Lana made her acting debut playing the younger version of Natalie's character, ‘Debbie Edwards,’ in the 1956 'Technicolor VistaVision' Western feature 'The Searchers,' based on Alan Le May's 1954 novel. She then made her initial TV appearances as ‘Becky Coldwell’ in an episode of the 'CBS' Western 'Have Gun – Will Travel' and as ‘Marilyn Harwick’ in the 'ABC-TV' sitcom 'The Real McCoys,' both aired in 1958.
Lana earned a bit of prominence in the beginning of the 1960s. She appeared as ‘Mary’ in the 1962 drama film 'Five Finger Exercise.' In 1965, she signed a contract with ‘20th Century Fox' and was cast as the Southern belle ‘Eula Johnson’ in the 'ABC-TV' drama 'The Long, Hot Summer' (1965–1966). She then appeared in another significant TV role, ‘Sandy Webber’ in the 'ABC' primetime soap opera 'Peyton Place' (1966–1967).
Lana appeared as ‘Helen Todd,’ co-starring with John Saxon and Mary Ann Mobley, in the 1968 'Eastmancolor' comedy 'For Singles Only.’ She played ‘Eagan Ryan’ in 'Black Water Gold' and ‘Katie Flavin’ in 'The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again,' both of which were shown as part of the 'ABC Movie of the Week' segment in 1970.
Lana guest-starred as ‘Fran Harper’ in the brief run of the 'CBS' crime drama 'O'Hara, U.S. Treasury.' In 1970, the founder and editor-in-chief of 'Playboy' magazine, Hugh Hefner, offered her a photo shoot for the magazine, to which she agreed. The photos, along with a few of Lana's poetry, were then published in a four-page layout of the April 1971 issue of the magazine.
The 'Playboy' pictures caught the attention of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and they cast Lana as “Bond girl” ‘Plenty O'Toole,’ a ravishing gold digger, in the seventh ‘James Bond’ film, 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971). A scene where a half-naked ‘Plenty’ gets thrown out of a hotel window but lands in a pool eventually became one of Lana's most-talked-about movie scenes ever.
Lana starred as ‘Carolyn Schneider’ in the 1972 drama film 'A Place Called Today.' She appeared in the ‘NBC’ anthology 'Police Story,' which featured many known figures from the fields of entertainment and sports, radio personalities, and former real-life cops from the 1960s and the 1970s.
Mostly known for playing bold characters with high sex appeal, Lana played a markedly different role when she was cast as ‘Kathleen’ in the 'Disney Studios' adaptation of Marguerite Henry's children's historical novel 'Justin Morgan Had a Horse' (1972).
Lana was seen as ‘Smitty’ in the 1976 'ABC-TV' women-in-prison film 'Nightmare in Badham County.' She played Ben Johnson's on-screen daughter, ‘Beth Coulter,’ in the 1977 Western adventure movie 'Grayeagle.'
She played ‘Yolanda’ in the ‘CBS’ superhero films 'Captain America' and 'Captain America II: Death Too Soon,' both released in 1979. She then stepped into film production, as an assistant to the executive producer of the 1981 TV movie 'Born to Be Sold.'
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Lana starred as ‘Lisa,’ Don Galloway's on-screen wife, in the horror 'Satan's Mistress.’ Her character was portrayed as a sexually frustrated woman, regularly encountering a ghost from the other side. The film was shot in 1980 but was released in 1982. It was Lana's final film appearance, and she retired from acting following its release.
After 'Satan's Mistress,' Lana worked as an associate producer for the 1983 'CBS' mystery film 'Murder Me, Murder You.' She then co-produced the 2004 two-part 'ABC' movie 'The Mystery of Natalie Wood,' which was loosely based on 'Natasha: the Biography of Natalie Wood,' authored by Suzanne Finstad, and 'Natalie & R.J.' by Warren G. Harris. The film featured Nathalie Roy as Lana, while Natalie’s character was played by Justine Waddell.
Lana made a brief return to acting in 2008 but mostly appeared in low-budget films. In the 2009 Christian film 'The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith,' she played the prominent role of ‘Tani.’ Author Steve Alten sketched a character for Lana in his book 'Meg: Hell's Aquarium' (2009).
Two of Lana's final acting projects were the 2010 short 'Last Wish' (as ‘Helen’) and the 2011 documentary 'When Happy Met Froggie.'
Lana has written a memoir, 'Natalie, A Memoir by Her Sister,' which was released in 1984.
Family & Personal Life
Lana's parents were Russians and émigrés of Ukraine. They had fled Russia after the ‘Communist’ takeover. Following this, they settled in the USA and changed their surname to ''Gurdin.'' Lana's parents changed Natalie's surname to "Wood," honoring her director Irving Pichel's friend Sam Wood. Lana later carried on the surname after she made her debut.
Lana has been married six times. She was first married to Jack Wrather Jr., from 1962 until the annulment of the marriage in 1963. Following this, she married Karl Brent. They divorced a year later, in 1965.
In 1966, Lana married her on-screen abusive husband from 'Peyton Place,' Stephen Oliver. The marriage lasted approximately a month. Her fourth husband was Dr. Stanley William Vogel. They divorced in 1968.
Lana's only child, Evan Taylor Smedley Maldonado (August 11, 1974–July 18, 2017), was from her fifth husband, Richard Smedley. They got married in 1972 and divorced in 1976. She finally married Allan G. Balter in 1979. They divorced in 1980.
Lana has dated many of her colleagues from the industry, such as Dean Stockwell, Adam West, Eddie Fisher, Warren Beatty, Sean Connery, Alain Delon, and Ryan O'Neal. She was in a live-in relationship with actor Alan Feinstein for most of the 1980s.
On the talk show 'Megyn Kelly Today' (2017), Lana openly admitted that she believed Natalie had been "murdered" by her husband, Robert Wagner. She has repeatedly claimed that Natalie had been raped by a powerful Hollywood figure and allegedly assaulted "for hours" at California's 'Chateau Marmont Hotel.'
Lana had to stand on a box while filming scenes with Sean Connery in 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971), because even in high heels, she was too short to fit into the same frame with him.
Two of Lana's deleted scenes from 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971) are now available on DVD. One of those scenes caused her “death” later in the film.
Lana had turned down the offer to play ‘Karen Black’ in 'Easy Rider' (1969).
She was blacklisted after Natalie's death.
Lana had an abortion in 1963.
Lana appeared as ‘Eula’ in the 1965 series ‘The Long, Hot Summer,’ based on the film of the same name released in 1958. The role was played by Lee Remick in the movie version.