Natasha Gregson Wagner discusses mother Natalie Wood in 2016
Natalie was a child star who successfully made the transition to young adult roles, going on to lead an illustrious career. She won four Golden Globes and three Academy Award nominations in her time, starring in at least 31 films. As a teenager, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in ‘Rebel Without a Cause‘ in 1955, followed by a role in John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ in 1956.
Today, BBC Two will transport viewers into the past with a showing of ‘The Searchers’, also starring legendary Western and war film actor John Wayne.
While Natalie was one of Hollywood’s finest female actresses, the mystery and controversy surrounding her tragic death in 1981 has lingered over her name and taken the attention away from her myriad career accolades.
One aspect of her life has continued to capture interest and attention, however.
Natalie Wood: She and Elvis Presley dated for a time in 1956
Hollywood: She was one of a handful of Hollywood’s most successful actresses
For a short time, she and Elvis Presley dated in 1956, when they were two of the hottest stars in the world.
Elvis was already a major recording artist and was about to launch his film career with his debut in, ‘Love Me Tender’.
Natalie, meanwhile, had by that point received her first Oscar nomination the year before for ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, alongside James Dean.
While Elvis, then 21, was known to be a ‘lady killer’, it was Natalie who approached him for a date, at the time a teenager, just 18 years old.
Elvis Presley: She approached him for a date through her co-star Dennis Hopper
Wood had asked her co-star Dennis Hopper to introduce her to Elvis, and the rock ‘n’ roll star treated her to a date.
He bought out an entire cinema, something he would continue to do for the rest of his life.
Natalie’s sister, Lana Wood, told Closer Weekly magazine that it dazzled the teen.
She said: “To go to the movies, he bought out the theatre.
“That’s not what she was used to.”
Elvis was equally as starstruck by Natalie.
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Cinema: The world-famous singer hired out an entire cinema for the two of them
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Ray Connolly, author of Being Elvis: A Lonely Life, told the publication: “She was in Miracle on 34th Street when he was a little boy.”
The singer invited her home to impress his parents, but his mother Gladys soured on the actress quickly.
Mr Connolly claimed: “Natalie wore a very flimsy nightgown around the house.
“Gladys was like, ‘Not in my house!’”
When ‘Love Me Tender’ was filmed in the summer of 1956, a besotted Natalie had two hand-made shirts sent to Elvis on set.
Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show: Elvis pictured wearing the dark blue shirt
A matching pair — one red velvet, the other dark blue — Elvis can be seen wearing the latter in now-iconic images from his concert at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show on September 26, 1956.
The pair later met in New York in November 1956 where Elvis took Natalie riding on his new Harley-Davidson motorbike.
Their relationship seemed bulletproof, a serious romance in the making.
But, as Lana recalls in her book, ‘Natalie: A Memoir by Her Sister’ it was not to be.
Priscilla Presley: The rock ‘n’ roll star went on to marry Priscilla in 1967
Writing of the first meeting with Elvis’ parents, she noted: “They met, and Elvis flew Natalie to his family in Memphis.
“They were to be gone almost a week, but just two days into the great adventure, Natalie called.
“‘Gladys has wrecked everything,’ Natalie said, referring to Elvis’ domineering, jealous mother.
“‘I don’t have a chance. Get me out of this, and fast.’
“It was agreed that Mother would call Natalie back and ask her to come home because of some family emergency.
“Natalie’s romance with the king of rock fizzled out.
“‘God, it was awful,’ she told me later. “He can sing, but he can’t do much else.'”
‘The Searchers’ airs on BBC Two at 1:50pm.