Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Natalie Wood - Classic Movie Goddess Of The Month Part 1
... ia Zakharenko. Her parents changed their surname to the less cumbersome "Gurdin", and by the age of 4 she was billed as Natasha Gurdin. Her mother tightly managed and controlled the young girl's career and personal life from her start in films at the age of five. She starred in multiple films as a child including Miracle on 34th Street in 1947. Her father is described by Wood's biographers as a passive alcoholic who went along with his wife's demands. Her sister, Lana Wood, is also an actress, notably a Bond girl, and was a Playboy playmate.
At 16, Natalie was awarded the role of Judy in Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause, co-starring James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Dennis Hopper, signaling the start of her adult acting career. Most biographers claim that she slept with Ray and Hopper. Wood was one of the relatively few child stars to make a successful transition to adult stardom. By the time she was 28, she was already a three-time Oscar nominee, with nominations for Rebel Without a Cause, Splendor in the Grass and Love With the Proper Stranger.Another of her widely noted films was the Leonard Bernstein musical West Side Story, in which she played Maria. Wood was initially signed to do her own singing but in the end she was dubbed by professional singer Marni Nixon, which is said to have caused her disappointment. Nonetheless, she enjoyed worldwide celebrity, comparable to that of Elizabeth Taylor. As a restless on-screen companion of James Dean and an off-screen date of Elvis Presley, she was much admired and envied by the young girls of the day. One of her judgments of Elvis was, "He can sing but he can’t do much else." She married actor Robert Wagner in 1957 but divorced him in 1962.
After this she starred in Sex and the Single Girl (1964) and The Great Race (1965), which were poorly received. She delivered some of her best work in years by playing southern depression-era teens with big dreams in the similar films Inside Daisy Clover (1965) and This Property is Condemned (1966), both of which co-starred Robert Redford and earned her Golden Globe nominations. Although they were not box-office hits upon release, many consider the latter to be Natalie's greatest performance. In addition, her personal life was also suffering after her breakup with Warren Beatty and her suicide attempt in November of 1966. She began seeing a psychiatrist and stopped working for 3 years. She turned down opportunities to star in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Barefoot in the Park(1967) and Goodbye, Columbus (1969) among others, and later regretted her decisions. In 1969, Natalie starred as a swinger in the hit film Bob & Carol & Alice & Ted (1969). She played Carol, the trophy wife of Bob, who is swapped with Alice to have sex with Ted. The film embraced the sexual revolution of the hippie era and increased Natalie's star status. Her salary for the film was a record-breaking $3 million after she was given a percentage of the film's profits. In addition to her movie success, her personal life was improving as well. On Friday, May 30th, 1969, 30-year old Natalie married British producer Richard Gregson after a year-and-a-half of dating. Within a few months, Natalie was pregnant.
On Tuesday, September 29th, 1970, she gave birth to a daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner. She would wind up divorcing Gregson in 1972. Natalie's film output dwindled during the 70's as she spent more time with her family. She did appear in such films as Peeper and Meteor, but mainly did a lot of TV appearances such as the TV remake of From Here To Eternity and guest spots on shows such as Switch and Hart to Hart. She would remarry Robert Wagner in 1972. They remained married until her untimely death in 1981. On the night of Sunday, November 29th, 1981, she was sailing on the yacht she shared with her husband, Robert and their friend Walken, when Natalie fell in the ocean and drowned. She was 43 years old.