Natalie Wood (July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981) was an American actress.
Wood began acting in movies at the age of four and became a successful child actor in such films as Miracle on 34th Street (1947). A well received performance opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and helped her to make the transition from a child performer. She then starred in the musicals West Side Story (1961) and Gypsy (1962). She also received Academy Award nominations for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963).
Her career continued successfully with films such as Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969). After this she took a break from acting and had two children, appearing in only two theatrical films during the 1970s. She was married to actor Robert Wagner twice, and to producer Richard Gregson. She had one daughter by each: Natasha Gregson and Courtney Wagner. Her younger sister, Lana Wood, is also an actress. Wood starred in several television productions, including a remake of the film From Here to Eternity (1979) for which she won a Golden Globe Award.
In September and October 1981, Wood and Wagner stayed in Raleigh, North Carolina, while Wood did location work for the science-fiction film Brainstorm. Wood then spent most of November in California shooting interior scenes with Christopher Walken and other cast members on the MGM lot in Culver City.
The day after Thanksgiving, Wood, Wagner and Walken went to Catalina Island for the weekend and on the night of November 28, the Wagners' yacht (Splendour) was anchored in Isthmus Cove. Also on board was the boat's skipper, Dennis Davern, who had worked for the couple for many years. The official theory is that Wood either tried to leave the yacht or to secure a dinghy from banging against the hull when she accidentally slipped and fell overboard. When her body was found, she was wearing a down jacket, nightgown, and socks. A woman on a nearby yacht said she heard calls for help at around midnight. The cries lasted for about 15 minutes and were answered by someone else who said, "Take it easy. We'll be over to get you." "It was laid back," the witness recalled. "There was no urgency or immediacy in their shouts." There was much partying going on in the area, though, and while it has never been proven that the woman calling for help was, indeed, Natalie Wood, no other person ever has been identified or come forward as having called out for help on that night. An investigation by Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi resulted in an official verdict of accidental drowning. Noguchi concluded Wood had drunk "seven or eight" glasses of wine and was intoxicated when she died. Noguchi also wrote that he found Wood's fingernail scratches on the side of the rubber dinghy indicating she was trying to get in. Wood was 43 at the time of her death and is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
On March 11, 2010 Wood's sister Lana Wood decided to re-open the case of her death.
At the funeral, at least a thousand spectators, along with scores of photographers and reporters from around the world, were spread out behind the cemetery walls. Among the guests at her funeral were Laurence Olivier, who flew there from London. Also there were Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, David Niven, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelly, and director Elia Kazan.