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Natalie Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko; July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981) was a Russian-American actress who began her career in film as a child and became a Hollywood star as a young adult, receiving three Oscar nominations before she was 25.
Wood began acting in films at age 4 and was given a co-starring role at age 8 in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). As a teenager, she earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), followed by a role in John Ford's The Searchers (1956). Wood starred in the musical films West Side Story (1961) and Gypsy (1962), and she received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963). Her career continued with films such as Sex and the Single Girl (1964), Inside Daisy Clover (1964), and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969).
During the 1970s, Wood began a hiatus from film and had two children with husband Robert Wagner, whom she married, divorced, and remarried after divorcing her second husband. She appeared in only three films throughout the decade, but did act in several television productions, including a remake of the film From Here to Eternity (1979) for which she received a Golden Globe Award. Wood's films represented a "coming of age" for her and for Hollywood films in general. Critics have suggested that her cinematic career represents a portrait of modern American womanhood in transition, as she was one of the few to take both child roles and those of middle-aged characters.
Wood drowned off Catalina Island on November 29, 1981, at age 43. The events surrounding her death have been explained by conflicting witness statements, prompting the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, under the instruction of the coroner's office, to list her cause of death as "drowning and other undetermined factors" in 2012. In 2018, Wagner was named as a person of interest in the ongoing investigation into her death.
Last Updated: May 8, 2020