Seasonal movie favorites will soon be inching their way into television schedules. While considered perennial Christmas fare, the opening scenes of “Miracle on 34th Street” actually take place at Thanksgiving with the annual Macy’s parade.The 1947 movie and Thanksgiving festivities hold special significance for actress Natasha Gregson Wagner.
“I don’t recall the first time my mother showed me 'Miracle on 34th Street,' but I remember as a child knowing she was in the cast and enjoyed watching her as a little girl,” said Natasha from Los Angeles.
That little girl was Natalie Wood, whose films have been airing throughout November on the Turner Classic Movies network.“The first time I saw my mom on the television was on one of those big old square box sets and I actually found it a little scary,” recalled Natasha. “I even went around the back to try and figure out how she got inside!”
Now Natasha is sharing her mother’s Hollywood fame with her children, 4-year-old daughter, Clover, and two stepsons.
“Last year we showed them the film. Clover was a bit young but now knows that’s her grandmother as a little girl. She asks ‘So Grandma Natalie met Santa Claus? I thought kids aren’t allowed to see him.’ That’s a hard question to answer!”
Thanksgiving meals with her mother also remain memorable for Natasha.
“She loved Thanksgiving, which was always very festive and our house was filled with a large extended family. But my mom was not a big cook, so a lovely couple, Helen and Gene, would prepare the dinner every year. And the lady who helped raise us, (housekeeper and nanny) Willie-Mae, would make sweet potato puree in a hulled out orange shell topped with marshmallows – delicious!”
This Thanksgiving, Natasha is employing additional senses to reinforce memories of her mother and she’s sharing them with fans.
“We just launched a gardenia scented candle,” she said. “When I was growing up, my mom always burned scented candles, and gardenia was her favorite scent. And last March, our ‘Natalie’ perfume was also introduced. It’s gardenia-based, too, with my favorite citrus notes added such as orange blossom” (see www.nataliefragrance.com).
And with a tie back to “Miracle on 34th Street,” a Natalie Holiday Gift Set is also available exclusively from – where else – Macy’s! (see www.macys.com).
But with fragrances from contemporary entertainers such as Mariah Carey and Kim Kardashian dominating today's market, could a perfume named after a classic film star compete?
“You’d be surprised,” said Natasha. “A lot of young people seem to know who my mother was, especially if they grew up with parents watching her movies. But it’s also a modern fragrance that speaks to young women.”
In addition to promoting the "Natalie" products, Natasha continues the family acting tradition – her stepdad is Robert Wagner.
Her last film, an independent feature called “Search Engines,” toured the festival circuit this year and also features Natasha’s husband, “7th Heaven” star Barry Watson (see www.indicanpictures.com).
“I haven’t been focusing on acting since I was pregnant, but thought it would be fun working with my husband,” said Natasha. “And, the film is set at Thanksgiving!”
While cautious when discussing her family with the media, Natasha recently shared some reminiscences as well as rare family photos in Manoah Bowman’s book "Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life" released in October (see www.runningpress.com).
“There’s at least 50 never-before-seen photos. My mom saved everything and it’s all housed in a secure storage facility. I just felt it was the right time now to sift through it all for the book.”
Natasha, who turned 46 in September, was just 11 when her mother died 35 years ago this month. While her mother tackled acting and parenting successfully, it’s not a juggling act Natasha wants to attempt at the moment.
“I’m quite happy working on my mom’s legacy and raising my children while taking a break from full-time acting.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 500 magazines and newspapers.