Actress. Most remembered for her role of Susan Walker in "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947), a Christmas classic movie. She appeared in over 56 movies for the silver screen and television, and was nominated three times for an Oscar (she never won). She was born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, of Russian emigrants in San Francisco, California. Natalie won a bit part at age 4 in a movie, "Happy Land" (1943), then being shot in her Santa Rosa neighborhood. The family then moved to Los Angeles, hoping to land more film roles for her, but her second role did not come until 1946, when she appeared in "Tomorrow is Forever." In 1947, she won the role of Susan Walker in "Miracle on 34th Street," and began a successful career as a child star, appearing in 18 films. In 1955, she played in "Rebel Without a Cause", the famous James Dean movie, and won an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She played opposite John Wayne in "The Searchers" (1956) and in "Kings Go Forth" (1958). Roles continued to come to her. She appeared in "Splendor in the Grass" (1961), West Side Story (1961), as Gypsy Rose Lee in "Gypsy" (1962), and in "Love with a Proper Stranger" (1963), for which she earned her third academy award nomination. She had earned a second nomination for an academy award as best actress for "Splendor in the Grass." In 1966, the Harvard Lampoon voted her the year's worst actress, and she made Harvard history by appearing at the celebration to accept the award (she was the first person ever to appear in person to accept their award). After filming "This Property is Condemned" (1966), she stayed away from films for 3 years, returning to play the role of Carol Sanders in "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" (1969). After that, she made a few appearances on television, but spent most of her time with her family. Her only major role until 1980 was in the television mini-series "From Here to Eternity." In 1981, she began work on "Brainstorm" (released in 1983), but she did not live to see it finished. While sailing on her yacht off Santa Catalina Island with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their friend, Christopher Walken, she disappeared one night, supposedly while trying to get into a dinghy. Her body was found just off shore the next morning, and the circumstances of her death have never been fully determined. The cause of death was determined as drowning. In a book written by her actress sister, Lana Wood, Natalie was portrayed as insecure and unhappy in life. She was married three times, first to Robert Wagner (28 Dec 1957 to 27 April 1962, divorced), then to Richard Gregson (30 May 1969 to 1 August 1971) with whom she had a daughter, Natasha. After discovering Gregson was having an affair, she divorced him and soon remarried her first husband, Robert Wagner, again on 16 July 1972. They had a daughter, Courtney Brooke Wagner, in 1974.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
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