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The 3 Roles That Defined Natalie Wood's Career

By    |   Wednesday, 13 May 2015 04:03 PM

Hollywood starlet Natalie Wood began her acting career when she was just a child, appearing in her first film, “Happy Land,” at the age of 4. Though the role was minor, her parents deemed she was destined for stardom and moved to Los Angeles in hopes of developing her film career. Wood soon became a busy child actress and appeared in more than two dozen films as a child. At the age of 16, she began taking on more mature roles and her career took off.

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1. Wilma Dean Loomis, “Splendor in the Grass” (1961)
Wood appeared as Wilma Dean Loomis in the soapy melodrama “Splendor in the Grass.” Warren Beatty was Wood’s co-star in the film, which was filled with sexual connotations at a time when Hollywood frowned upon the issue.

The plot of the movie is based on two teenagers stuck between their lust for each other and their parent’s efforts to keep them apart. Though the movie never actually depicts a sex scene, there is plenty of build up for the viewer. Loomis eventually ends up in an insane asylum, suffering from “sexual hysteria.”

Writing at Rotten Tomatoes, James Sanford of the Kalamazoo Gazette refers to this role as “probably Wood’s finest hour.”

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2. Judy, “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955)
Wood earned high marks for her role as Judy in the 1955 film about teenage angst, “Rebel Without a Cause.” Wood stars alongside James Dean in this film, where Dean, who plays juvenile delinquent Jim Trask, tries to earn her affections. Eventually Judy (Wood) gives into Trask’s overtures, and after a dramatic standoff with police the pair wind up together in the end.

3. Maria, “West Side Story” (1961)
The romantic musical “West Side Story” has continued to capture audiences since it was first released in 1961, and Wood is one of the reasons behind the film’s success.

Wood stars as Maria in the film, which depicts a turf war between two rival gangs in Manhattan. Her love is for someone in the other side and she is torn between her loyalty and emotion. For her role, Wood was called “the most promising young star of today” in the New York Daily News review. The film earned 10 Oscars.

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Hollywood starlet Natalie Wood began her acting career when she was just a child, appearing in her first film, “Happy Land,” at the age of 4.
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