UPON FURTHER REVIEW: A Very Sad Song Indeed….

June 13, 2010
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      Some movies are cursed.   Some actors are cursed.

      Natalie Wood makes both lists.  

      Growing up I loved Natalie Wood.   She was talented, compelling, dark-hued, exotic looking, and beautiful.   To this day, when one of my favorite Natalie Wood movies shows up on the tube—be it “West Side Story”, “Sex and the Single Girl”, “The Great Race”, “Cash McCall”, or “Love With the Proper Stranger”—I’m on board.   I grab a bowl of cashews and a quart of chocolate milk and sit down to watch.   And then I call my little sister to make sure she’s watching.image0012

      The operative word in the Wood story is tragedy.   Her Hollywood star faded far too early, and then in 1981 she died far too young, at age 43.   Drowning accident.   What a waste.

      What a lot of you folks probably don’t know is that Natalie Wood, long before she gained eternal, international fame as a serious adult actress, was a child actor.   And she was just about as good a child actor as there ever was.   She made over twenty films before she was 15 years old.   The subject of our review, “No Sad Songs For Me”, is such a film.

      It was made in 1950, when Natalie was about eleven or twelve.   It’s a very good movie, a watchable little melodrama.   It’s what I call a “story” movie.   As opposed to an action yarn or a special effects disaster.   For yours truly, “No Sad Songs For Me” hits maybe a little too close to home.   For one thing, some of its scenes were filmed in nearby Sierra Madre, where I once lived for 15 years.   The male lead, Wendell Corey, plays a guy named Brad.   That’s my name!   In fact his Brad is short for Bradford, as is mine.   Natalie plays a little girl named Polly.   That’s my mom’s name.   The “other woman” in the story, played by the sultry Viveca Lindfors, is named Chris.   That was my brother’s name (though brother Chris was far from sultry).  

      And the female lead, the great Margaret Sullavan, plays a woman dying of cancer named Mary.   That’s my old dog’s name.   And my Mary died of cancer too.   I could go on.      

      Back to this “curse” thing for a second.    Natalie did indeed make a few films where several cast members died strange and early deaths.   She was in 1955’s cult classic “Rebel Without a Cause”, featuring James Dean (car accident, 24 years old), Sal Mineo (murdered, age 37), and Nick Adams (massive drug overdose, probable suicide, age 36).   And she was also in John Ford’s “The Searchers”, featuring Jeff Hunter (cerebral hemorrhage from a skull fracture from falling down the stairs from a stroke, age 42) and John Wayne, who while making another movie contracted the cancer that killed him because that movie was filmed too close to a nuclear test site in Nevada.   Plus of course, Natalie’s own tragic drowning fiasco.   This was one unlucky girl, people.

      And Wood isn’t the only “No Sad Songs For Me” cast member to come to a premature early end.   Corey, for instance, died young due to alcoholism.   But when it comes to tragic tales, Margaret Sullavan tops them all.   She battled depression all her life, her famous husband—producer Leland Hayward—cheated on her with everybody (leading to a painful divorce), she hated acting even though she was great at it and it brought her wealth, praise and fame, and finally, in 1960, at age 50, she gave up and committed suicide.   Subsequently, two of her children committed suicide.   Her one surviving child, a daughter, wrote a tell-all book about their dysfunctional family called “Haywire” (as is Hayward, get it?), which was later made into a movie starring Lee Remick as the ill-fated Sullavan. 

      What’s my point?   Who the hell knows.   Perhaps it’s that while we all envy the beautiful people of the silver screen, sometimes we’ve got things a lot better than they do. 

      You can get “No Sad Songs For Me” on both VHS and DVD.   Order it up.   Here’s the link: http://www.lovingtheclassics.com/nosadsongsforme.html

      And next time any of Natalie’s other movies show up on the tube, and it’s time to break out the cashews and chocolate milk, just know that I’ll be watching too.




Brad Eastland, our “Dr. of Ancient Filmology”, is a movie buff and film historian, as long as the film was made before 1985 or so.  (If you want to hear about new-release films, pick up the L.A. Times).   Special effects and gratuitous anything have no place in his celluloid world.   Primarily a fiction writer, Brad has written four novels and over 20 short-stories.  Here are some samples of his best work:


Doctor of Ancient Filmology







Filed June 13, 2010


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