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Natalie Wood

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Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, California with the birth name of Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents were Russian émigrés who hardly spoke any comprehensible English, but they changed the family name to Gurdin after becoming US citizens. When she was just four years old, Natalie appeared in her first film called _Happy Land (1943)_ (qv) which was released in 1943. A production company had come to Santa Rosa where the Gurdins were living at the time and she won a bit part of a crying little girl who had just dropped her ice cream cone. With stars in her eyes for her daughter, Mrs. Gurdin packed the family and moved south to Los Angeles in the hopes that more films would come her daughter's way. Unfortunately, they did not, at least not at first and the family continued to scrape by much as they had done in Santa Rosa. Three years later in 1946, Natalie appeared in her second film entitled _Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)_ (qv). She was only seven at the time, and flunked her first screen test for the role. After being convinced by her mother to give her another test, the studio heads were impressed and awarded the role to Natalie. In 1947's MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, Natalie won movie patrons hearts as Susan Walker in a film that is considered a Christmas classic to this day. For a child actress, Natalie stayed very busy appearing in no less than 18 films in the late 40s and early 50s. Not all the films she appeared in were successful. As a matter of fact two were duds. In 1948, Natalie appeared in SCUDDA HOO! SCUDDA HAY! a film best left undeveloped and in the can. The other was THE SILVER CHALICE. Years later co-star Paul Newman took out an ad and apologized for the movie when it made it to television. When she was 17, Natalie appeared in 1955's _Rebel Without a Cause (1955)_ (qv) with stars 'James Dean' (qv), 'Sal Mineo' (qv), and 'Dennis Hopper' (qv). She played Judy, a rebellious high school student who was more concerned with hanging out with the wrong crowd rather being a sweet teenager like her contemporaries. The result was her first Academy Award nomination and a defining moment in her development as an adult actress. She appeared in SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, WEST SIDE STORY (both in 1961), GYPSY (1962), and LOVE WITH A PROPER STRANGER (1963). While Natalie was reported to be unhappy making WEST SIDE STORY, the film did win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. In short, the film was a smash hit. Although she wasn't nominated for an Academy Award in that one, Natalie did receive nominations for her roles in SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS and LOVE WITH A PROPER STRANGER. Unfortunately, she won neither. After THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED in 1966, Natalie stayed away from filming for three years giving herself time for herself and to consider where she was going. When she did return her star quality had not diminished a bit, when she played Carol Sanders in BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE. From that point on Natalie didn't work as much. She spent most of her time raising her family. She made a few television appearances, but nothing of substance with the exception of the TV mini-series "From Here to Eternity". After making THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA (1980), Natalie began work on BRAINSTORM in 1981 with Christopher Walken. She did not live to see it released. On November 29, 1981, Natalie was sailing on the yacht she shared with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their friend Walken, when Natalie drowned while trying to board the dinghy tied up alongside the yacht. She was 43 years old. Natalie had made 56 films for TV and the silver screen and it's hard to say what she could have done while making her comeback. Brainstorm was finally released in 1983.
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