Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2. Natalie Wood

"I think Natalie, underneath everything, was a very sweet, genuinely down-to-earth person who was slightly coloured by the warped life of being a star at such an early age. But she herself, as a human being, shone through that. She was a real person"
-Robert Redford

Bright, spunky, brave and lovely, Natalie Wood captivated audiences from the age of five. She was beautiful, but possessed a raw talent, her performances achingly real, Natalie became an actress millions of young women identified with. Her ability to make her characters 'real', often came from her own experiences, in a life that was not always easy, but which she was eventual able to make the best of.

Natalie was born, Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko. And for the rest of her life was torn between her true identity as 'Natasha' (her childhood nickname) and her film star persona, 'Natalie Wood'. She was brave enough to seek out roles which challenged her as an actress and defied Hollywood conventions.

Her parents were Russian immigrants, and her mother was the ultimate stage mother. She pushed Natalie into films at a young age were she had to change her name. As a young girl she gained early success in films such as, Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Upon reaching her teens Natalie struggled for independence not only from her mother, but also from the childish film roles she was given. This changed when she was cast next to James Dean in the classic film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Natalie proved her talent as a serious actress and found further success in Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, Love with the Proper Stranger and This Property is Condemned. Films in which she starred alongside Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen and Robert Redford. During the seventies she took more television roles, sometimes in collaboration with her husband Robert Wagner. At the age of forty three Natalie mysteriously and tragically drowned whilst on the family yacht with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken aboard.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that Natalie was so happy at the time of her death, having put her troubled past behind her she was embracing her role as a wife and mother, pursing acting opportunities in the theatre. Natalie has often been defined by her death, or by her famous leading men, but she was a brilliant and capable actress in her own right. Her determination and spirit saw Natalie rise above her own circumstances, she truly was a remarkable woman.

"The times that I have done something that I didn't respond to emotionally right away, it's generally not worked out too well"
-Natalie Wood

Sunday, 28 December 2014

3. Grace Kelly

"You know, I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met"
- James Stewart

Grace Kelly was the fairytale princess, a beautiful and talented actress, she was whisked away by a real Prince, living out the remainder of her days as Princess of Monaco. With her dignity and poise Grace's time was relatively brief in Hollywood but she fascinated a generation and continues to do so.

Born into a successful Philadelphian sporting family Grace knew she wanted to become an actress from an early age. Shy but determined Grace began her career as a model but it wasn't long before she became the favourite leading lady of some of the most famous actors and directors in Hollywood.

Early success on television saw Grace being cast in Fourteen Hours (1951) and the hugely popular Western, High Noon. Grace then went on to star in three Hitchcock films (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief) Which paired her with the likes of Ray Milland, James Stewart and Cary Grant. Grace proved she wasn't just a pretty face with her academy award winning role in The Country Girl (1954). Despite her talent Grace left the world of Hollywood behind when she married Prince Rainer of Monaco in 1956, it was dubbed the 'wedding of the century', and was broadcast live on television. After her marriage Grace settled down in her role as Princess, wife and mother. Her life was cut tragically short when she suffered a stroke whilst driving her car, she was fifty two years old.

For Alfred Hitchcock Grace was the ultimate 'Hitchcock Blonde', her apparent ice cold demeanour masked a passionate, fiery nature. Grace was also an incredibly brave woman, she fought hard for her career, but then gave it all up for the man she loved. Leaving her home, family and friends to forge a new life for herself in a strange country, where more was expected of her than of the average immigrant. Grace did all of this with her own quiet strength and dignity, taking an active interest in her adopted home's customs and people. Grace really was a Princess.

"I avoid looking back. I prefer good memories to regrets"
-Grace Kelly

Monday, 8 December 2014

4. Joanne Woodward

"Her loyalty and her unpredictability. Joanne can be one person before lunch, and completely different after lunch"
-Paul Newman

The southern girl famous for playing troubled young women and for being part of one of the most successful marriages in film history, Joanne Woodward appeared to be destined to become an actress. As a little girl who loved the movies her mother took her to the premiere of Gone With the Wind, whilst watching the parade nine year old Joanne ran over and sat in Laurence Olivier's lap!

Passionate, beautiful and dedicated Joanne started her acting career on the stage. In 1953 she met young actor Paul Newman, a friendship began which was kindled into romance whilst filming The Long Hot Summer (1958). Joanne won the 1957 academy award for best actress for The Three Faces of Eve. Her performance as a young woman with multiple personality disorder was a brilliant example of her acting talents. Her performance is raw, truthful and haunting. She and Paul were married in 1958 and motherhood soon followed. Still Joanne continued acting in a vast array of roles, showing her versatility as an actress. She and Paul starred in ten films together and she also starred in five more directed/produced by him, including the critically acclaimed, Rachel, Rachel. Joanne also starred with some of the most popular actors of the day, including, Marlon Brando, Yul Byrnner, Robert Wagner and Henry Fonda. Today Joanne is the director of the Westport County Playhouse.

Today Joanne is most recognised as being the wife of Paul Newman for over fifty years until his death in 2008, a lasting marriage, something of a rarity in Hollywood. However Joanne's talent as an actress should not be forgotten. She and Paul founded 'The Hole in the Wall Gang' camps for sick children, and she continues her husbands charitable projects and legacy. Also like her husband she has tried her hand at producing, directing and writing. Joanne was never one to become caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle, always interested in pursuing other interests, Joanne had made her own Oscar dress the night she won for Three Faces of Eve.

Humorous, compassionate, skilled and honest Joanne remains one of the greatest and most versatile actresses. Her ability to be anything from the girl next door, a seductress, wife, mother, tormented to full of life make her filmography surprising and enjoyable. Her dedication to her profession and her family and her daring film roles make Joanne a fascinating lady.

"Sexiness wears thin after awhile and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat"
-Joanne Woodward