Quick note: There are very few screen shots of this film floating around, so forgive me for slapping poor quality images up. The film looks beautiful though!
What can Natalie do in Greenwich Village that she can't do at home?
Me, Natalie was born into the fledgling post classical age of American cinema. In fact it came out the DAY before the counterculture touch stone, Easyrider. Kids are questioning everything. Parents, Government, War, Love. And is my nose too big?
So it's into this atmosphere that we find Patty Duke in the role of Natalie, questioning herself, how she fits into the world.... And why are men such jerks?
Described by her neighbour, Natalie is a Gangster. Causing trouble with all the neighbourhood boys. She's the Ugly duckling without grace or confidence.
"I'm gonna stay here in the dark!" - Natalie
What Natalie lacks in self image she makes up with Moxy. Her venerability is matched by her sarcasm and wit. Natalie's parents continuously try match making and hoping she won't become a twenty something "Old Maid". The Uncle she idolises that extols the empty value of superficiality unwittingly ends up betraying his own advice and turns Natalie against him. Natalie is kept in a constant flux of confusion with the male species..... for fair reason!
It's not until Natalie sheds the family shackles and moves into Greenwich village and 1960s New York lets her bloom into her own woman. It is here, below her apartment where she meets David (James Farinteno), a struggling but talented artists. The love/hate relationship plays out as it should and the story continues on in its Drama/Comedy fashion.
New York in the sixties seems like everything you could wish for. Freedom of expression, lively and vivid spaces. Groovy parties and some LSD to pepper the scene.
I fell in love with Duke in this role and it's hard to sympathise with her as she is transfixed in a mirror and her self relected flaws. She's very cute and has such an attractive attitude that it must have either been too tomboyish or just not as demure as the times would have liked. But I thought she was spunky as!! A younger Amy Adams (Man of Steel) could easily have starred in a remake of this film.
Patty Duke seems so young in the early section of the film that I was shocked at how much work she'd done before this film. Her own television series from 1963-1966 "The Patty Duke Show" was a sitcom running over 100 episodes and she had a handful of film roles under her belt, including "Valley of the Dolls" staring alongside the ill-fated Sharon Tate. So she was comfortable in front of the camera for sure. What I didn't realise is that her upbringing would be the stuff of child star nightmares. Born Anna Marie Duke she was removed from her parents and raised by exploitative talent agents how forcibly changed her name to Patty and introduced her to drugs and alcohol and drugs at an early age.
I mention all of this because I believe that shades of her own person struggle with growing up are visible here. And by the time of this film she was old enough to go for what she wanted and perhaps do that on her own terms. It's no wonder that she had disagreements with director Fred Coe over the ending of the film and her character.
She would go on to win the best Actress award at that years Golden Globes for the role.
Some great actors pop into this film almost like planned cameos, and yet not. Here we see Al Pacino in his first screen role. He would use this to go onto the great "The Panic in Needle Park" (1971) and the defining "The Godfather" the following year. Bob Balaban also shows up as a horney teenager. I love when this guy shows up in stuff. He would turn up in "Midnight Cowboy" the same year.
Director Fred Coe had has feet firmly in the television world before taking on Me,Natalie, his second feature after 1965's comedy drama A Thousand Clowns and that is where he returned after Natalie. Which is sad, I think he did a great job here. While the jokes seem a bit forced, there is a sweet story of a girl who is very upset with the world and needs to trust that love and happiness are close by at anytime. But that life also can change in a moment... That's ...life.
The film has a lovely score from Henry Mancini, which would very quickly seem dated with the rising sun of the California new Rock scene on the soundtrack horizon.
Check it out on Spotify
It's bare bones DVD, but amazing that it's finally seen the light at all! So thanks to Via Vision for that!