Born in San Francisco on July 20, 1938, Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko Gurdin became Natalie Wood and began her career as a child actress. She made her film debut in the 1943 film Happy Land, which was filmed in Sonoma County, Calif., where Natalie and her parents lived immediately after her birth.
Wood appeared in 56 films and television roles from her childhood to adult years, including Miracle on 34th Street, The Star, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Rebel Without A Cause, Marjorie Morningstar, Splendor In The Grass, Gypsy, Daisy Clover, Love With The Proper Stranger, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and Brainstorm–which was her last film role.
Sadly, on the morning of Nov. 29, 1981, while on a weekend boat trip with her husband, actor Robert Wagner and her Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, Wood’s body was discovered one mile away from her and husband’s boat on Santa Catalina Island. Her death was ruled an accident by drowning and hypothermia. On Jan. 14, 2013, the L.A. County coroner’s office re-opened Wood’s case and stated that some of the bruises found on Wood’s body may have been sustained before she went into the water, but it could not be determined.