Natalie Wood

Biography

Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents were Russian émigrés who spoke barely comprehensible English, but they changed the family name to Gurdin after becoming US citizens. When she was just four years old, Natalie appeared in her first film, Happy Land (1943). A production company had come to Santa Rosa, California, where the Gurdins were living and Natalie won a bit part of a crying little girl who had just dropped her ice cream cone. With stars in her eyes for her daughter, Mrs. Gurdin packed the family and moved south to Los Angeles in the hopes that more films would come her daughter's way. Unfortunately, they did not, at least not at first, and the family continued to scrape by much as they had done in Santa Rosa. In 1946, Natalie tested for a role in Tomorrow Is Forever (1946). She was only seven at the time, and flunked the screen test. Natalie's mother convinced the studio heads to give her another test, and this time she was convincing enough that they gave Natalie the role. In 1947's Miracle on 34th Street (1947), she won the hearts of movie patrons around the country as Susan Walker in a film that is considered a Christmas classic to this day. Natalie stayed very busy as a child actress, appearing in no less than 18 films in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Not all the films she appeared in were successful -- in fact, two of them were the more notorious duds of the period. In 1948, Natalie appeared in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948), a film best left undeveloped and in the can. The other was The Silver Chalice (1954), a film so awful that years later co-star Paul Newman, who debuted in the film, took out an ad and apologized for the movie when it came to television. When she was 16, Natalie appeared in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) with James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Dennis Hopper. She played Judy, a rebellious high school student who was more concerned with hanging out with the wrong crowd than being a sweet teenager like her contemporaries. The result was her first Academy Award nomination and a defining moment in her development as an adult actress. Her next role was in the classic western film The Searchers (1956) starring John Wayne. The film also featured Natalie's younger sister, Lana Wood. As Natalie became an adult, her career quickly skyrocketed with roles in classic hits like Gypsy (1962) and West Side Story (1961), which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Although she wasn't nominated for Oscars for these films, she did receive nominations for her roles in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963). Unfortunately, she didn't win for either of them. After This Property Is Condemned (1966) with Robert Redford, Natalie stayed away from Hollywood for three years to have time for herself and to consider where she was going. When she did return, her star quality had not diminished a bit, as evidenced by her playing Carol Sanders in the hit Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969). After this, Natalie didn't work as much. She only appeared in three films during the next nine years. She devoted most of her time to her two young daughters. As the 1970s came to an end, Natalie began acting more frequently and appeared in a string of films, including the disaster movie Meteor (1979) opposite Sean Connery and the miniseries film "From Here to Eternity" (1979) with Kim Basinger and William Devane. Natalie's compelling performance in the latter won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1980. After making The Last Married Couple in America (1980), Natalie began work on Brainstorm (1983) in 1981 with Christopher Walken. She did not live to see it released. On the night of November 29, 1981, she was sailing on the yacht she shared with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their friend Walken, when Natalie fell in the ocean and drowned. She was 43 years old.

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Known For
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Rebel Without a Cause

Judy

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Splendor in the Grass

Wilma Dean Loomis

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Brainstorm

Karen Brace

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Gypsy

Louise Hovick

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This Property Is Condemned

Alva Starr

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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Carol Sanders

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Inside Daisy Clover

Daisy Clover

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Sex and the Single Girl

Helen Gurley Brown

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Bombers B-52

Lois Brennan

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Love with the Proper Stranger

Starring In
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Paul Newman - Der unwiderstehliche Typ

Self (archive footage)

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This Is Joan Collins

Self (archive footage)

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Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind

Self (archive footage)

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West Side Story - Bernsteins Broadway-Hit

Self (archive footage)

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The Fabulous Allan Carr

Self (archive footage)

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Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Tab Hunter Confidential

Herself (archive footage)

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James Dean: Forever Young

Self (archive footage)

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Los Angeles Plays Itself

Judy (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The James Dean Story

Herself - 'Giant' premiere (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary: No Guts, No Glory

(archive footage) (uncredited)

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Rock Hudson

Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Brainstorm

Karen Brace

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Willie & Phil

Natalie Wood

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The Last Married Couple in America

Mari Thompson

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Meteor

Tatiana Donskaya

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I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Self

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Peeper

Ellen Prendergast

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The Affair

Courtney Patterson

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The Candidate

Herself

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The Great American West of John Ford

Actress 'The Searchers' (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Carol Sanders

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Penelope

Penelope

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This Property Is Condemned

Alva Starr

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The Great Race

Maggie DuBois

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Inside Daisy Clover

Daisy Clover

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Sex and the Single Girl

Helen Gurley Brown

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Love with the Proper Stranger

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Gypsy

Louise Hovick

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Splendor in the Grass

Wilma Dean Loomis

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West Side Story

Maria

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Cash McCall

Lory Austen

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All the Fine Young Cannibals

Sarah 'Salome' Davis

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Kings Go Forth

Monique Blair

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Marjorie Morningstar

Marjorie Morgenstern

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Bombers B-52

Lois Brennan

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The Searchers

Debbie Edwards - Age 15

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The Girl He Left Behind

Susan Daniels

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A Cry in the Night

Elizabeth

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Rebel Without a Cause

Judy

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One Desire

Seely Dowder

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The Silver Chalice

Helena, as a child

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The Star

Gretchen

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Just for You

Barbara Blake

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The Blue Veil

Stephanie Rawlins

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Our Very Own

Penny Macaulay

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No Sad Songs for Me

Polly Scott

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Never a Dull Moment

Nan

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The Jackpot

Phyllis Lawrence

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Father Was a Fullback

Ellen Cooper

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The Green Promise

Susan Matthews

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Miracle On 34th Street

Susan Walker

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Driftwood

Jenny Hollingsworth

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Anna Muir as a Child

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The Bride Wore Boots

Carol Warren

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Tomorrow is Forever

Margaret Ludwig

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The Moon is Down

Carrie (uncredited)

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Happy Land

Little Girl Who Drops Ice Cream Cone (uncredited)

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