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Natalie Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko; Russian: Наталья Николаевна Захаренко;July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981) was an American film and television actress best known for her screen roles in Miracle on 34th Street, Splendor in the Grass, Rebel Without a Cause, and West Side Story. After first working in films as a child, Wood became a successful Hollywood star as a young adult, receiving three Academy Award nominations before she was 25 years old.
Wood began acting in movies at the age of four and at age eight was given a co-starring role in the classic Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street.As a teenager, her performance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She starred in the musical films West Side Story (1961) and Gypsy (1962), and received Academy Award for Best Actress nominations for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963).
At age 43, Wood drowned near Santa Catalina Island, California at the time her last film, Brainstorm (1983), was in production with co-star Christopher Walken. Her death was declared an accident for 31 years; in 2012 after a new investigation the cause was reclassified as "undetermined".
During the making of her last film Brainstorm, Wood died by drowning while on a weekend boat trip to Santa Catalina Island, California, with her husband Robert Wagner, Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, and the boat's captain, Dennis Davern. Many facts surrounding her drowning are unknown, because no one admitted seeing how she entered the water. Wood's body was discovered by authorities at 8 am on November 29, 1981, one mile away from the boat, with a small inflatable dinghy found beached nearby. According to Wagner, when he went to bed, Wood was not there. The autopsy report revealed that Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as an abrasion on her left cheek.Later, in his book Pieces of My Heart, Wagner acknowledged that he had a fight with Wood before she had disappeared.The autopsy also found that Wood's blood alcohol level was 0.14%, and there were traces of two types of medication in her bloodstream: a motion-sickness pill and a painkiller, which increase the effects of alcohol.Following his investigation, Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi ruled her death an accident by drowning and hypothermia.According to the coroner, Natalie Wood had been drinking and may have slipped while trying to re-board the dinghy.