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A Life

A-NatalieWoodLambert, a novelist, screenwriter, and biographer, was a friend of Natalie Wood's for nearly half her life. That means he also knew her family, lovers, and husbands. He uses firsthand accounts to explore both the achievements and the inner life of one of Hollywood's most beloved stars. As one of the only child stars of her day to experience success in leading roles as an adult, Wood spent her life on the big (and small) screen. She was admired for her beauty, talent, kindness, dedication, and humor. Yet she was equally well known for her depression, addictions, suicide attempt, tumultuous love affairs, and, of course her tragic drowning in 1981, at age 43.
Knopf. 370 pages. $25.95.

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"With all that built-in drama, Wood's story would be hard to mess up, and if Natalie Wood: A Life were simply solid and readable (and it's both), that would be enough. But this biography has a wistful, elegant, humane quality that feels out of place in the American cultural landscape of 2004." Stephanie Zacharek

SF Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"[Lambert] unobtrusively brings a friend's insight to his admirable researched work. He's especially good at describing the nuances of Natalie Wood's best performances: the ones where her real and imagined selves meshed in remarkable ways." Tom Nolan

Variety 4 of 5 Stars
"Gavin Lambert's riveting biography of Natalie Wood is sure to surprise and enlighten even veteran industry insiders as well as neophytes, film buffs and social anthropologists. It's an honest, meticulously researched work." Beatrice Williams-Rude

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"This book takes up where the entirely admirable Inside Daisy Clover left off; this biography is splendid in every way." Carolyn See

Orlando Sentinel 3 of 5 Stars
"It's all pretty heady stuff, but in the final analysis, Lambert fails to fill in some of the most important missing pieces to the puzzle of Natalie Wood." Crosby Day

Critical Summary

Most critics agree with the Washington Post that Natalie Wood "is splendid in every way." Capturing the real essence of another person is virtually impossible, especially when immersed in celebrity drama and pretense. In this moving and thorough examination of Wood's groundbreaking career and too-short life, Lambert, an accomplished novelist whose Inside Daisy Clover provided the basis for one of Wood's films, has come close to the impossible. With great empathy, he explores Wood the movie star and Wood the person, pointing out that all too often even she couldn't distinguish between the two. Natalie Wood, concludes the New York Times Book Review, "could be a model for a new way of looking at and thinking about today's movie stars."