Born: 20 July 1938
Died: 29 November 1981 (drowning)
Birthplace: San Francisco, California
Best known as: The girl who doubts Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street
Name at birth: Natalia Zakharenko
Natalie Wood became a child movie star when she played Susan Walker, the little girl who doubts Santa Claus in 1947's Miracle on 34th Street. In her teens she remained a star thanks to movies such as Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955, with James Dean) and The Searchers (1956, with John Wayne). On the big screen, Wood's limpid brown eyes gave her the look of a troubled girl next door, mixing subtle intelligence with sex appeal. In her adult roles, Natalie Wood was adept at comedy as well as serious drama; she was critically acclaimed in Splendor in the Grass (1961, with Warren Beatty), as Maria in West Side Story (1961) and in Inside Daisy Clover (1965). She drowned in 1981 off California's Catalina Island while vacationing aboard a yacht with her husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken. The original coroner's report called it an accidental death by drowning, but a 2012 supplement to the report changed that slightly to "drowning and other undetermined factors," noting that bruising on her arms and neck suggested she might have been injured before landing in the water. However, the same report said her death could not be definitively called "non-accidental." The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said at the time that the case was still open, but has also said in the past that neither Walken or Wagner are suspects in Wood's death.
Natalie Wood was married twice to Robert Wagner — from 1957-62 and from 1974 until her death… She is the mother of actress Natasha Gregson Wagner, her daughter with producer Richard Gregson… Natalie Wood was 5’2″ tall… Peter Bogdanovich directed the 2004 TV movie The Mystery of Natalie Wood, with actress Justine Waddell as Wood… According to a 2001 biography of Wood by Suzanne Finstad, Wood was born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko; her father changed the family surname to Gurdin a few years later, and Natalia was given her stage name of Natalie Wood by Bill Goetz, producer of her 1946 film Tomorrow Is Forever… Natalie Wood’s birth name is sometimes given as Natasha, the Russian nickname for Natalia.
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