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Wood died in 1981 at age 43 while boating off Santa Catalina Island, off the Southern California shore. At the time, her death was ruled an accidental drowning, but there have been many questions raised about what actually happened on the boat in the time since.
Wood lived her life out in front of the cameras, becoming a child star with such movies as the 1947 Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street and going on to earn three Oscar nominations.
Here are five of her most memorable roles:
1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
At age 8, Wood starred in Miracle on 34th Street, her first major studio film. Fox’s Christmas classic — which still receives lots of TV play every year at the holidays — features Wood as a 6-year-old who at first does not believe in Santa Claus but later comes around, helping to clear a man (Edmund Gwenn) who has been locked up in a mental hospital after insisting he is the real Kris Kringle.
2. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Wood earned her first Oscar nomination for this movie, which also starred James Dean and Sal Mineo in the story about a rebellious teen who arrives at a new high school, meets a girl, defies his parents and tussles with local bullies.
3. Splendor in the Grass (1961)
Wood earned Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for her role in the Elia Kazan-directed movie. She stars as Deanie, a teenage girl who follows her mother’s advice not to have sex with her boyfriend (Warren Beatty) and then is institutionalized after learning he’s moved on with another girl willing to have sex with him.
4. West Side Story (1961)
Wood played Maria in the musical, but the singing parts — including songs like “I Feel Pretty” and “Tonight” — were sung by Marni Nixon.
5. Gypsy (1962)
A year after West Side Story, Wood appeared in another musical, Gypsy, adapted from the stage musical. that was adapted from Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoir. This time, she did sing her own songs, including “Little Lamb,” “Mr. Goldstone, I Love You” and “Small World.”
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