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Natalie Wood Collection [6 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Romeo and Juliet
Director Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was touted at the time of its release (successfully, if the box-office receipts are any indication), as something of a "youth trip" movie. This is because Zeffirelli broke the long-standing tradition of casting over-aged, sometimes grey-haired players in the title roles. Seventeen-year-old Leonard Whiting plays Romeo, with 15-year-old Olivia Hussey as Juliet. The youthfulness and inexperience of the leading players works beautifully in the more passionate sequences (some of these breaking further ground by being played in the nude). Among the younger players are Michael York as Tybalt and John McEnery as Mercutio. The duel between Romeo and Tybalt starts out as a harmless, frat-boy exchange of insults, then escalates into tragedy before any of the participants are fully aware of what has happened. Photographed by Pasqualino DeSantis on various locations in Italy, Romeo and Juliet was one of the most profitable film adaptations of Shakespeare ever produced. Its most lasting legacy is its popular main theme music, composed by Nino Rota. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Searchers
Splendor in the Grass
1961's premiere "date" movie represented the screen debut of Warren Beatty. Set in the 1920s, William Inge's screenplay concerns the superheated romance between working-class high schooler Natalie Wood and rich kid Beatty. Trying their best to keep their relationship from going "all the way," Beatty and Wood go through a series of unsatisfying interim romances. The troubled Wood attempts suicide and is sent to a mental institution, while Beatty impregnates freewheeling waitress Zohra Lampert. Wood and Beatty still carry a torch for one another, but circumstances preclude their getting together -- and besides, Wood suddenly realizes that she's outgrown the still-floundering Beatty. Scriptwriter William Inge shows up as a minister in Splendor in the Grass, while comedienne Phyllis Diller does a cameo as famed nightclub entertainer Texas Guinan; also, keep an eye out for Sandy Dennis, making her first movie appearance. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Miracle on 34th Street
Edmund Gwenn plays Kris Kringle, a bearded old gent who is the living image of Santa Claus. Serving as a last-minute replacement for the drunken Santa who was to have led Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Kringle is offered a job as a Macy's toy-department Santa. Supervisor Maureen O'Hara soon begins having second thoughts about hiring Kris: it's bad enough that he is laboring under the delusion that he's the genuine Saint Nick; but when he begins advising customers to shop elsewhere for toys that they can't find at Macy's, he's gone too far! Amazingly, Mr. Macy (Harry Antrim) considers Kris' shopping tips to be an excellent customer-service "gimmick," and insists that the old fellow keep his job. A resident of a Long Island retirement home, Kris agrees to take a room with lawyer John Payne during the Christmas season. It happens that Payne is sweet on O'HARA, and Kris subliminally hopes he can bring the two together. Kris is also desirous of winning over the divorced O'HARA's little daughter Natalie Wood, who in her few years on earth has lost a lot of the Christmas spirit. Complications ensue when Porter Hall, Macy's nasty in-house psychologist, arranges to have Kris locked up in Bellevue as a lunatic. Payne represents Kris at his sanity hearing, rocking the New York judicial system to its foundations by endeavoring to prove in court that Kris is, indeed, the real Santa Claus! We won't tell you how he does it: suffice to say that there's a joyous ending for Payne and O'HARA, as well as a wonderful faith-affirming denouement for little Natalie Wood. 72-year-old Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his portrayal of the "jolly old elf" Kringle; the rest of the cast is populated by such never-fail pros as Gene Lockhart (as the beleaguered sanity-hearing judge), William Frawley (as a crafty political boss), and an unbilled Thelma Ritter and Jack Albertson. Based on the novel by Valentine Davies, Miracle on 34th Street was remade twice: once for TV in 1973, and a second time for a 1994 theatrical release, with Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rebel Without a Cause
The Silver Chalice
Paul Newman made his screen debut in the gloriously nonsensical costume epic The Silver Chalice. Freely adapted from a novel by Thomas B. Costain, the film casts Newman as Basil, a first century Greek sculptor who is sold into slavery by his wicked uncle. Transported to Rome, Basil manages to enjoy a measure of freedom when his captors discover his sculpting talents; he also marries another slave, the demure Deborra (Pier Angeli) and dallies with the sensuous Helena (Virginia Mayo), the mercenary partner of court magician Simon (Jack Palance). The plot congeals when Basil is commissioned to create a silver receptacle for the chalice from which Jesus Christ drank at the Last Supper. Lorne Greene, likewise making his screen bow, is all portentous speeches and prophetic observations as the apostle Peter. Of the many silly highlights, the silliest -- and most memorable -- occurs when the unhinged Simon is possessed with the notion that he can fly with the gods (Palance's performance in this episode must be seen to be believed). When The Silver Chalice was first released, poor Paul Newman was roundly panned as a third-rate Brando; one reviewer noted that he "delivers his lines with the emotional fervor of a Putnam Division conductor announcing local stops." No one has been more vocal in the drubbing of Newman's performance than Newman himself. When the film was first aired on TV in Los Angeles in 1961, the actor took out a full-page apology in the trade papers. In recent years, however, Paul Newman has pointed to The Silver Chalice with pride, observing that he was able to overcome a bad beginning and endure as a screen favorite for over four decades. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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