Daily News from New York, New York on December 2, 1981 · 52
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Daily News from New York, New York · 52

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New York, New York
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Wednesday, December 2, 1981
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52
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in A- star-tnat-lett the firmament too soon CM I 6 co 8 cs I Z ta O ( . . I C2ESD DT HAS BEEN' a week I'd like to bury six feet under. When the world loses a beloved entertainer, the grief is heavy. But when a friend loses a friend, the loss is inestimable. I lost both in Lotte Lenya and Natalie Wood. A fiery flame lit by genius went out when Lenya departed, but I was a bit better prepared. She was, after all, 83, and her life had been rich and all-encompassing. Natalie was 43, and despite the public acclaim, the 40 movies, the three Oscar nominations and the Olympian heights her career had scaled, she was really just beginning. The Natalie Wood I bbiim knew had everything Lm'mFmiiMmmMmtt ahead of her. If she had been a drunk or a self-destructive neurotic who couldn't face life after 40, like so many of her fellow actresses, or if she had suffered from a terminal illness or any number of reasons why people do themselves in then the pain and sadness I feel might somehow go away with anger. But Natalie's goodby is doubly wasteful because it wasn't meant to happen. It was a stupid, unnecessary accident, a twist of fate, a dirty trick that will never make any sense. It wasn't time for her to go, and somewhere I get the feeling she's more confused than anybody. She loved her 55-foot yacht so much that she named it Splendour, after her favorite movie, Splendor in the Grass. The last time she and Robert Wagner invited me to join them on board for a weekend sail to Catalina. I asked, "And who's going to take care of us? You certainly don't know anything about boats." She said, "You'd be surprised." She had learned a lot. She knew how to find her way in the dark with all those mysterious phosphorescent instrument panels sailors memorize. She could pilot the boat, and she often took off in the motorized dinghy to read or be alone. A' I Wjflf - .1 OlCK LEWIS DAILY NEWS Natalie Wood here last year: Not time for her to go. The one thing she couldn't do well was swim, and she had recurring fears of drowning. At the house in Beverly Hills, she was often the only one who wouldn't go near the pool. It's a haunting irony that she spent her last night in the water she hated. But that was typical of Natalie Whatever she feared, she would work overtime to conquer. She loved the boat but hated the water and was drawn continually to them both. She knew that boat so well it was like her second home. The mystery that will haunt me always is why she left the boat alone in the middle of the night. A person should die at home. Happily, there are other memories she left that will keep me smiling, memories of Natalie dragging me across the south of France in search of a porcelain barbecue pit that finally arrived, three years and thousands of dollars in custom fees later, broken in half. You hadn't lived until you saw Natalie Wood grill a hamburger on one-half of a broken barbecue pit that didn't function because, she said, "I'm determined to get my money's worth." Once,, at Christmas, she led me through every Christmas tree in Hollywood, sniffing every branch until she found one fresh enough to make her living room smell like Yosemite National Park. Her mar- Beatty's in bed-for a rest nn MARILYfi DSCIC OLL YWOOD "REDS" HAS taken its toll on Warren Beatty. And he has decided not to decide if he'll star in Warner Bros. "Tequila Sunrise" or direct a Howard Hughes film biography as his next undertaking until he takes off for a long, leisurely rest Beatty is at the point of exhaustion after having worked four years to bring "Reds' to the screen and after having spent the last 11 months working night and day, seven days a week, editing the epic into shape. I'm told his doctors warned him months ago to take it easier, but, as one of his aides reports, "he just cared too much about the picture to let it out of his hands." That care couldn't be more evident on screen. Beatty proved with "Bonnie and Clyde," "Shampoo" and "Heaven Can Wait" that he is a talented, disciplined filmmaker. With "Reds " he proved he's capable of brilliance. There is not a wasted moment in the 3-hour, 19-minute production. And I can tell you as a person who gets restless sitting through most two-hour movies that "Reds" will have you glued to your chair from its opening scene to its concluding frame. In a year of some outstanding pictures, it is undoubtedly the picture of the year. A SAD CHANGE OF PLANS: Timothy Hutton reports that he and Natalie Wood had purchased film rights to the Barbara Wersba book, "Country of the Heart," and were planning to team up in the drama about the professional-romantic relationship of a young writer and a successful novelist who's dying of cancer. "But all thai doesn't matter now," says the sensitive, 21-year-old actor, who was very shaken by the news of Natalie's death. "What matters is that a marvelous lady is gone." Author Tommy Thompson, another close friend of the Wagners, reveals that Natalie expected to follow her performance as "Anastasia" on the Los Angeles Music Center stage with a starring stint in a movie adaptation of thework. Thompson says he was in the midst of penning the screenplay, and that the film was to have been directed by John Irwin. other friends of the family say the late actress was strongly opposed to drugs, and definitely was not what could be considered a drinker even though she had seven or eight glasses of wine before she met her death when she apparently slipped trying to go from the family yacht into the dinghy. They tell me a devastated Robert Wagner is torn with guilt that he could have somehow, some way averted the tragedy, and expect him to sell the 60-foot Splendour which is filled with her memories and with the many pillows and cushions she needlepointed for their home away from home. ' DOWN UNDER: After a trip to Australia to scout locations for "Thorn Birds," producers Stan Margu-lies and David Wolper have pretty much decided that their ABC miniseries adaptation of the Australian-set novel by Colleen McCullough will be shot in Hawaii and mainland America next spring. Margulies explains: "There's much to be said for shooting in Australia, but a lot to be said against it They don't have our sound-stage facilities, and they have-very strict rules about how many non-Australian actors you can bring in for a production." MEANWHILE: One American performer currently shooting in Australia is Alan Arkln, and he sends word that his $7-million "The Return of Captain Invincible" is filming "in a former steel factory that wasn't built with air-conditioning in mind. It's summer down here, with the hottest months ahead, and I have to wear a lot of heavy clothing for my role." The Andrew Gaty big-screen comedy has Arkln playing a superhero who falls on bad times and becomes a drunk in the Outback before he goes back into action against the awful Mr. Midnight as played ny Christopher Lee. riage was strong, her children adored her, and so did everyone who was lucky enough to be her friend. He was R.J., she was Natalie, and to all who knew them personally, they were "the Wags." There was Courtney, who loved her mom in Miracle on 34th Street, and there was Natasha, the jazziest 11-year-old femme fatale West of the Rockies, who preferred Gypsy. Every time the big number came on, Natasha would . scream with glee, "Take it off, mommy, take it off!" I wonder what will happen to them now. I wonder what will happen to Willie Mae, who ran the house - and everyone in it. When I used to visit them, they were always living on yogurt and salad, but Willie' Mae would bake me lemon meringue pies and sneak them out to the guest house before the rest of the family got a bite. Surely the laughter will stop, the big Christmas tree will have to wait for another holiday season, and those wonderful blue-jean din- ' ners we used to share, with Fred Astaire sitting on the floor playing with the cat and Laurence Olivier trying to sing war songs, will come to an end. It won't be the same without Natalie. Her films will live on and I will continue to send my critical perception out for coffee while watching them. Future generations will discover her warmth, her naturalism, her vulnerability, her charisma and her always astonishing talent on the Late Show. But what a sadness I feel for anyone who didn't know the real thing. In a town where nobody has anything good to say about anybody, you can't find a soul who has anything mean to say about Natalie Wood. Everybody loved her because she was special and was worth it. When her father died last year, she wrote me that she finally had it all figured out. "I think we have to make every minute count," she said, and she meant it She worked hard, she played fairt and she left her ego on the screen. If you needed anything from a nose job to a wallpaper discount she was ready with the number to call. v For now, it's goodby to all that, but examine this: In a world of "if only," "what if," and "I wish I had the guts to try," she was a girl who said, "This is what I'll do" and did it And had a great time doing it Her death was a cruel and rotten waste, but not her life. One night, we were sitting around in front of the fire, staring at the bottom of the wine bottle and she suddenly asked me to write her biography. The life of Natalie Wood. I was amused and intrigued, and naturally flattered. So we listed the things she'd tell. No drugs, no booze, no breakdowns, no suicide attempts, no Hollywood orgies, no climb back to the top from the snake pit. "Just what have you ever done that would make anyone want to buy this book to read?" I asked. There was a long pause, then she grinned that Cinemascope grin that showed her gums and made cameras fall off their tripods. "Trust me," she said. "I'll think of something." And she would have, too. Bet on it. BWM REYNOLDS IN PGj PMnrnt cuoMg sueasia ggj A PARAMOUNT PICTURE Coovigftr MCMixxw bv Paamouft Pctuies Ccrporatron AURgftts Reserved ARGO ELMONT BETH PAGE BETH PAGE FARMINGDALE FARMINGDALE FRANKLIN FRANKLIN SQUARE GABLES MERRICK LIOO LONG BEACH STUDI0 1 . . LYNBROOK WANTAGH CINEMA WANTAGH CENTEREACH CENTEREACH CORAM CINEMA CORAM ISLIP SLIP NORTH BABYLON NORTH BABYLON SHIRLEY TWIN ' WEST ISUP TWIN WEST ISUP CENTER SUNNYS1DE SURFSIDE CINEMA ROCK AWAY PARK l''JtiHiltitil GALLERIA CINEMA WHITE -PLAINS WESTCHESTER MALL TRIPLEX PEEKSKILL I'i.m.-M CHESTER QUICKWAY ELLENVILLE SHADOWLAND MILLERTON MOVIEHOUSE POUGHKEEPSIE JULIET OUAO ROSEN DALE ROSENDALE ARLINGTON Lincoln POMPTON LAKES BAYVILLE BERKELEY CINEMA BERNARDSVILLE CINEMA BOUND BROOK BROOK CARTERET JERRY LEWIS CINEMA CLOSTER ClOSter EAST 8RUNSWICK MOVIE CITY 5 ELIZABETH Elmor FORDS FORDS KINNELON MEAOTOWN LAKE WOOD . . . METUCHEN FORUM OAKHURST MjOOLEBROOK twin COLONIAL RAMSEY RAMSEY SAYREVILIE MADISON SOMERVILLE CORT SUCCASUNNA CINEMA 10 TENAFLY BERGEN TOTOWA TOTOWA CINEMA WEST CALDWELL ONEMA WEST WEST MILFORD AB8V WEST ORANGE ESSEX GREEN WOODBRIDGE MOVIE CITY S

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