Edit
Natalie Wood Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (68) | Personal Quotes (8) | Salary (10)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 20 July 1938San Francisco, California, USA
Date of Death 29 November 1981Santa Catalina Island, California, USA  (drowning and other undetermined factors)
Birth NameNatalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko
Nicknames Natalia
Natasha
Height 5' (1.52 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents, Maria Stepanovna (Zudilova) and Nikolai Stepanovich Zakharenko, were Russian-born émigrés, of Ukrainian and Russian descent, who spoke barely comprehensible English; 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. 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. She appeared in Splendor in the Grass (1961), West Side Story (1961), Gypsy (1962), and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963).

While Natalie was reported to be unhappy making "West Side Story", the film did win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. In short, it was a smash hit. Although she wasn't nominated for an Academy Award in that one, she did receive nominations for her roles in "Splendor in the Grass" and "Love with the Proper Stranger". After This Property Is Condemned (1966) in 1966, 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). From that point on Natalie didn't work as much. She made a few television appearances, but nothing of substance with the exception of the TV mini-series From Here to Eternity (1979).

After making The Last Married Couple in America (1980), Natalie began work on Brainstorm (1983) in the fall of 1981 with Christopher Walken. She did not live to see it released. On 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 while trying to board the dinghy tied up alongside the yacht and drowned. She was 43 years old. Natalie had made 56 films for TV and the silver screen and it's hard to say what she could have done while making her comeback. "Brainstorm" was finally released in 1983.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (3)

Robert Wagner (16 July 1972 - 29 November 1981) (her death) (1 child)
Richard Gregson (30 May 1969 - 12 April 1972) (divorced) (1 child)
Robert Wagner (28 December 1957 - 27 April 1962) (divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

Large brown eyes
Her youthful beauty
Small petite frame
Often played vulnerable characters put through emotional wringers

Trivia (68)

Sister of Lana Wood. They have a half-sister, Olga Viriapaeff.
Named after director Sam Wood.
Her favorite actress was Vivien Leigh and her favorite singer was Bob Dylan.
She suffered from a deep fear of drowning after having barely survived an accident when she was a little girl, during the filming of The Green Promise (1949). Her fear was so great that Elia Kazan had to lie - promising a double - and trick her into doing the scenes at the water reservoir in Splendor in the Grass (1961).
Interred at Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California, USA, Section D, #60. On her grave, marked Natalie Wood Wagner: Beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother & friend "more than love".
Was commonly listed as 5' 3" wearing heels in movie magazines, though her actual height was 5' 0".
The Harvard Lampoon often singled her out for derision. On Saturday, April 23, 1966, she surprised the Lampoon's staff when she became the first performer they voted the year's worst to show up and accept her citation.
Reportedly turned down Warren Beatty's offer to play opposite him in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) because she didn't want to be separated from her analyst while the film was on location in the Midwest.
Splendour, the name of the yacht Wood was on the night she died, was named after her movie Splendor in the Grass (1961). She co-starred in the film with former love Warren Beatty.
An accident on a movie set (she fell into a river and almost drowned) when she was 9 years old left her with a permanently weakened left wrist and a slight bone protrusion, which, for the rest of her life, she hid with large bracelets. Regardless of the movie role, or anytime that she was out in public, she always wore a large bracelet on the left wrist.
The rubber dinghy "Prince Valiant" she had allegedly been trying to board after falling from husband Robert Wagner's yacht that fateful Thanksgiving weekend in 1981, was named after Wagner's movie Prince Valiant (1954), a film the actor considered among his worst.
Had planned to produce as well as star in I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), but the leading role of Deborah Blake went to Kathleen Quinlan by the time the film was made.
Attended ballet classes as a child with Jill St. John and Stefanie Powers. All three women would go on to have long-term relationships with Robert Wagner.
Gave birth to a daughter, Courtney Wagner, on March 9, 1974. Child's father is Robert Wagner.
Gave birth to a daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, on September 29, 1970. Child's father is Richard Gregson.
Her death was kismet, as she always cited a fear of water.
Her and co-star Richard Beymer's singing voices were both dubbed in West Side Story (1961). The woman who dubbed Natalie, Marni Nixon, also dubbed Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964) and Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956). It was later reported that Wood was disappointed that her singing voice was not use in the movie.
Her paternal grandparents were Stephan Zakharenko and Eudoxie Sauchenko, and her maternal grandparents were Stepan Ilich Zudilov and Maria Andreevna Kuleva. She was of Russian and Ukrainian ancestry. Her father was an architect and her mother was a ballerina. She could do a proper plié before she could barely walk.
Her mother, Maria, claimed that the family was closely related to the Romanov dynasty.
Spoke Russian and English.
Though some people cite her mother as being French, her mother is Russian. The source of this misconception comes from the studio that Natalie worked at when she was a child -- people noticed her mother's accent and when asked if she was French, Maria replied: "Oh yes.", a white lie that would contribute to this confusion.
Younger sister Lana Wood made a ABC TV special on Natalie's life, The Mystery of Natalie Wood (2004).
Was offered the role of Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (1974) under the condition that she screen test for the role. Wood refused to do the screen test and Mia Farrow was cast instead.
Turned down the role that went to Ali MacGraw in Goodbye, Columbus (1969).
She was cast as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1976) quite unexpectedly, without campaigning for the role. Wood explained that when Laurence Olivier would come to Hollywood, she would often be seated with him at the table at formal sit-down dinners. When Olivier decided to make a version of the Tennessee Williams play, he thought of casting Wood, his dinner companion, and her husband, Robert Wagner, in the husband-wife roles of Brick and Maggie. Naturally, they accepted.
Wood knew screenwriter Gavin Lambert as both were intimates of director Randy Suhr. In the early 1960s, he wrote a novel about a Hollywood child star in the 1930s, Inside Daisy Clover (1965). After reading the book, Wood telephoned Lambert and said, "I'd kill for that part.". He assured her she was his first choice for the movie, for which he was writing the screenplay. She got the part and Ruth Gordon got her first Oscar nomination as an actress for portraying Daisy's mother.
Both she and her sister Lana Wood have played the love interest of Richard Beymer in two separate films: she as Maria opposite Richard's Tony in West Side Story (1961), and Lana as Karen opposite Richard's Dean in Scream Free! (1969) (aka Free Grass).
She is the inspiration of High School Musical (2006) star, Vanessa Hudgens.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives." Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 889-890. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
People magazine (USA) named her one of "The 25 Most Intriguing People of 1976" for the January 3, 1977 issue.
Entertainment Weekly placed her on the "100 greatest stars of all time" list, at #70.
Voted one of the top sex stars of the 1970s in Playboy magazine.
Called "The Most Beautiful Teenager in the World" by Life magazine in 1956.
Once interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger, before his career took off, for the magazine "Hollywood Reporter" in 1979, two years before her her death. The article was entitled "The Body meets the Face".
Her death was listed at number 24 on E! Television's 101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment.
Don Henley wrote the song "Dirty Laundry" to express his outrage at the tabloid press for their treatment of her after her death.
Met Robert Redford while attending Van Nuys High School. Redford was later her leading man in Inside Daisy Clover (1965) and This Property Is Condemned (1966).
"Natalie's Song" by David Pack, was written about Natalie Wood.
"Eyes Like Natalie Wood" by Kathy Fleischmann, was written about her.
Former stepmother of Katie Wagner.
Started smoking at age 16.
Godmother of her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner was Ruth Gordon, who played Natalie's mother in the film Inside Daisy Clover (1965).
She starred in over 40 theatrical films between ages 4 and 27. She went into semi-retirement afterwards, only appearing in five movies between age 28 and her death at 43.
Rehearsals for her stage debut in "Anastasia" were to begin in December 1981.
Her niece was born in August 1974.
Her mother, Maria Gurdin, died of pneumonia on January 6, 1998 at age 85.
Her father, Nick Gurdin, died of a heart attack on Tuesday, November 18, 1980 at age 68.
While taking classes at UCLA, she turned down the role of Elaine Robinson in The Graduate (1967) that went to Katharine Ross.
According to a biographer, 43-year old Nicholas Ray wooed 16-year old Natalie by adorning a table with pink tablecloth and champagne, her preferred color and drink of choice.
Was the youngest nominee in her category each of the three times she was nominated for an Oscar, the first being when she was 17 and the last when she was 25.
Has multiple connections with the James Bond franchise. Her sister, Lana Wood, had a cameo as a Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), in which Jill St. John (who is now married to Wood's widower, Robert Wagner) played the main female role. Wood co-starred in Meteor (1979) with Sean Connery, who played the James Bond character in seven films, and in Brainstorm (1983), she co-starred with Christopher Walken, who was a Bond villain in A View to a Kill (1985). She also co-starred in From Here to Eternity (1979) with Kim Basinger, who was a Bond girl in Never Say Never Again (1983) opposite Connery. Her widower, Robert Wagner, plays Number Two in the Austin Powers trilogy which parodies the early Bond films.
Was Maureen O'Hara daughter in two movies, one being the classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Natalie referred to Maureen as Mama Maureen till her death in 1981.
Had appeared twice on her husband's television series Switch (1975) in cameos.
Columbia Pictures secured the film rights for the Henry De Vere Stacpoole novel "The Blue Lagoon" in the mid-1950s, with Natalie in the role of Emmeline Lestrange. However, the project was shelved for many years and was not filmed until the late 1970s and the film The Blue Lagoon (1980) ultimately starred Brooke Shields.
Had she lived, she would have become a first-time grandmother on 30 May 2012 when her eldest daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, gave birth to a girl named Clover Clementyne Watson.
Wood's death certificate was modified to show some of the uncertainties surrounding the actress' death. The document was amended in August 2012 and changed from accidental drowning to "drowning and other undetermined factors", according to a copy of the certificate obtained August 21, 2012 by The Associated Press.
Her longtime friend, actress Hope Lange, delivered a eulogy at her funeral.
She was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 1, 1986.
She was posthumously awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on December 7, 2007.
Was friends with Rebel Without a Cause (1955) co-stars Nick Adams and Dennis Hopper.
In order to secure Wood's services from her home studio Warner Bros. for Kings Go Forth (1958), Frank Sinatra had to pay them $100,000 plus agree to appear in a film at the studio, a commitment worth $350,000 at the time. Meanwhile, Wood only earned $750 per week for her efforts.
Sister-in-law of Michael Craig.
She did a walk-on in the pilot of the television series Hart to Hart (1979) under her real name.
Won consecutive Box Office Blue Ribbon Awards for Tomorrow Is Forever (1946) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
Admired and wanted to emulate Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. Leigh was her favorite actress.
Irving Pichel's partners, William Goetz and Leo Spitz, changed her last name to Wood in honor of director Sam Wood. Her first name Natalie was an Americanization of her Russian name.

Personal Quotes (8)

You get tough in this business, until you get big enough to hire people to get tough for you. Then you can sit back and be a lady.
[in 1961] In so many ways I think it's a bore to be sorry you were a child actor - so many people feel sorry for you automatically. At the time, I wasn't aware of the things I missed, so why should I think of them in retrospect? Everybody misses something or other.
I felt a little funny when we were going to do the bed scene, all four of us, in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969). I'm open to suggestions, I'm no prude, but four is a crowd in my book. Fortunately, Dyan Cannon was there. The thought of another woman being in there in the bed helped get me through it. It's not like it sounds. It's just that I don't think I could have done it if it had been me and three men.
[on being a child actor] I spent practically all my time in the company of adults. I was very withdrawn, very shy, I did what I was told and I tried not to disappoint anybody. I knew I had a duty to perform, and I was trained to follow orders.
[shortly before her death] You know what I want? I want yesterday.
[on dating Elvis Presley when she was 18] Elvis was so square, we'd go... for hot fudge sundaes. He didn't drink, he didn't swear, he didn't even smoke. It was like having the date that I never had in high school.
[in 1980] I've always been terrified, still am, of water -- dark water, sea water, or, you know, river water.
[on Marilyn Monroe] When you look at Marilyn on the screen, you don't want anything bad to happen to her. You really care that she should be all right... happy.

Salary (10)

Dear Brat (1951) $2,333
Just for You (1952) $6,500
Kings Go Forth (1958) $750 per week
Cash McCall (1960) $150,000
All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) $150,000
West Side Story (1961) $250,000
Sex and the Single Girl (1964) $750,000
The Great Race (1965) $7,000 (Director Blake Edwards and co-star Jack Lemmon each gave her half of his respective salary)
Penelope (1966) $750,000
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) $250,000 + 10% of the net profits.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page