Natalie Wood Biography

Natalie Wood was a famous American television and film actress. Check out this biography to get detailed information on her life.

Quick Facts

Birthday: July 20, 1938

Nationality: American

Famous: Actresses American Women

Died At Age: 43

Sun Sign: Cancer

Also Known As: Natasha Gurdin, Natalie Wood Wagner

Born in: San Francisco, California, U.S

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Spouse/Ex-: Richard Gregson (m. 1969–1972), Robert Wagner (m. 1972–1981)

father: Nikolai Stepanovich Zakharenko

mother: Maria Stepanovna

siblings: Lana Wood

children: Courtney Brooke Wagner, Natasha Gregson Wagner

Died on: November 29, 1981

place of death: Santa Catalina Island, California, U.S

U.S. State: California

Cause of Death: Drowning

City: San Francisco, California

More Facts

education: Van Nuys High School

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Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko, popularly known as Natalie Wood, was a famous American film and television actress who appeared in 56 movies in her career. She started out young and started acting at the age of 4. At the age of 8 she acted in one of the most successful films of her life—‘Miracle on 34th Street’. She was also well accepted in the industry as a teen actress with movies like ‘Rebel Without a cause’, ‘West Side Story’, etc. Wood became a successful Hollywood young adult star, receiving three Academy Award nominations before she was 25 years old. The versatility of her acting in these movies paved a smooth way for her to enter into the world of cinema and she won many awards in her acting career, like, National Association of Theatre Owners’ Star of Tomorrow Award, three Golden Globe Awards, Mar del Plata Film Festival Award, etc. Wood always had a troubled personal life, which also affected her professional life from time to time. She was controversially married to her childhood crush and actor Robert Wagner, twice and met her tragically fateful death at the age of 43 in a drowning accident while she was yachting with Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Natalie Wood was born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents--Nikolai Stepanovich Zakharenko and Maria Stepanovna. Her father was a day laborer and carpenter, and her mother was an aspiring actress.
  • Wood was encouraged to pursue performing arts from young age; she was enrolled into ballet class by her mother and at the age of 4 she got an opportunity to act in the movie titled ‘Happy Land’ in 1943.
  • In 1947, Wood signed up with 20th Century Fox studio for her first big role, the Christmas classic ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. The film was responsible in making her one of the top child artists of Hollywood.
  • Wood continued her education with acting as California law required that until the age of 18 actors were supposed to spend at least three hours per day to studies. A teacher was hired to teach her on the sets.
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  • Wood’s first major ingenue role came at the age of 16 with ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ in 1955. She starred along with James Dean and was nominated for an Academy Award for her convincing acting as a mutinous teenager.
  • In the following year, she acted in ‘The Searchers’ along with John Wayne. Although she only played a small role but it was an important one. She also graduated from Van Nuys High School in the same year.
  • Her adult acting career, in spite of going through a rough patch because of various flops that she endured, took off with ‘Splendor in the Grass’ in 1961. She was casted in the movie by director Elia Kazan.
  • That same year, she starred in another distressed love story, ‘West Side Story’, a spin-off of Shakespeare’s Classic ‘Romeo and Juliet’. In the movie, Wood’s character falls in love with a boy from the poor area of the city.
  • Wood’s other movies from the ‘60s include: ‘Gypsy (1962)’, ‘Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)’, ‘The Great Race (1965)’, ‘Inside Daisy Clover (1965)’, ‘This Property Is Condemned (1966)’, ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)’, etc.
  • In 1970, Pregnant with her first child, Wood took semi-retirement as she wanted to pay more attention to her role as a mother.
  • Later on she made television appearances with ‘The Affair (1973)’, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1976)’ and ‘Switch (1978)’.
  • By the late ‘70s, Wood started working more frequently and did movies like: ‘Meteor (1979)’—starring opposite Sean Connery, ‘The Last Married Couple in America (1980)’—a sex comedy, ‘The Cracker Factory (1980)’ and TV series ‘Here to Eternity (1980)’.
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Major Works
  • Wood started out as a child artist, and then starred in teenage movies, which eventually led to her establishment as a serious adult artist, and it was during the ‘60s that her acting career was at its glorious peak.
  • With movies like, ‘West Side Story (1961)’, ‘Gypsy (1962)’, ‘Splendor in the Grass (1961)’, ‘Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)’, etc., she established herself in the industry as a bold and versatile actress.
Awards & Achievements
  • In 1946, she won “Most Talented Young Actress” award for the film ‘Tomorrow Is Forever’
  • In 1957, she won Golden Globe Award in the category - "New Star of the Year – Actress" for the film 'Rebel Without a Cause'.
  • In 1964, she won New York Film Critics Circle Awards in the Best Actress category for the film 'Love with the Proper Stranger'.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Wood married actor Robert Wagner in 1957. She had a huge crush on Wagner since she was a child but finally got to express it when she was 18. The marriage ended in divorce in 1962.
  • In 1969, she married British producer Richard Gregson after they dated for two and a half years. The couple had a daughter together: Natasha Gregson. The couple got divorced in 1972.
  • Wood reconciled with her first husband, Robert Wagner, and remarried him in 1972 and two years later their daughter Courtney Wagner was born. They remained married until her death.
  • Wood died in a drowning accident in 1981 while she was on a weekend boat trip to Santa Catalina Island with her husband, actor Christopher Walken and boat’s captain Dennis Davern. She was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
  • Wood’s autopsy report exposed that Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as an abrasion on her left cheek, and her blood alcohol level was 0.14%. There were traces of two types of medication in her bloodstream: a motion-sickness pill and a painkiller, which increases the effects of alcohol.
  • In 2011, the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, told NBC News that according to him Wood’s husband was responsible for her death. The case was re-opened and Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran revised Wood's death certificate and changed the cause of her death from accidental drowning to "drowning and other undetermined factors".
  • She allegedly had a relationship with director Nicholas Ray, director of ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, when she was 16 and he was 43.
  • A TV film titled ‘The Mystery of Natalie Wood’, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Justine Waddell and Michael Weatherly was released in 2004.
  • At the time of her death, Wood was filming the science fiction film ‘Brainstorm’.

1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

  (Drama, Comedy, Family)

2. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


3. West Side Story (1961)

  (Musical, Thriller, Crime, Romance, Drama)

4. The Searchers (1956)

  (Western, Adventure, Drama)

5. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

  (Drama, Romance)

6. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

  (Thriller, Comedy, Fantasy, Mystery, Drama, Romance)

7. Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)

  (Comedy, Romance, Drama)

8. The Blue Veil (1951)



Golden Globe Awards
1980 Best Actress in a Television Series - Drama From Here to Eternity (1979)
1966 World Film Favorite - Female Winner
1957 Most Promising Newcomer - Female Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

See the events in life of Natalie Wood in Chronological Order

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- Natalie Wood Biography
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Last Updated
- September 14, 2017
Natalie Wood

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