A Tribute to Natalie Wood
If Natalie Wood had not drowned in November, 1981, she would have been 73 years old in July 2011. She had already made over 50 theatrical films and TV movies, and was in the midst of a comeback at the time she died. As with all those who die too soon, it’s hard to say what we have lost in the way of great performances.
Born on July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, to Russian parents who barely spoke English, Natasha Nikolaevna Gurdin didn’t seem destined to be a movie star. But at the age of four, after winning an audition in the town of Santa Rosa, where her family was living at the time, she appeared in a film called Happy Land (1943). It was three years until her second film, Tomorrow is Forever (1946), even though her mother moved the family to LA to get closer to the business. The Bride Wore Boots (1946) soon followed, and then her marvelous performance in Miracle On 34th Street (1947) made her a star at the age of nine.
Natalie appeared in quite a few films during the next several years, some of them forgettable, but her role in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) opposite James Dean got her an Academy Award nomination and officially marked her transition from child star to Hollywood actress.Marjorie Morningstar (1958), Splendor In The Grass (1961), West Side Story (1961), Gypsy (1962), and Love With A Proper Stranger (1963) further solidified her reputation, gaining her two more Oscar nominations. But from 1967 until 1972, she appeared in only one film, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), preferring to spend time with her family. Her brief marriage to producer Richard Gregson ended in divorce.
In 1972, two important things happened: She remarried Robert Wagner, whom she had married in 1957 and divorced in 1962, and began appearing on screen again, mostly in TV movies. Though she never reached the heights of her 1960s roles, the key was that she was working again. Her final film, Brainstorm was released in 1983, two years after her death.
Recently, in November 2011, questions have been raised about her death, and more inquiries are being made by the authorities. We will wait to see what they discover, but it has always appeared that there were loose ends remaining in this mystery.
In Parts II-IV of this article you’ll find links to many Web sites devoted to Natalie’s life and films, as well as reviews, posters, photos, and more.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters