Oscar Flashback: When Natalie Wood Went to the Awards With Robert Wagner

Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner ONE TIME USE - Getty - H 2018
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 1956, the then 17-year-old high school senior attended the awards as a best supporting actress nominee for 'Rebel Without a Cause'; the next year, she attended as a guest with her future husband, the first of several times they attended together.

In the 1950s, the Oscars were to Natalie Wood what prom night was to other teenage girls. “She probably would have been better off at the Van Nuys High School dance,” says Wood biographer Suzanne Finstad. “She would have had a happier life.”

In 1956, Wood, a 17-year-old high school senior, attended as a best supporting actress nominee for Rebel Without a Cause. (THR called the film about adolescent angst “a superficial treatment of a vital problem that has been staged brilliantly.”) Tab Hunter was her date, and she repeatedly was photographed with Sal Mineo, her fellow best supporting actor nominee from the film.

The next year, she attended as a guest with future husband Robert Wagner, then 27. (She’d won a Golden Globe that year as most promising female newcomer despite having appeared in films since 1943.) Wood and Wagner attended several Oscars together until their divorce in 1962; a best actress nomination for Splendor in the Grass that year saw her arrive with co-star Warren Beatty.

In 1964, at 25, she got her final nom — for best actress in Love With the Proper Stranger. But winning an Oscar eluded her. Wood and Wagner remarried in 1972, and the actor recently was named a “person of interest” in her 1981 drowning at age 43. Her death certificate lists her primary occupation as “actress” and number of years in the job as 38.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.