Natalie Wood, born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, was destined for greatness from a young age.
She would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most enduring and beloved actresses, captivating audiences with her talent, beauty, and charm.
Natalie’s journey into the world of entertainment began at the tender age of four when she made her debut in a Christmas play.
Recognizing her extraordinary talent, her mother Maria Zakharenko ensured she received acting lessons, setting the stage for what would become an illustrious career.
Her breakout role came at the age of eight when she starred in Miracle on 34th Street (1947), earning her an Academy Award nomination.
Natalie’s undeniable talent continued to shine through her teenage years with performances in films like Rebel Without a Cause (1955), opposite James Dean, and West Side Story (1961), where she portrayed the iconic character, Maria.
Wood starred in the musical film Gypsy (1962) and received nominations for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963).
Her career continued with films such as Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Inside Daisy Clover (1965), and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969).
During the 1970s, Wood began a hiatus from film and had two daughters: one with her second husband Richard Gregson, and one with Robert Wagner, her first husband whom she married again after divorcing Gregson.
She acted in only two feature films throughout the decade, but she appeared slightly more often in television productions, including a remake of From Here to Eternity (1979) for which she won a Golden Globe Award.
Wood’s films represented a “coming of age” for her and for Hollywood films in general.
Critics have suggested that her cinematic career represents a portrait of modern American womanhood in transition, as she was one of the few to take both child roles and those of middle-aged characters.
On November 29, 1981, at the age of 43, Wood drowned in the Pacific Ocean near Santa Catalina Island during a break from production of her would-be comeback film Brainstorm (1983).
She was with her husband Wagner and Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken.
The events surrounding her death have been the subject of conflicting witness statements, prompting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, under the instruction of the coroner’s office, to list her cause of death as “drowning and other undetermined factors” in 2012.
Natalie Wood’s legacy persists through her timeless films and the unwavering passion she poured into each of her roles.
Her profound impact on the entertainment world and her ability to connect with millions through her performances ensure that she will forever be remembered as a genuine Hollywood icon.
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