Natalie Wood’s life seemed like a Hollywood dream before she mysteriously died in a suspicious accident. However, the actress’s upbringing was just as bitter as the tragic ending of her glorious life.
Natalie Wood’s child actor to Hollywood starlet story is inspirational to many who want to break into the industry. The actress successfully transitioned into a respected actress during one of the most cutthroat periods in entertainment.
Many credit Wood’s stunning looks for her ability to break through in Hollywood, but her secret weapon was much different. Wood had her mother, Maria Gurdin, as the ace up her sleeve for her movie star career.
Natalie Wood posing for a portrait, 1960 | Source: Getty Images
Wood’s mother was born in Siberia but fled her native land during the Russian Revolution and ended up in California. As an immigrant, Gurdin had to quickly adopt a sense of ambition to make it in America.
Consequently, Gurdin ended up noticing the harsh contrast between her life and that of the movies presented by the Hollywood machine. As a result, she decided that she would get that life by making her daughter a star.
Wood was only five when her mother thrust her into the brutal entertainment industry. The Siberian immigrant reportedly instructed Wood to sit on director Irving Pichel’s lap, and the rest was history.
Little Wood got her first role in “Happy Land,” thanks to her mom’s forwardness. However, Pichel tried to warn the stage mom against pushing her young daughter into an industry he thought was no good for children.
Instead of taking the film director’s advice, Gurdin decided to move her entire family to Hollywood. She was convinced that her beautiful, dark-eyed daughter would be a movie star, no matter the cost.
When Wood landed a role as a war orphan in “Tomorrow Is Forever,” the young actress could not cry on cue just yet. Nevertheless, her mother, who was eager for Wood to succeed, made it happen for the movie.
Reports state that the keen mom took Wood aside, tore a live butterfly in front of her, and sent her back on set. The result was a young child who sobbed hysterically enough to be shot by a film camera.
Although Gurdin’s approach with Wood was harsh, it sped up the process of making her a quick learner. Wood quickly grew sensitive and eager to please, thus becoming one of the most cooperative actresses at the time.
The actress was so precise from the relentless drilling from her mom that she earned the moniker “one take Natalie.” However, even after being recognized as one of the best with an entire team, her mom still micromanaged her.
Many of those close to Wood could see the effect her mother’s incessant instruction had on her even in adulthood. The actress was able to keep many things hidden from those around her, thanks to her coaching.
Gurdin allegedly encouraged Wood to entertain much older Hollywood VIPs, despite not letting her date her high school sweetheart. Wood also learned to be silent about many of the alleged interactions as per her mom’s instruction.
As a result, Wood could stay mum about her husband Robert Wagner’s alleged affair with another man. Instead, she took the blame for her divorce after rumors of her having an affair emerged.
Although it is sad to think that Wood cared about her image so much, that detail about her may be very useful today. Her sister, Lana, has used it for the ongoing investigation regarding Wood’s death.
Officials found Wood floating off the shore of Santa Catalina Island in her nightgown one morning. Investigations concluded that the star had passed away in a drowning accident the night before.
However, Lana put forward that Wood would never leave a house without being fully dressed up. Since authorities found Wood in a flannel nightgown, authorities have had more reason to investigate her passing further.
The actress’s deeply upsetting upbringing and life until her mysterious death are explored in an HBO documentary. Her daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, produced the film that gives fans more insight into Wood.
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