NATALIE WOOD Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Natalie Wood                                                                   
Birth name: Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko                                             
Born: 20 July 1938 San Francisco, California                                         
Died: 29 November 1981 Isthmus Cove, Santa Catalina Island, California               
Natalie Wood, born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, also billed as Natasha Gurdin       
(July 20, 1938, San Francisco, California – November 29, 1981, Santa Catalina       
Island, California) was a three-time Academy Award nominated American film           
actress. Wood began appearing in movies when she was 5 years old, had parts in       
successful Hollywood films and unlike many child actors made the difficult           
transition to adult roles, most notably in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and West     
Side Story (1961). After her untimely death Time magazine noted that although         
critical praise for Wood had been sparse throughout her career, "she always had       
Wood's parents Nikolai and Maria Zakharenko were Russian immigrants. Shortly         
after her birth in San Francisco they moved north to Sonoma County and lived in       
Santa Rosa, California where Wood was noticed during a film shoot in downtown         
Santa Rosa. Her mother soon moved the family to Los Angeles and pursued a career     
for her daughter. By age 4 Natalia was being billed as Natasha Gurdin. Like many     
parents of child actors her mother tightly managed and controlled the young girl's   
career and personal life. Her father has been described by Wood's biographers as     
a passive alcoholic. Wood appeared in 20 films during her childhood including a       
1947 role in Miracle on 34th Street which has been widely noted. Her sister Lana     
Wood also became an actress and, notably, a Bond girl. They had another sister,       
When she was 16 Wood co-starred in Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause with         
James Dean, Sal Mineo and Dennis Hopper. By age 25 she was a three-time Oscar         
nominee for Rebel Without a Cause, Splendor in the Grass and Love With the           
Proper Stranger.                                                                     
In 1961 Wood played Maria in the Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise musical West         
Side Story which was a major box office and critical success. She had been           
signed to do her own singing but was later dubbed by session singer Marni Nixon.     
Wood's own singing voice was used when she starred in the 1962 film Gypsy and         
she also sang in the slapstick comedy The Great Race (1965) co-starring Jack         
Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Although many of Wood's films were commercially               
profitable her acting was often criticized. In 1966 she won the Harvard Lampoon       
Worst Actress of the Year Award. She was the first performer in the award's           
history to accept it in person and the Harvard Crimson wrote she was "quite a         
good sport."                                                                         
After appearing in the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Wood semi-retired to start     
a family with her second husband Richard Gregson but their marriage ended in         
divorce a short time later.