Natalie Wood

(1938—1981) American actress

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(1938–1981). Film and television performer. A child actress who grew up to be an even more popular adult star, she appeared in some film musicals and sang in some nonmusicals, although she was usually dubbed. Wood was born in San Francisco, the daughter of a Russian architect and French ballet dancer, and took dance lessons as soon as she could walk. She made her film debut in a bit part in Happy Land (1943) and was immediately noticed and cast in several 1940s movies, most memorably in a major role in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Wood was one of the few kid performers to make the transition into adult roles and appeared in a variety of comedies and dramas up until her premature death by drowning. Although she could not sing, she was cast in two plum musical roles in the 1960s: the Puerto Rican immigrant Maria in West Side Story (1961) and the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy (1962), with her singing dubbed by Marni Nixon in both. She also “sang” in the screen musical Just for You (1952) and the nonmusicals The Great Race (1965) and Inside Daisy Clover (1966). Wood also appeared in television dramas and miniseries. She was married to actor Robert Wagner (1930–). Biographies: Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, Suzanne Finstad (2002); Natalie Wood, Gavin Lambert (2005); Natalie: A Memoir By Her Sister, Lana Wood (1986).

From The Oxford Companion to the American Musical in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music Theatre.

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