Saturday, November 19, 2011

Susan from Miracle on 34th Street played by Natalie Wood

Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko was born July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, California.  Her parents were Russian immigrants.  When Natalia began acting, the studio she worked for changed her name to Natalie Wood.  Her younger sister Svetlana also an actress, used the stage name Wood and was known as Lana Wood.  Natalie is best known for her role as little Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street.  She also starred in Rebel Without A Cause with James Dean, West Side Story, and played Gypsy Rose Lee in the film Gypsy.  Natalie was married to actor Robert Wagner with whom she co-starred in several films.

Natalie Wood played the young Susan Walker who didn't believe in Santa Clause in Miracle on 34th Street 1947

Natalie landed her first minor role in the 1943 film The Moon Is Down starring Cedric Hardwicke, Henry Travers, Peter van Eyck, Lee J. Cobb, and Dorris Bowdon.  This was quickly followed by another minor role in Happy Land starring Don Ameche, Ann Rutherford, Frances Dee, Harry Carey, Harry Morgan, Richard Crane, and Cara Williams.

In 1946, Wood landed her first credited film role in Tomorrow Is Forever co-starring Claudette Colbert, Orson Welles, George Brent, Richard Long, and Lucile Watson.  That same year she also starred in The Bride Wore Boots with Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Cummings, Diana Lynn, Peggy Wood, Willie Best, Patric Knowles, and Robert Benchley. 

It was in 1947 that little Natatlie Wood landed the starring role as Susan Walker, the little girl who didn't believe in Santa Clause in the Holiday film Miracle on 34th Street. She co-starred with Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Gene Lockhart. The film is still a popular choice of movie lovers at Christmas time to this day. That year, Natalie also starred in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Edna Best, Robert Coote, and Anna Lee.

Natalie Wood (Susan Walker) and Edmund Gwenn (Santa Clause) in Miracle on 34th Street 1947

Wood would go on to star in Driftwood co-starring Ruth Warrick, Walter Brennan, Charlotte Greenwood, Dean Jagger, Margaret Hamilton, and Jerome Cowan (1947); Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! co-starring June Haver, Anne Revere, Lon McCallister, Walter Brennan, Robert Karnes, Tom Tully, and Henry Hull (1948); Chicken Every Sunday co-starring Dan Dailey, Celeste Holm, Alan Young, Colleen Townsend, and William Frawley (1949); The Green Promise co-starring Marguerite Chapman, Walter Brennan, Robert Paige, Connie Marshall, Ted Donaldson, and Robert Ellis (1949); and Father Was a Fullback co-starring Fred MacMurray, Maureen O'Hara, Betty Lynn, Thelma Ritter, Jim Backus, Rudy Vallee, and Buddy Martin (1949).

Natalie Wood circa 1950

Natalie started off the 1950s starring in No Sad Songs for Me co-starring Margaret Sullavan, John McIntire, Wendell Corey, Ann Doran, and Viveca Lindfors (1950); Our Very Own co-starring Ann Blyth, Farley Granger, Jane Wyatt, Joan Evans, Donald Cook, Martin Milner, and Ann Dvorak (1950); Never a Dull Moment co-starring Irene Dunne, Fred MacMurray, Andy Devine, William Demarest, Ann Doran, Gigi Perreau, and Jack Kirkwood (1950); and The Jackpot co-starring James Stewart, Barbara Hale, Patricia Medina, James Gleason, Alan Mowbray, and Fred Clark (1950).

In 1951, Natalie starred in Dear Brat with Mona Freeman, Billy De Wolfe, Mary Philips, Edward Arnold, and Lyle Bettger; The Blue Veil co-starring Jane Wyman, Charles Laughton, Agnes Moorehead, Joan Blondell, Richard Carlson, Alan Napier, and Vivian Vance; The Rose Bowl Story co-starring Marshall Thompson, Vera Miles, Richard Rober, Jim Backus, Ann Doran, and Keith Larsen; Just for You co-starring Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman, Robert Arthur, Ethel Barrymore, and Cora Witherspoon; and The Star co-starring Bette Davis, Sterling Hayden, Minor Watson, and Warner Anderson.

It was in 1953 that Natalie landed her first recurring role in a series, although it was only a few episodes of The Pride of the Family.  She played the role of Ann Morrison and co-starred with Larry J. Blake, Paul Hartman, Fay Wray, Joey D. Vieira, and Robert Hyatt.  She appeared in six episodes of the show over two years until it ended in 1954.

Cast of the television show The Pride of the Family

During her run on The Pride of the Family, she played the recurring role of June on the television series Mayor of the Town.  She co-starred with Kathleen Freeman (Marilly), Thomas Mitchell (Mayor Thomas Russell), Jean Byron (Minnie), David Saber (Butch), and Tudor Owen (Joe Ainsley).  She appeared in four episodes of the show in 1954.

After The Pride of the Family and Mayor of the Town, Natalie appeared in mostly television shows for a couple of years with a couple of films mixed in between.  Appearances such as The Public Defender starring Reed Hadley, Robert Bice, Gladys Holland, James Flavin, and Steven Geray (1954); Studio 57 starring Morris Ankrum, Eleanor Audley, Jean Byron, Pauline Moore, and Gay Lynn (1954); The Silver Chalice co-starring Virginia Mayo, Pier Angeli, Lorne Greene, Jack Palance, Paul Newman, E.G. Marshall, Joseph Wiseman, and Walter Hampden (1954); G.E. True Theater: I'm a Fool with Eddie Albert, James Dean, and Fiona Hale (1954); The Ford Television Theatre: Too Old for Dolls co-starring Joyce Coates, Laraine Day, Tommy Cook, and Franchot Tone (1955); and One Desire co-starring Anne Baxter, Rock Hudson, William Hopper, Julie Adams, and Carl Benton Reid (1955).

Natalie Wood circa mid 1950s

In 1955, Natalie landed a starring role in Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean.  She also co-starred with Ann Doran, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Dennis Hopper, Corey Allen, and Rochelle Hudson.

Natalie Wood and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause 1955

After Rebel Without a Cause, Natalie went on to appear in another episode of G.E. True Theater, Feathertop with Carleton Carpenter, Dick Elliott, and Irene Tedrow (1955); Studio One in Hollywood: Miracle at Potter's Farm co-starring Betty Furness, Luke Halpin and Frank McHugh (1955); and Kings Row starring Sydney Chaplin, Margaret Field, Claire Kelly, and Dennis Hopper (1956).

In 1956 Woods starred with John Wayne in The Searchers.  Other cast members include Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Jeffrey Hunter, Hank Worden, Ken Curtis, Olive Carey, and Harry Carey Jr.

Natalie Wood in The Searchers 1956

Woods would go on to star in A Cry in the Night with Edmond O'Brien, Brian Donlevy, Mary Lawrence, Richard Anderson, Anthony Caruso, Raymond Burr, Tina Carver, and George J. Lewis (1956); The Burning Hills co-starring Tab Hunter, Skip Homeier, Claude Akins, Earl Holliman, and Eduard Franz (1956); The Girl He Left Behind co-starring Tab Hunter, James Garner, Jessie Royce Landis, Jim Backus, David Janssen, Alan King, and Murray Hamilton (1956); Bombers B-52 co-starring Karl Malden, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Marsha Hunt (1957); Marjorie Morningstar co-starring Gene Kelly, Claire Trevor, Martin Milner, Edd Byrnes, Ruta Lee, and Everett Sloane (1958); and Kings Go Forth starring Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Leora Dana, Ann Codee, and Karl Swenson (1958).

After a two year hiatus from the screen, Natalie started off the 1960s starring in Cash McCall co-starring James Garner, Nina Foch, E.G. Marshall, and Dean Jagger (1960); All the Fine Young Cannibals co-starring Robert Wagner, George Hamilton, Susan Kohner, Pearl Bailey, and Anne Seymour (1960); and Splendor in the Grass co-starring Warren Beatty, Barbara Loden, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, and Gary Lockwood (1961).

In 1961, Natalie Wood played another memorable role as Maria in West Side Story co-starring George Chakiris, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, and Tucker Smith.

Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story 1961

This notable role was immediately followed by another when Natalie played the role of Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy in 1962.  She co-starred with Rosalind Russell, Karl Malden, Ann Jillian, Morgan Brittany, Paul Wallace, Parley Baer, and Betty Bruce.

Natalie Wood played the role of Gypsy Rose Lee in the 1962 film Gypsy

Wood went on to star in Love with the Proper Stranger co-starring Steve McQueen, Harvey Lembeck, and Edie Adams (1963);  Sex and the Single Girl co-starring Tony Curtis, Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Leslie Parrish, and Larry Storch (1964); The Great Race co-starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Vivian Vance, Keenan Wynn, Dorothy Provine, Denver Pyle, Ross Martin, and Larry Storch (1965); and Inside Daisy Clover co-starring Christopher Plummer, Roddy McDowall, Robert Redford, Katharine Bard, Ruth Gordon, and Harold Gould (1965).

Natalie finish out the 1960s starring in This Property Is Condemned starring Robert Redford, Kate Reid, Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, Dabney Coleman, Mary Badham, and Jon Provost (1966); Penelope starring Ian Bannen, Peter Falk, Dick Shawn, Lila Kedrova, and Jonathan Winters (1966); and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice co-starring Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon, and Elliott Gould (1969).

After a five year break from films, Wood returned starring in The Affair co-starring Robert Wagner, Bruce Davison, Pat Harrington Jr., Jamie Smith-Jackson, and Kent Smith (1973); Peeper co-starring Michael Caine, Kitty Winn, Michael Constantine, Dorothy Adams, Timothy Carey, and Thayer David (1975); and an episode of Switch starring Robert Wagner, Eddie Albert, Sharon Gless, and Charlie Callas (1975).

Natalie starred in the television movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof co-starring Laurence Olivier, Robert Wagner, Maureen Stapleton, and Jack Hedley (1976).  In 1978 she appeared in another episode of Switch with Jason Kincaid, JoAnna Cameron, Ramon Bieri, and Eddie Firestone (1975).

Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1976

In 1979 Natalie starred as Karen Holmes in the epic television mini-series From Here to Eternity.  She co-starred with William Devane, Steve Railsback, Kim Basinger, Peter Boyle, Roy Thinnes, Joe Pantoliano, Rick Hurst, and Andy Griffith.  Also that year Natalie starred in The Cracker Factory with Perry King, Shelley Long, Peter Haskell, Marian Mercer, Shane Butterworth, Vivian Blaine, and Juliet Mills; the TV show Hart to Hart starring her husband Robert Wagner as well as Stefanie Powers and Lionel Stander; and Meteor co-starring Sean Connery, Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Henry Fonda, Trevor Howard, Martin Landau, and Joseph Campanella (1979).

Natalie started off the 1980s starring in The Last Married Couple in America with George Segal, Valerie Harper, Richard Benjamin, Priscilla Barnes, Bob Dishy, Marilyn Sokol, and Dom DeLuise (1980); and The Memory of Eva Ryker co-starring John Alderson, Jean-Pierre Aumont, William Beckley, Morgan Fairchild, Peter Graves, Mel Ferrer, and Ralph Bellamy (1980).

Natalie Wood in Brainstorm 1983

In 1981, Natalie was in the middle of filming Brainstorm with Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson, and Alan Fudge when a tragedy occured.  Natalie had spent the weekend partying with husband Robert Wagner and current co-star Christopher Walken out on the ocean off the California coast.  Natalie went missing on Saturday evening,
November 28th, and after an extensive search, her body was found the next morning, floating in the waters just off of Santa Catalina Island about a mile from where she originally went missing from the yacht.  A small rubber boat was found nearby washed up on the beach which she apparently had fallen out of in the night.  At the time, her death was reported as accidental by local police.  The film Brainstorm was released in 1983, posthumously starring Natalie Wood.  She was 43 years old.

In November of 2011, almost three decades to the day after Natalie Wood's tragic death, police reopened her case as a murder investigation after receiving new information.

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