Born Natalia Zacharenko
July 20, 1938
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died November 29, 1981 (aged 43)
Santa Catalina Island, California, U.S.
Years active 1943–1981
Spouse(s) Robert Wagner (1957–1962; 1972–1981 (her death))
Natalie Wood (born Natalia Zacharenko; Cyrillic: Наталья Николаевна Захаренко; July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981) was an American actress.
Following her film debut in 1943, Wood became a successful child actor in such films as Miracle on 34th Street (1947). A well received performance opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and helped her to make the transition from a child performer. She then starred in the musicals West Side Story (1961) and Gypsy (1962). She also received Academy Award nominations for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love With the Proper Stranger (1963).
Her career continued successfully into the late 1960s with lead roles in films such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969); after this she worked less frequently so that she could start a family. She was married to actor Robert Wagner twice and had two daughters, Natasha Gregson and Courtney Wagner. Wood starred in several television productions, including a remake of the film From Here to Eternity (1979) for which she won a Golden Globe Award.
Wood drowned near Santa Catalina Island, California in late 1981. Her final film, the science fiction drama Brainstorm (1983) with Christopher Walken, was released posthumously.
At age 15, circa 1953Wood's parents, Maria Stepanova (née Zudilov) and Nikolai Zacharenko, were Russian immigrants, but they grew up far from their homeland: her father lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while her mother grew up in a Chinese province, Harbin. 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 four Natalia was being billed as Natasha Gurdin, Gurdin being the family's surname by this point. 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. At the studio's suggestion, Natalia's name was changed to Natalie Wood during her period as a child actor for Warner Bros.
As a seven year old, Wood played a German orphan opposite Orson Welles and Claudette Colbert in Tomorrow Is Forever. Welles later said that Wood was a born professional, "so good, she was terrifying". Her performance in the 1947 Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street made Wood one of the top child stars in Hollywood. She would appear in over 20 films as a child, appearing opposite such stars as Gene Tierney, James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara, Bette Davis and Bing Crosby. Her sister Svetlana Gurdin (better known as Lana Wood) also became an actress and later, notably, a Bond girl. They had a half-sister, Olga.
 Teen stardom
Wood successfully made the transition from child star to ingenue at age 16 when she co-starred in Nicholas Ray's film about teenage rebellion titled Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean and Sal Mineo. Her performance won her an Academy Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The film is now considered a classic. She followed this with a small but crucial role in John Ford's western The Searchers which starred John Wayne and also featured Wood's sister, Lana, who played a younger version of her character in the film's earlier scenes. She graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1956. The following year, she received a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress. Signed to Warner Brothers, Wood was kept busy during the remainder of the 1950
After appearing in the box office flop, All the Fine Young Cannibals with her husband, Robert Wagner, Wood's career was salvaged by her casting in Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass (1961) opposite Warren Beatty, which earned Wood Best Actress Nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards.
Also 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. She was dubbed by Jackie Ward in the slapstick comedy The Great Race (1965) co-starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Peter Falk. Wood received her third Academy Award nomination and another Golden Globe nod in 1964 for Love with the Proper Stranger opposite Steve McQueen.
Although many of Wood's films were commercially profitable, her acting was criticized at times. 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."
Other notable films she starred in were Inside Daisy Clover (1965) and This Property Is Condemned (1966), both of which co-starred Robert Redford and brought subsequent Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. In 1969, Wood also starred as a swinger in a film about sexual liberation, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. After this, however, she worked less in order to give her time to settle down and start a family. She would act only occasionally for most of the 1970s. She appeared as herself in The Candidate (1972), reuniting her for a third time with Robert Redford. She also reunited on the screen with husband Robert Wagner in The Affair (1973), a made-for-television remake of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1976) and made appearances on his shows Switch and Hart to Hart. She would later begin to work more frequently as her daughters reached school age. Between 1967 and 1980, Wood turned down many roles.
At the time of her death, Wood was filming the sci-fi film Brainstorm (1983) with Christopher Walken. She was also scheduled to star in a theatrical production of Anastasia and in a film called Country of the Heart, playing the love interest of Timothy Hutton. Due to her untimely death, both of the latter projects were canceled and the ending of Brainstorm had to be re-written. A stand-in and sound-a-likes were used to replace Wood for some of her critical scenes.
She appeared in 56 films for cinema and television. Following her death, Time magazine noted that although critical praise for Wood had been sparse throughout her career, "she always had work.
Natalie Wood's two marriages to actor Robert Wagner were highly publicized. "I was ten and he was 18 when I first saw him walking down a hall at 20th Century Fox," Wood recalled. "I turned to my mother and said, 'I'm going to marry him.' " It was on her 18th birthday when she went on her first date with Wagner, who was then 26. They married on December 28, 1957, separated in June 1961 and divorced in April 1962.
On May 30, 1969, Wood married British producer Richard Gregson. The couple dated for three years prior to their marriage. They had a daughter, Natasha (born September 29, 1970). They separated in August 1971 and Wood filed for divorce; it became final in April 1972.
In early 1972, Wood resumed her relationship with Wagner. The couple remarried on July 16, 1972, just five months after reconciling and only three after she divorced Gregson. Their daughter, Courtney Wagner, was born on March 9, 1974. They remained married until Wood's death on November 29, 1981.
Wood was romantically involved with her Splendor in the Grass costar Warren Beatty from 1962 to 1965. After this she had brief relationships with actors Michael Caine, Scott Marlowe, and director Henry Jaglom, all in 1966. She briefly dated her Love with the Proper Stranger costar Steve McQueen in 1972, though it was not an exclusive relationship on either part. Wood also had a relationship with singer Elvis Presely.
In September and October 1981, Wood and Wagner stayed in Raleigh, North Carolina while Wood did location work for the science-fiction film Brainstorm. Wood then spent most of November in California shooting interior scenes with Christopher Walken and other cast members on the MGM lot in Culver City.
After Thanksgiving, Wood, Wagner and Walken went on to Catalina Island for the weekend and on the night of November 28 their yacht (Splendour) was anchored in Isthmus Cove. Also on board was the boat's skipper, Dennis Davern, who had worked for the couple for many years. Wood apparently tried to either leave the yacht or secure a dinghy from banging against the hull when she accidentally slipped and fell overboard. A woman on a nearby yacht said she heard calls for help at around midnight. The cries lasted for about 15 minutes and were answered by someone else who said, "Take it easy. We'll be over to get you". "It was laid back," the witness recalled. "There was no urgency or immediacy in their shouts". An investigation by Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi resulted in an official verdict of accidental drowning. Noguchi concluded Wood had drunk "seven or eight" glasses of wine and was intoxicated when she died. There were marks and bruises on her body which could have been received as a result of her fall. Noguchi later wrote had Wood not been intoxicated she likely would have realized her heavy down-filled coat and wool sweater were pulling her underwater and would have removed them. Noguchi also wrote that he found Wood's fingernail scratches on the side of the rubber dinghy indicating she was trying to get in. Wood was 43 at the time of her death and is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. Following her death, Time magazine noted that although critical praise for Wood had been sparse throughout her career, "she always had work."