Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents were Russian immigrants who barely spoke English, but they changed the family name to Gurdin after becoming US citizens. When she was just 4 years old she appeared as an extra in her first movie, Happy Land, with her mother. Convinced her daughter had that special screen presence, Maria moved her family to Los Angeles and changed Natalie's named to Natalie Wood. Although she would eventually go on to appear in over 50 movies, she is probably best known for her role as little Susan Walker in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street.
The beautiful screen legend retained her star status as a teenager and made a smooth transition to grown-up roles, thanks to films such as 1955s “Rebel Without a Cause,” in which she starred alongside James Dean. Natalie also has a successful partnership with Max Factor after this movie with Dean, when she modeled for them from 1955-1958.
Her love life was in constant state of upheaval. Robert Wagner was her first husband in 1957. Natalie discovered that juggling the fame of her movie-star lifestyle with her desire to lead a private life would be too much and the couple divorced. Natalie and Robert fell in, out and in love again. Their nine-year second marriage was tragically cut short by a boating accident.
Wood was sailing off of Santa Catalina Island with her husband Robert Wagner and their friend, Christopher Walken, when she disappeared one evening, supposedly while trying to get into a dinghy. Wood’s body washed ashore the next morning and the cause of death was determined as drowning.
I've had a long standing fascination with Natalie, here is one of my collages that I did based on her.