Real name: Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko
Birthdate: July 20, 1938
Partner: Robert Wagner
Natalie Wood (July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981) was a three time Academy Award nominated American film actress.
Wood was born Natalya Nikolaevna Zakharenko in San Francisco, California, to Russian immigrants, Nikolai and Maria Zakharenko. Her parents changed their surname to "Gurdin", and by the age of 4 she was billed as Natasha Gurdin. Her mother tightly managed and controlled the young girl's career and personal life from her start in films at the age of five. She starred in multiple films as a child including both Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs Muir in 1947. Her father is described by Wood's biographers as a passive alcoholic who went along with his wife's demands. Her sister, Lana Wood, is also an actress, notably a Bond girl, and was featured in a Playboy pictorial (she was not, however, a Playmate).Natalie Wood with James Dean in the 1955 film, Rebel Without a Cause
After appearing in the hit film, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice in 1969, she retreated from the spotlight in order to start a family, working sporadically in films and TV movies until her death.
According to Mary F. Pols, the teenaged Wood went on studio-arranged dates, often with closeted gay actors. In 1956, one of these was Tab Hunter, seven years her senior, with whom she developed a genuine friendship. They would attend parties to promote the two films they co-starred in that year, The Burning Hills and The Girl He Left Behind. Wood biographer and Hollywood screenwriter, Gavin Lambert, also confirms that Wood had studio-arranged dates with homosexual or bisexual actors, the first of which was with Nick Adams. Hunter in his autobiography elaborates on how a Hollywood studio's publicization of a sham romance between two actors each under contract to it was a strategy to stimulate public desire for seeing that studio's forthcoming films. The demographic segment he in particular appealed to was the newly influential teenage girl market segment, since he had swiftly established himself as a leading "heartthrob" for that demographic.
Gavin Lambert wrote that, contrary to popular belief, Wood's casting in Rebel Without a Cause did not lead to a romance with co-star James Dean: "Like many people, she was fascinated by his charm. He had this magnetic quality on the screen and in life... They got on very well, they liked each other a lot." However, most biographers write that she slept with Hopper and director Nicholas Ray. Lambert added that both Dean and Ray helped renew her passion for acting after a diet of lackluster movies like Chicken Every Sunday, Dear Brat and Father Was a Fullback.Wood with Robert Wagner during their first marriage
Dr. Noguchi revealed that Wood was legally intoxicated when she died and that there were marks and bruises on her body, which could have been received as a result of her fall. In Noguchi's memoir, Coroner, he stated that had Natalie not been intoxicated, she likely would have realized that her heavy down-filled coat and wool sweater were pulling her underwater, and would have removed them. Noguchi said he found Natalie's fingernails still embedded in the rubber boat's side.