From scene-stealing child star to sexy ingénue, Natalie Wood captured the hearts of millions on and off the screen with her infectious laugh and enchanting eyes.
One of Hollywood’s most beloved icons, the petite brunette beauty gave us some of the most emotionally charged performances in cinematic history in films including Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story. It’s been over 35 years since Wood’s tragic and untimely death, but her star power has stayed.
Wood would have turned 78 on July 20. To honor her, here are 15 interesting facts you may not know about the brilliant actress who could make audiences laugh, cry and sympathize.
- She made her screen debut at the tender age of four. She was in the film for only 15 seconds, but the director saw something special in her.
- By the time she was 14, she appeared in over 20 films and was the breadwinner for her family.
- She wasn’t a fan of her well-known stage name. Family and friends called her by her birth name, Natasha.
- She always wore large bracelets on her left wrist to cover a bone protrusion from a traumatic accident that occurred while filming The Green Promise (1949).
- She was one of the few Hollywood studio-system stars to make the successful transition from child star to adult actress.
- She was close friends with Robert Redford, who acted as best man in her second wedding
- Before the age of 25, she received three Best Actress Academy Award nominations: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Splendor in the Grass (1962) and Love with the Proper Stranger
- She married the love of her life, actor Robert Wagner, twice. First in 1957 and again in 1972.
- Her signature scent was gardenia. She fell in love with the smell when she starred in a picture with Barbara Stanwyck as a child. When filming wrapped, Stanwyck gave Wood a bottle of the perfume as a parting gift. She wore the scent the rest of her life.
- Her favorite actress was Vivien Leigh, whose performance in A Streetcar Named Desire inspired Wood’s acting and marked a turning point in her career.
- She spoke Russian and English.
- She was always deathly afraid of water after almost drowning while filmingThe Green Promiseas a child.
- Natalie’s mother warned her that her death would be by dark waters
- She drowned off the coast of Catalina Island at the age of 38 on November 29, 1981, while on a weekend trip boat with her husband, Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken
- Her death is still under investigation after all these years, but no foul play has been suspected.
Although Natalie left the world far too soon, her effervescent spirit lives on through her films. Fall in love with her all over again with some of her greatest performances in the following movies: