -- her entire life going back to 1952 when she was tossed in the ocean by a director.

It's rather obvious that Natasha hasn't bothered to learn about her mother.  She says she tries to figure out her mother when she watches one of her mother's films.  Otherwise?  She just listens to what "Daddy Wagner" tells her.

The 1952 incident was spoken of often by Natalie.  And that includes to me.  I've also noted the time Natalie dragged me along for a visit with Bette Davis.  In that visit, the incident was mentioned and discussed at length because that was Bette Davis' movie and she screamed at the director for terrifying Natalie.  I had heard the story from Natalie many times before but I heard it with them overlapping this time, Bette and Natalie sharing details and disgust over the director.

That Natasha doesn't even appear to know of this speaks to a huge well of ignorance about her own mother.

Did RJ kill Natalie?

I hope to hell not.

But all NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND did was convince me that he might have.

If you told a certain lie, you were included in the 'documentary.'  Mia Farrow's included.  Natalie couldn't stand Mia and Mia couldn't stand Natalie.  But there's Mia prattling on and on.  They were never friends.  Mia was friendly with RJ -- especially while Natalie was married to Richard Gregson.  That's one of the many reasons that Natalie couldn't stand Mia.  How does Natasha not know this?  Because she's been raised in lies, she's been kept from anyone who wouldn't repeat the official lies that paint Robert Wager as Prince Charming.

Robert has many good qualities.  He is not, however, Prince Valiant, let alone Prince Charles.

Robert Wagner's film career is an embarrassment.  He has three films to be proud of.  THE PINK PANTHER features him being a good sport -- the exact same type of acting he'd utilize on on the TV shows IT TAKES A THIEF, SWITCH and HART TO HART.  For serious acting?  He has two films that he can point to with pride: HARPER and A KISS BEFORE DYING.  In both films, he's a charmer whose charm hides that he's someone who will kill.

That's acting.  And you can argue that when some feel Robert killed Natalie, they are responding to the talent he demonstrated in those two roles.  And that may be.

But why was Mud a problem in marriage number two to Natalie?

Because Mud wasn't going to censor herself.  Natalie and RJ were about fresh start on their second marriage and don't look back or talk about what happened before; however, Mud wasn't going to pretend that her daughter wasn't suicidal the night she caught RJ having sex with a man.  That's what ended marriage number one.

Henry Wilson's little boy RJ liked the fellows.  But let's pretend that didn't happen and let's also pretend that RJ landed Henry as his agent but somehow was the only actor Henry represented that he didn't have sex with.  It takes a lot of pretense to buy into the fairytale Robert Wagner's created.  A fairytale that also includes Robert having a four year affair with closeted lesbian Barbara Stanwyck.  Yeah, that's one not mentioned in the 'documentary' but it's one that inspired everyone in the industry to laugh even louder at Robert Wagner's efforts to come across as straight.

What happened on the boat the night she died?

Who knows?

But the garbage served up in NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND is so rank and vile, so dishonest, that it doesn't argue for Robert's claims that he was innocent.  He doesn't even come off very well when he's supposedly remembering what happened. And what he's confessing -- grasp this -- is that the marriage wasn't happy at that time.  It wasn't Christopher Walken's first meeting with Natalie.  He and Natalie had been filming together for weeks.  They'd had this conversation -- the one Robert leaves her out of -- the one about acting versus coasting.  Natalie wasn't happy with her life, wasn't happy with Robert and wanted to get back to real acting (hence her desire to make the film with Timothy Hutton as her lover and her desire to do the play ANASTASIA).  This was what she and Christopher had discussed on the set of BRAINSTORM.  Now their conversation was brought to coaster Robert Wagner and he was furious.  He admits as much but somehow leaves Natalie out of the conversation.  It's Christopher bringing this up, it's Christopher trying to convince Natalie -- according to Robert.  No, it doesn't make sense.  None of Robert's lies make sense.

I watched and was appalled over and over by what I saw.  But I had no plan to write about it until Jill St. John started telling the camera about Lana Wood, started trashing Natalie's sister on camera.

Jill wants you not to believe Lana and the reason is because?  Lana changed her name.

And, Jill, what name were you born with because it wasn't "St. John."

Equally true, Jill and RJ may be married but that doesn't mean that those of us who were Natalie's friends don't see her as a whore -- we've seen her that way since February 1982 when she first began seeing RJ -- not even a full two months after Natalie died.  Actually, we saw her that way before.  Lance Reventlow died in 1972.  He had been married to Cheryl Holdridge since 1964.  Despite this, Jill told the press for years and years and years that Lance was her late husband.  Now, yes, Jill was briefly married to him.  They were together for two years before separating (they married in 1960) and then, in 1963, they divorced.  Jill walked away with $86,000 which was a huge sum for 1963, especially for a two year marriage (which was her second marriage).  ($86,000 in 1963 would be about $727,000 today.) 

Cheryl Holdridge was Lance's wife when he died.  They had been married eight years at that point.  Jill St. John elected to divorce Lance (and said he bullied her and worse) and yet wanted to claim -- sometimes still does -- that he was her "late husband"?  That tells you everything you need to know about Jill St. John and honesty.

The only thing that angers me more as a friend of Natalie's?  Robert Redford.  We've noted for years how he stabbed Natalie in the back.  There he is in the 'documentary,' still wearing a bad wig and pretending he's not bald, pretending that's his hair and that, at 83, he's still a strawberry blond sassy stud.  Robert Redford goes on and on about how Natalie got him his first part in movies, the studio didn't want him for INSIDE DAISY CLOVER and Natalie had seen him in a play and she demanded that he be hired to play opposite her.  He even noted that she demanded him for THIS PROPERTY CONDEMNED.  He forgot to mention that she also got his friend hired as director: Sydney Pollack.

Both owed her.  But in 1975, they didn't think to ask her to play a role in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR.   In 1978, she didn't hint, she asked to be considered for the role of the love interest in their next teaming, THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN.  They had other plans and gave the role to Jane Fonda.  (Jane was then top at the box office and she gives the film the only tension it has.  Without her, it's just Robert Redford doing his pale imitation of Warren Beatty yet again.)  Shortly afterward, she also asked Robert for the role of Lillian in BRUBAKER.  He gave it to Jane Alexander.

In other words, Natalie married his friend and agent (who became his producer) Richard Gregson and he never helped her.  She got him two film roles -- his most prominent roles -- and got his friend Sydney Pollack hired as director.  And he goes on about how nice and wonderful that was of her.  But he leaves out that when Natalie returned to acting, he didn't help her -- not even when she asked.  She was a three time Academy Award nominated actress who had just hit forty and was returning to film after taking off several years to give birth and raise children.  But he couldn't do her a favor?  Yet when he needed her for THE CANDIDATE (1972) she didn't balk, she said, sure, she'd do a walk-on in his film to help get it made.

NATALIE WOOD: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND makes it clear that Natasha was told a great deal about her mother.  It's a shame that the bulk of what she was told were lies.

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