Best Known For
Actress Natalie Wood starred in the films Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean and in West Side Story as Maria. She drowned during a boating trip in 1981.
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Actress Natalie Wood was born in San Francisco on July 20, 1938. At 16, she co-starred with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. In 1961, she played Maria in West Side Story and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Splendor in the Grass. In 1981,
"You get tough in this business, until you get big enough to hire people to get tough for you. Then you can sit back and be a lady."
"Let's face it, acting is not important. Einstein is important. Jonas Salk is important. I know they're not going to send my latest movie up in a time capsule."
The daughter of Russian immigrants, Natalie Wood started performing an early age. Her mother Maria enrolled her ballet classes as a small child. At the age of 4, Wood landed her first film role, a bit part in Happy Land, which happened to be filming in Santa Rosa, California, where she was living at the time. She had won over director Irving Pichel after her mother orchestrated their introduction. Later Wood said that her mother told her to "make Mr. Pichel love you."
The dark-haired, doe-eyed girl soon made other film appearances. Wood tugged on the heart strings of audiences with her small role as an orphan in the 1946 drama Tomorrow Is Forever with Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles. In 1947, she again won over move-goers with her first starring role, in Miracle on 34th Street. This movie, about a girl who questions the existence of Santa Claus, made Wood as a star.
At the age of 16, Wood began filming one of her most famous films. She co-starred with James Dean and Sal Mineo in the 1955 groundbreaking depiction of teenage rebellion and angst, Rebel Without a Cause. In the film, Wood played the girlfriend of a troubled outsider, played by James Dean. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her work.
As an actress under contract, Wood sometimes had to make movies that she didn't want to. Her mother also pressured her at times, too. One of her least favorite projects was The Searchers, a 1956 western starring John Wayne. Wood felt she had been miscast as a white girl who was abducted and then raised by Native Americans.
Wood struggled to get good acting parts, but in the 1960s she landed some of her most famous roles. In 1961, she starred opposite Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass, playing the part of young girl torn by desire and social conventions. In this role, Wood showed great range as an emotionally fragile young woman driven to madness. That same year, she starred in another troubled romance, West Side Story, in which she falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. This urban retelling of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet proved to be a hit. Wood did all her own dancing in this popular musical, but her singing was done by Marni Nixon, a Broadway performer.
Mirroring her own life story in a way, Wood played the title character in 1962's Gypsy, the musical about stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Rosalind Russell co-starred as her domineering stage mother who drove her daughter to perform.
Wood earned a lot of press not just for her acting roles, but for her personal life.
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