People we love: Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko), July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981

Born on this day in 1938.

Natalie Wood may have been my first crush. Although I can’t remember whether I first saw her in Gypsy, West Side Story or The Great Race.

She was born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents. She made her film debut at the age of five in Happy Land and had a couple of other roles. But her first major film rol was at the age of eight when she appeared in the 1947 Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street.

Her best known role probably remains as Maria in West Side Story. Although soprano Marni Nixon provided the vocals.

Wood’s two marriages to Robert Wagner (1957-1962 and 1972 until her death in 1981) were highly publicized. She was married to Richard Gregson from 1969-1972.

Wood drowned on a weekend trip to Santa Catalina Island, California. While initially ruled as an accident, following autopsy reports, the L.A. County Coroner changed the official cause of death from “accident” to “undetermined” earlier this month.

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