Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2. Natalie Wood

"I think Natalie, underneath everything, was a very sweet, genuinely down-to-earth person who was slightly coloured by the warped life of being a star at such an early age. But she herself, as a human being, shone through that. She was a real person"
-Robert Redford

Bright, spunky, brave and lovely, Natalie Wood captivated audiences from the age of five. She was beautiful, but possessed a raw talent, her performances achingly real, Natalie became an actress millions of young women identified with. Her ability to make her characters 'real', often came from her own experiences, in a life that was not always easy, but which she was eventual able to make the best of.

Natalie was born, Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko. And for the rest of her life was torn between her true identity as 'Natasha' (her childhood nickname) and her film star persona, 'Natalie Wood'. She was brave enough to seek out roles which challenged her as an actress and defied Hollywood conventions.

Her parents were Russian immigrants, and her mother was the ultimate stage mother. She pushed Natalie into films at a young age were she had to change her name. As a young girl she gained early success in films such as, Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Upon reaching her teens Natalie struggled for independence not only from her mother, but also from the childish film roles she was given. This changed when she was cast next to James Dean in the classic film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Natalie proved her talent as a serious actress and found further success in Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, Love with the Proper Stranger and This Property is Condemned. Films in which she starred alongside Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen and Robert Redford. During the seventies she took more television roles, sometimes in collaboration with her husband Robert Wagner. At the age of forty three Natalie mysteriously and tragically drowned whilst on the family yacht with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken aboard.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that Natalie was so happy at the time of her death, having put her troubled past behind her she was embracing her role as a wife and mother, pursing acting opportunities in the theatre. Natalie has often been defined by her death, or by her famous leading men, but she was a brilliant and capable actress in her own right. Her determination and spirit saw Natalie rise above her own circumstances, she truly was a remarkable woman.

"The times that I have done something that I didn't respond to emotionally right away, it's generally not worked out too well"
-Natalie Wood

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