Natalie Wood: From Child Star To Unsolved Mystery

By | July 31, 2019

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American actress Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), circa 1960. Source: (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Natalie Wood was a famous actress during the mid-1900s who rose to fame at an early age. She is known for her starring roles in Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story. She is also remembered for the mystery surrounding her untimely death in 1981.

Wood was born Natalie Zackharenko in San Francisco, California, on July 20, 1938. Her parents were Russian immigrants who later changed their surname to Gurdin, making Wood’s legal name Natasha Gurdin. She appeared in her first film, Happy Land, in 1943, but did not begin going by the stage name Natalie Wood until her role in the 1946 drama, Tomorrow Is Forever. Her first starring role came at the age of nine when she played the young girl who questions the existence of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

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Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Source: (

In 1955, she starred with James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause and earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance. This was followed in 1956 by The Searchers, in which she worked alongside John Wayne. As she got older, Natalie Wood became famous not only for her movies, but also for her relationships with other stars, including Dennis Hopper, Nicky Hilton, and Elvis Presley. She married for the first time in 1957, at the age of eighteen, to actor Robert Wagner. However, the marriage was short-lived, and the couple divorced in 1962.