Natalie Says Yes To Warren . . . But Warren Says No To Marriage
In all of the history of Hollywood there has never been a woman quite like Natalie Wood. There may never be another like her again.
Today, so overwhelmed by her love for Warren Beatty that it may consume her, Natalie Wood, still legally married to her first husband, has said “yes” to a man who admittedly is neither ready nor willing, at this time, to be husband number two.
Why does a woman like Natalie yearn with all the fire of her being for a man who is desperately seeking an exit from a love trap he never expected? Why does Natalie say yes to Beatty? Why does he say no to marriage?
To answer the question you must know Natalie Wood. You must understand not just that she wants to be a great actress, but you must see the relentless, undaunted and dynamic drive that charges her life with an electricity that literally “shocks the hell out of you.”
Says one ex-boy friend of Natalie’s, “I think of only three words when I think of her. They are—‘Danger! High Voltage!’ ”
She has suffered, laughed, lamented, loved and toiled to carve a career out of the hard rock of Hollywood. She has borne failure. Other actresses have done it before. But Natalie Wood is the first on record to dedicate her mind, her body and her heart to a career.
She is twenty-three years old. She has been a working actress for nineteen years. Nothing in her life or in the lives of those around her is important unless it has to do with furthering her acting career.
Some three months after the presidential election of 1960, for example, she is reported to have inquired of a friend, “Who got elected, Adlai Stevenson?” She may have been joking, but those who know her insist she could have been serious.
While she was still a teenager, there was hardly a person in Hollywood who did not look on her with all the affection of parents who were hoping “the kid makes goad.” Natalie was championed openly as the most promising actress of the decade, but also considered “the nicest girl you’d want to meet despite her great talent.”
She worked hard and studied a thousand ways to improve her professional worth. She went at it so fervently that she thought nothing of the fact that she was denying herself the luxury of love.
But for all the fervor, for all the toil, for all of the irresistible compulsions that drove her on to the greatness she wanted, Natalie was, down deep in her heart, suffering in loneliness. Try as she might, her natural need to love and be loved was building within her and finally, gasping from the near-agony of the ever-swelling balloon of repressed emotions, Natalie gave in and exploded in Bob Wagner’s arms. They wed in 1958.
And for all the seeming abandon of the moment, the actress in Natalie never quite let go of its hold on her.
She invited actor Nick Adams, an old boy friend, to go along on her honeymoon with Wagner!
As Nick recalls: “I thought it kind of odd, but Natalie asked me first. She said, ‘Bob wants you to come along, too, and you know I do.’
“They both insisted so much that I couldn’t talk them out of it—although a honeymoon is no place for a third party.”
Adams adds, defensively. “We—I mean me, and Nat and R.J.—were in separate rooms, of course, but we had lots of laughs at mealtime.”
But the theatrical gesture of inviting a third party made it clear. Nick was there to remind Natalie that she must never forget her life of a dedicated actress.
For a while after the return of the trio to Hollywood it appeared that Natalie had somehow separated the actress from the woman. She and Wagner clamped down on publicity and begged writers and reporters to, “Give us a chance to be happy. You know what publicity does to Hollywood marriages.”
For nearly two years the Wagners’ request was honored. Then Natalie and Bob learned that publicity itself has little to do with the failure of a marriage.
And quite unhampered by her imagined specter of “publicity” Natalie stumbled on to another way to end a marriage.
In her case, the wife, literally, walked away with another man.
A Hollywood insider describes the night it happened.
“Warren became very friendly with Natalie during the making of ‘Splendor in the Grass.’ ” he says. “I don’t say the friendship broke up the marriage, but I do say that it precipitated a final split.
“When the picture finished. Warren, Natalie, Joan Collins and Bob often went out as a foursome. Natalie then went into ‘West Side Story’ and Warren went to Rome for the picture with Vivien Leigh. Wagner, meanwhile, went into ‘Sail A Crooked Ship.’ By the time Bob’s picture was finished, Warren had returned to Hollywood.
“Since the days of their romance and all through the marriage, Natalie always performed the function of bartender at the closing set party at the end of Wagner’s pictures.
“When ‘Sail A Crooked Ship’ wound up, Natalie showed up—but with Warren. She didn’t tend bar. Instead she and Beatty took off on the Columbia lot—or someplace—while Wagner stayed behind and mixed drinks himself for other members of the cast and crew.”
In effect it was the first time that Natalie had said yes to Warren Beatty and, at the same time, no to her husband.
What came next is recalled by the same insider.
“What a fight came after that. It was an argument to end all arguments. Bob was all for having it out with Warren and arranged for a meeting at dinner the following night at the Villa Capri.
“Beatty, who had already chucked Joan Collins, although she hadn’t got the word yet, showed up with Joan. Several later meetings between Warren and Bob had Joan along.
“I must say, the issue of the day never got on the table with three people present. All they did was confuse columnists as to the real reason behind the split-up of Natalie and Bob. The marriage ended, catching Hollywood by surprise.
“Bob went to London to forget. Joan, meanwhile, went to London to make ‘Road to Hong Kong’ with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Wagner, who probably knew that Natalie never forgot that Joan once beat her time with Nicky Hilton, started dating Joan.
“But Natalie couldn’t have cared less because she found being with Warren an absolute ball.”
Now free from any real obligation to Wagner, Natalie, swept up in the second explosion of love, turned her attentions and her heart completely to Beatty.
What about this young man, Warren Beatty?
There is a great deal and all of it is startling.
Less than two years ago, few persons in Hollywood realized that he existed. His name came up only after a mention of Shirley MacLaine. He is her brother.
Somewhere back in his twenty-five years past. Beatty decided to give himself completely to the attainment of stardom.
“All that is sex . . .”
He had a lot going for him from the very beginning.
He is, without question, the most magnificent looking young actor to hit Hollywood in years. But it is his incredible sex appeal that is driving women crazy.
“It runs out of his pores and oils his skin,” says a girl he’s been with. “I have never in my life been so absolutely helpless as a woman in his presence. He puts his hand out to you and you forget every rule of modesty your mother ever taught. No, that’s not right. You don’t forget them, you ignore them.”
Quite in character with his current taciturnity, Beatty went after his career silently. He sold a top Hollywood press agent on himself, his looks and his ambition. Then he was seen by starmaker Elia Kazan who was so impressed with his animal magnetism that he gave Warren a starring role in “Splendor in the Grass.”
Beatty went immediately into “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” and, according to some critics, was “the only salvageable good in the entire movie.”
Beatty’s third movie, “All Fall Down,” will catapult him to the kind of spectacular stardom he’s dreamed of.
“The women movie-goers of this country,” says one critic, privately, “are going to get hit so hard by Beatty that they may not be able to stand it.”
Small wonder then that Natalie Wood, burning fiercely for love, has said yes to Beatty. Now for the answer to the second question, the one that plagues Natalie to distraction, at times.
Why does Beatty say no to marriage—particularly to Natalie Wood?
The simple answer is: Life and Hollywood has played a shattering and ironically fantastic trick on Natalie Wood. The man she loves is as ambitious as she is.
Ambition, in Beatty’s case, however, is a natural, masculine desire to be established firmly in his profession, to enjoy an unshakeable security. One that could not be undermined even by the overpowering love of a woman such as Natalie.
Beatty needs that security.
Despite the implications that suggest Beatty is all sex and nine feet tall, he is, behind that hot-love look, a formidably clever young man. He has learned well. He feels, with great intensity, that panic-type adulation from females is not enough. He insists that his sex-appeal is a help, but that, “I was born that way.” The success he yearns for he wants to earn—and not because he is Shirley MacLaine’s brother.
An actor whom Beatty really respects critically supports what Beatty may feel, but dare not tell himself.
“Warren,” says the older actor, “is not quite as good as he thinks he is. Even Brando couldn’t be that good.”
In all fairness to Beatty it should be pointed out that all actors must believe that they are better actors than their abilities show. It is as natural for Beatty to feel that he is great as it is for a carpenter to admit that he can drive a nail in wood better than a tailor.
Those not familiar with actors would, quite reasonably, call it conceit. Those who know call it “the great confidence.” Natalie has it. Beatty has it. They would not, could not, be actors without it.
When emotions explode
It is in their personal lives, however, as a man and a woman, where emotions dance and sing and explode without benefit of a script, that the problems arise.
The strain on Natalie, for example, seems to be growing greater. And the results of that emotional pressure apparently have made Beatty even more cautious about marriage.
One recent incident, revealed here for the first time, indicates strongly why Beatty is so wary with his no to a wedding.
It took place at the party after the premiere of “West Side Story.” Prior to this Natalie was led to believe that she was indeed the star of the picture. But it took only the “oooohhhh’s” and “aaaaaahhhh’s” of a first night audience to shatter her belief to shreds.
Natalie was fine in the movie. But a young unknown, George Chakiris, sent the people from their seats raving about him.
That Natalie was stunned by this reaction seemed evident from what happened at the party. Chakiris, according to an observer, went over to Natalie’s table to say hello and congratulate her. After all, he and Nat had been good friends while making the movie.
But as George stood at her table, Natalie returned a stare that was unbelievable. It was like a death ray. She refused to speak to him and turned her head away.
Beatty could hardly be expected to ignore this reported incident.
Another sign of the tide arose from a description of Natalie written by a well-known syndicated columnist.
“Natalie Wood,” said the writer, “is the screen’s greatest symbol of purity since Lillian Gish.”
The day it appeared Natalie was doing a “strip tease” on the set of “Gypsy.”
“What a laugh that is,” said a professional associate to Natalie, “with all I know about you and Warren.”
The latter remark can, of course, be accepted as goodnatured kidding, but only of late have those around Natalie begun to speak so daringly.
There seems to be little doubt, however, that Natalie and Warren will continue their torrid romance.
Natalie, according to her closest friends, is wildly in love with Warren. And Beatty, as much in the need of love as Natalie, does not yet wish to let his mind interfere with his heart. Even then he has good sound reasons for keeping up the romance.
Each of them were accorded high honors for their performances in “Splendor in the Grass,” and accolades are dear to the hearts of both.
So the romance continues. They spend hours of their time together. They go to the movies! Natalie is a great movie-goer. She’s been known to see a particular movie five or even six times.
They’re both crazy about Italian food, so they spend their mealtimes in restaurants like La Scala, the Villa Capri and the Casa d’Or.
For relaxation they spend time in each other’s apartments listening to music and discussing their future dreams.
Neither of them has a great circle of intimate friends. They are loners. Publicity man Mike Selsman, Carol Lynley’s husband, is close to Warren. Natalie was very friendly with Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher when they were in this country.
What is in the future for Natalie who dreams of a yes from a man who still says no?
Some inkling may be derived from the following remark made by a director who is closely associated with Natalie’s career.
“Natalie has everything going for her but her size,” he points out. “I know this may sound callous and technical, but very, very few small women have ever become the kind of glamorous actress Natalie hopes to be.
“The glamour girls are all larger, physically than Natalie. And I say that no girl with a thirty-two-inch bust, however well proportioned, will ever pose a threat to Liz Taylor.
“And Natalie is not as versatile an actress as Liz. I want to see Natalie play something else besides the poor, bewildered teenager. I admit no actress has ever matched Natalie on this, but playing the tormented teener is something with a limited life span in Hollywood. I want to see how she comes off as a woman.”
It would be unwise—and unfair—however, to regard the Natalie the world sees on the surface as a basis for judgment.
For underneath, deep within the layers and layers of the years of struggle is no longer the “tormented teener,” but the quiet heart of a woman in love. It is the real reason she says yes to Warren Beatty.
The same holds true for Beatty. He may say no to marriage—but Natalie Wood, the woman, with all the hope of her sex, detects the maybe in her man.
This then, is a challenge Natalie—and Warren—must face.
Natalie’s next picture will be “Gypsy” for Warner Bros., and Warren can now be seen in “All Fall Down” for M-G-M.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1962