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Creator / Natalie Wood

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"Stardom is only a by-product of acting. I don't think being a movie star is a good enough reason for existing."

Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko (July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981), better known as Natalie Wood, was an American actress of Russian descent.

She was most famous for her roles in Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, for marrying Robert Wagner twice, and sadly, for her death by drowning under mysterious circumstances at the age of 43.

First appearing on screen at the age of four, Wood had a career spanning five decades, from Tomorrow Is Forever in 1946 to the posthumously-released Brainstorm in 1983. A relatively rare example of a child star who avoided Former Child Star status and became an A-lister in adulthood (Elizabeth Taylor is another).

She is the older sister of actress Lana Wood, and the mother of actress Natasha Gregson Wagner.


Her films include:

Tropes associated with her work include:

  • Career Resurrection: After The Searchers, she appeared in a string of failed films. According to Elia Kazan, by 1960, she was considered as "washed up". He still cast her in Splendor in the Grass, which came out in 1961, received critical acclaim and brought Wood her second Oscar nomination. Also in 1961, she starred in West Side Story, which was the biggest hit of the year and won the Oscar for Best Picture. This brought Wood back to the A-list.
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  • The Cast Showoff: Her parents being Russian immigrants, she could speak Russian, as utilised in The Great Race and Meteor (actually playing a Soviet translator in the latter).
  • Creator Backlash: She hated Penelope so much that right after it released, she cut off her contract from Warner Bros., fired almost all of her managing staff and didn't appear in another film for three years.
  • Dawson Casting: Averted in Rebel Without a Cause, where she was a teenager at the time. Played straight in Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story and Gypsy.
  • Former Child Star: One of few to still have a successful career as an adult.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon in West Side Story, and by Jackie Ward in The Great Race and Inside Daisy Clover. In Gypsy, however, she did her own singing.
  • One Head Taller: Was 5'0'' and usually dwarfed by the leading man.
  • One-Take Wonder: She was known for getting all her lines right on the first take - and she was nicknamed 'One Take Natalie' as a result.
  • Stage Names: She was born as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her name was later changed to Gurdin, and when she started to appear in movies, Wood. Her sister was born Gurdin, and also took Wood as pseudonym.
  • Star-Making Role: In Rebel Without a Cause. And the death of James Dean shortly after left her as the sole focus of much of the contemporary fandom.
  • What Could Have Been: Opted to stay away from large film roles during the 1970s to raise a family. Brainstorm was supposed to be a 'comeback' role. Also, the stress of finishing the film after her death pushed director Douglas Trumbull away from moviemaking.


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