Los Angeles is a city built on change, especially when it comes to real estate. Tear-downs, overhauls, and remodels are all too common in this vast skyline – as blatantly evidenced by the recent razing of mid-century gem LACMA. So, to come across a spot that has remained largely intact for decades is rare, to say the least. Such is the case with the West Hollywood bungalow Natalie Wood called home while on the cusp of early stardom. I gleaned the residence’s location from “Natalie Wood: The Complete Biography,” Suzanne Finstad’s recently updated tome (originally published as “Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood”), which I devoured in about a week and then immediately went back and re-read.
One look at the pad on Google Street View showed it in a heavily fenced-off and foliage-covered state. Outside of some mauve trim and a small crenelated section of roofline peeking above the hedges, not much appeared to be visible to passersby, so I didn’t especially take note of it. But while later perusing some of Wood’s early photoshoots, I was astonished to spot the very same roofline behind Natalie in a 1945 “Life” magazine image! Further digging led me to some 2014 MLS pics that gave me more up-close-and-personal views of the place. I was thrilled to see that, despite a vibrant paint job, the facade looks pretty much the same as it did when Natalie resided there more than seven decades ago!
Natalie, then known as Natasha Gurdin, moved to the tiny bungalow with her parents and older sister, Olga, in early 1945. The youngster hadn’t done much in the way of acting at the time, but after landing a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stint dropping an ice cream cone in the opening scene of 1943’s “Happy Land,” shot in her native Northern California, her mother, Maria, and father, Nick, sold the family home, packed up their belongings, and headed straight to Hollywood, where Maria was convinced Natalie would become a star.
Upon arriving in Tinseltown, stars firmly set in Maria’s eyes, the group bunked in the Fountain Avenue apartment of a former dance teacher of Olga’s for about six months before eventually settling into the two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,091-square-foot WeHo pad.