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Entries in Natalie Wood (25)


Broken Lance's "Half Breed"

Robert Wagner keeps invading our Smackdown celebrations. In our 1952 revisit he appeared briefly as a shell shocked soldier for Susan Hayward to comfort with her crooning in With a Song in My Heart. He was almost impossible to look at from the pretty. And here he is again, distracting another Smackdown with his smolder in the western Broken Lance.

Perhaps we'd better go inside."

[Translation]: Jean Peters, you're about to tear your clothes off under the moonlight and devour me but I will chivalrously save your reputation... now that I've already won you with my lips. 

The rising 24 year-old actor was rumored to be carrying on behind the scenes with the then 47 year-old Barbara Stanwyck (who happens to co-star in Executive Suite, another of this month's Smackdown movies) but his most enduring romance was yet to begin. How many times do you think a then 16 year-old Natalie Wood, just one year away from her key transition film from child star to teen icon (Rebel Without a Cause) demanded to watch Broken Lance? Do you think her friends & handlers were all "enough with the Broken Lance, Nat!" According to Natalie herself, by 1954 her love would have already been six years strong though the actors had yet to meet.

"I was 10 and he was 18 when I first saw him walking down a hall at 20th Century Fox," she recalls. "I turned to my mother and said, 'I'm going to marry him.' "

She did.

Natalie married RJ (for the first time) in December 1957. She was just 19.

In Broken Lance, the then 24 year old actor (of German and Norwegian descent) plays our protagonist, the "half breed" son of Native American princess "Señora Devereaux" (played by Mexican actress Katy Jurado) and an Irish cattle rancher (played by Spencer Tracy of Irish descent) who is at odds with his half-brothers. R.J. is heavily bronzed for the role. For all the typical Old Hollywood clumsiness with racial identity and casting -- something that hasn't changed much in the subsequent 61 years (note: Rooney Mara as "Tiger Lily" in the forthcoming Pan) --  Broken Lance actually really sells the racial identity angst with something like humane progressive verve. Jean Peters, playing RJ's love interest Barbara, jokes that her man is more upset about being half Irish than half Indian in a clumsy date scene which results in both of them doing those cheery Old Holllywood fake chuckles as we dissolve out. Elsewhere, though, there's rich drama. Tracy's three sons from an earlier marriage, who serve as the plot's antagonists aren't always comfortable with their bi-racial home but neither are they painted as explicitly racist. Their "evil," if you will, arrives from a more complex mix of agendas and grudges against their father and you can see that the eldest actually respects his stepmom and youngest brother, even as he speaks out against them. In the films most sympathetically acted moment of strife, Tracy squares off with the Governor (E.G. Marshall), over their children's unexpected romance (pictured up top). The governor's discomfort with his daughter falling for his closest friend's bi-racial son-- a young man he otherwise likes quite a lot and has seen grow up, mind you -- clearly scars both men, tearing their decades long friendship apart. Prejudices hurt everyone, not just the target of the prejudice.

All in all Broken Lance is an engaging western with more ambitions than gunfights for a change of pace. And this is why we should always love the Oscars, people. Let others reflexively gripe about it and miss out. Awards history directs us to movies we might otherwise never see from before our time. And Oscar history, for all its imperfections and blindspots, can illuminate pop culture throughlines, introduce you to rich now underappreciated talents, and provide wonderful anecdotal bits and bobs from mainstream history, cinematic and otherwise.

I love doing the Smackdowns and I hope you do, too. If you wanted to vote on this round, I need your votes by this evening at the absolute latest. The 1954 Supporting Actress Smackdown arrives Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.


Beauty Break: Cool Riders

We hope you enjoyed National Bike to Work Week. We didn't make too big a thing about it but for Tim's trip back to The Triplets of Belleville, Nathaniel's childhood awe at seeing Kermit ride a bike, Lynn's recall of the kid's bike fantasy channeled in E.T. The Extraterrestial, and two instant watch recommendations with gays quite attached to their cycles.

RDJ showing off. What else is new?

I wanted to play along physically but I couldn't bike to work because I work from home and that would be highly impractical going from bedroom to work station. 

To close out this little detour, please blast some Stephanie Zinone while you lust after these cool riders aka beautiful actors on bikes. Which of these bikes would you hop on and whose handlebars would you ride?

Many more beauties and hot wheels after the jump...

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The Honoraries: Maureen O'Hara in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients including Maureen O'Hara. Here's Andrew on a holiday favorite...  

A common criticism meted out against Maureen O’Hara is that she’s often in good films but hardly ever the reason the films are great. In this vein, it’s almost wicked that I chose to write on her work in Miracle on 34th Street, in our celebration. Maureen O’Hara is probably not the first image that comes to mind when you think of this immortal Christmas classic. Your mind probably went instantly to holiday charm, Macy’s consumerism, Natalie Wood's lovely child star turn or Edmund Gwenn’s Oscar-winning Kris Kringle performance.

Still, I find Maureen's place in the movie significant.

A little background: before shooting Miracle on 34th Street, O’Hara had recently moved to Ireland and was essentially forced into taking the role of Doris Walker, the mother who encourages her daughter not to believe in Santa Clause. The film was called The Big Heart at the time and she was not enthusiastic about returning to North America to shoot it. However, once she read the script her sentiments changed and she was immediately keen to co-star.  Just what it was about the role that made Maureen so immediately enthusiastic to be a part of the project? [More...]

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1963 Oscar Flashback: Sidney, Cleopatra, Hud

Something is wrong with me. I miss the Oscars already even though I've just barely recovered from the March 2nd related exhaustion. (Nathaniel the Masochist) So the other day I got a little Oscar happy and was looking back at various years, so let's talk the 36th Academy Awards briefly. You in?

They were held exactly 50 years ago today. Tom Jones, just discussed by Andrew, won 1963's Best Picture and three other trophies but the evening is best remembered today for Sidney Poitier's historic win for Lilies of the Field.

Sidney was the first black actor to win in either leading category but it was 38 years before it happened again (with Halle & Denzel on the same night). Now of course it's a fairly regular occurrence in both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress... the other two categories not so much. 

Lots more photos and trivia after the jump...

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Every Best Actress Dress

Here's one infographic that seems to have been pulled direct from the subconcious collective subconcious of actressexuals everywhere - it's every Best Actress dress ever worn to the ceremony. Obviously that's less than 85 dresses since some people didn't show to their ceremony. [Updates: though there are a couple missing. Vivien Leigh's second Oscar and Norma Shearer's only are not listed. Odd] You can click on it to embiggen.

But I'll share my 10 favorites after the jump, okay? okay. 

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Jennifer Lawrence and the Youngest To...

With her nomination for American Hustle this morning, Jennifer Lawrence has become the youngest actor of either gender to receive her third Oscar nomination. She is only 23. Or, if you'd like to get technical about it, 23 years 5 months and 2 days. Whether you think her work in American Hustle is great or terrible (and factions have formed on both sides) or you have a more nuanced perspective on what does and doesn't work about it, there is just no denying her screen dynamism. That's what they use to call "It".  

Here's how the stats break down and which legends Jennifer is toppling. Did the performers with similar records flame out early? Read on...

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The Rebellious Evolution of Natalie Wood

It's Natalie Wood Week as we celebrate what would have been her 75th birthday (today!). Here's Abstew from 'The Film's The Thing'...

I love the tag line: "...And they both came from good families!" Oh, no! Where did we go wrong?!?The legend of James Dean looms large over the seminal 1955 teen-angst film, Rebel Without a Cause. With his red windbreaker that would soon become his trademark, furrowed brow and pensive gaze, his hobby of drag racing goons that would dare to call him chicken, and dealing with square parents that just don't understand, Dean cuts an impressive figure. The film is so closely linked to the star's iconic status that you'll forgive me that sometimes I forget the other talented stars that also occupy the film. (But, then again, I'm a huge James Dean fan. I've even been to his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana where there's not one, but three different museums dedicated to him. You can compete in the annual James Dean look-alike competition! It's also where he's buried. You can still go to his family farm and see his tombstone.) But, of the three films that Dean starred in, Rebel is the only one he didn't receive an Oscar nomination for.

The film was, however, nominated for a trio of awards including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Sal Mineo as his pal, Plato, and a Best Screenplay nomination for the Director, Nicholas Ray. Has any film captured the superb agony of being a teenager so precisely?

I don't know what to do anymore. Except maybe die."

It's final nomination was for Best Supporting Actress, giving Natalie Wood her first bit of Oscar recognition. Hers is not, maybe, the first name that spring to mind when you think of Rebel, but her career owes as much to it as Dean's does...

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