“Stardom is only a byproduct of acting. I don’t think being a movie star is a good enough reason for existing.” (Natalie Wood)
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Few actresses have ever gotten the kind of career start that Natalie Wood did during the 1950s. After appearing in film and on TV as a child, Wood broke out by appearing in the classic Rebel Without a Cause alongside James Dean in 1955, despite the fact she was still just 15 years old. She earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for that role, one of three Academy Award nominations she would rack up before the age of 25. That included starring in Splendor in the Grass (1961), West Side Story (1961), and Gypsy (1962). Altogether, she was in over 50 films.
Given that she was a successful actress for several decades, it’s no surprise that Wood generated a lot of press during her career, and her personal life in particular was tabloid fodder. When she married star actor Robert Wagner, they had one of Hollywood’s most famous and most successful marriages. But Wood was also notorious for relying on psychoanalysts, to the extent that she would become heavily reliant on constantly having access to one.
People were also caught by surprise when Wood retired after the birth of her daughter in 1970, and unfortunately, that has contributed to the fact that she is best remembered today for her mysterious drowning in 1981.