Natalie’s Splendid Year

PHOTO CREDIT: NATALIE WOOD: CREDIT: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
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PHOTO CREDIT: NATALIE WOOD: CREDIT: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

By ReMIND Magazine

Natalie Wood was hitting her stride as a top actress 60 years ago at barely 23 years of age.

By then, she had made a successful transition from child star (appearing in such films as Miracle on 34th Street) to young adult actress, receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

She next appeared in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), considered one of the most influential films ever made.

She costarred with husband Robert Wagner in All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) and then in 1961 turned to more adult fare, starring in Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass opposite Warren Beatty in his screen debut.

Her portrayal of a tortured young woman would earn her a first leading actress Academy Award nomination. That year she also starred as Maria in West Side Story, the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Even though her singing was voiced by Marni Nixon, West Side Story is considered one of Wood’s best films.

Soon after, she starred in Gypsy (1962), playing burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. She was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe for the role but lost out to Rosalind Russell, who costarred in the movie as Gypsy’s stage mother Rose.

In 1964, Wood would pick up her second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for Love With a Proper Stranger.

Known for her piercing dark eyes and sharp intelligence, 60 years ago Natalie Wood found Hollywood’s doors opened wide for her. Maybe it’s good she got such a gloried start early, as Wood would meet an untimely end at age 43 in a 1981 drowning incident.