Standard Article

Natalie Wood

Studio Stardom and Hollywood in Transition

3. 1946 to 1975

1. Setting the Stage

  1. Cynthia Lucia

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf045

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Lucia, C. 2011. Natalie Wood. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 3:1:43.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

Abstract

A 1963 Look magazine article asks about 24-year-old actress Natalie Wood, “How long does it take to grow up in the movies?” Born in 1938, Wood was raised and schooled mostly on studio lots, having worked steadily in film from the age of six. She made a successful transition from child actor to teenage idol in 1955, opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and came of age as an adult star in the early 1960s, just as the system (as it had existed in the previous three decades) had all but vanished. If not the very last star to emerge from the studio system, Wood was certainly the last to have done so as a child of the system. The title of the article, “Natalie Wood: Child of Change” (Look 1963, 91), succinctly establishes two qualities that were crucial to defining the star: Natalie-as-child would never completely fade from her adult star image — whether in Hollywood publicity or in the press — and “change” would become a lingering part of that image. A third defining quality — her Russian heritage — would find frequent though less consistent expression in press accounts and indirect expression in several roles that defined her as ethnically or racially “other.”

Keywords:

  • Natalie Wood;
  • hollywood stardom;
  • method acting;
  • production code;
  • female sexuality;
  • the New Hollywood;
  • child actor