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As the L.A. County Sheriff’s investigators say Robert Wagner is a person of interest in the case of Natalie Wood's 1981 mysterious drowning, there's renewed interest in the late star's life. She's seen here at 4 in the Christmas movie that launched her career, 1947's Miracle on 34th Street. Her trademark big brown eyes, flashing at Santa (Edmund Gwenn) were already evident.
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Groomed for stardom by her ambitious Russian mother Maria, Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko) became a teen star with her Oscar-nominated turn in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. Wood then received her second Oscar nod for 1961's Splendor in the Grass, costarring her off-screen lover, Warren Beatty (pictured).
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Warner Bros. starlet Natalie was 18 and had a crush on 26-year-old 20th Century Fox contract player Robert Wagner when she asked their mutual agent to set up a date in 1956. They married a year later, over her mother's objections, but separated in 1961 and divorced in 1962.
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West Side Story couldn't reach the screen without a star attached, so United Artists signed Natalie, slapped on heavy makeup and dubbed her singing voice for the role of Puerto Rican immigrant Maria (seen here with Richard Beymer) in the landmark 1961 movie musical that won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.
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Natalie wed British producer Richard Gregson in 1969, and together they had a daughter, Natasha, in 1970. The couple split 11 months later, supposedly over his indiscretions with her assistant. They divorced in 1972 over objections from Wood's mother, who thought Natalie should stay married for Natasha's sake.
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BACK WITH BOB
After her divorce from Gregson, Natalie resumed her relationship with first husband "R.J." She and Wagner, here with their family in 1976, raised Natasha and their daughter, Courtney Wagner, was born in 1974.
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Despite occasional career stalls, Woods had a knack for revitalizing her star status, as happned with 1969's social comedy about marriage swapping, Bob amp Carol amp Ted amp Alice – though, except for a cameo (as herself) in 1972's The Candidate, Bob amp Carol was Wood's last important movie.
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Wood drowned on Nov. 29, 1981, on a break from shooting the sci-fi movie Brainstorm with Christopher Walken (shown here). The studio edited the film with the footage it already had in the can and released the finished product, to disappointing results, in 1983.
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SPLENDOUR AT SEA
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood's yacht, the Splendour (inset), was docked off Southern California's Catalina Island when Wood fled from it in the dark of night. Her autopsy said she was intoxicated at the time of her death, at age 43.
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