Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.
Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.
Natalie Wood as a child in 1945, Miracle on 34th Street
Natalie Wood swings upside down in her backyard as a child
Natalie Wood practices as her 16-year-old sister Olga plays a Chopin waltz, 1945.
Natasha Wood drawing a girl's face on her blackboard.
Natalie Woods waters the lawn as her mother, Maria Gurdin, supervises
Natalie Wood sits poolside with a poodle in 1956
Natalie Wood, Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams make dinner in 1965.
Natalie Wood reads aloud for friends Hopper and Adams.
Natalie Wood in Character with Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams
Natalie Wood (with Nick Adams and a partly hidden Dennis Hopper above), 1956.
Natalie Wood takes a call while sitting on her bed at home in 1965.
Natalie Wood in Research with actor friends in Los Angeles in 1965.
Twenty-two-year-old Natalie Wood, 1960, at Beverly Hills home she shared with husband Robert Wagner.
Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, 1961.
Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty pose for a portrait for Splendor.
Natalie Wood gets ready for the Academy Awards in April 1962.
Natalie Woods gets ready for the Academy Awards.
Natalie Woods gets ready for the Academy Awards.
Natalie Wood gets the final touches on her updo with hair spray before the Academy Awards in April 1962.
An assistant helps Natalie Wood into a showstopping, skin-baring number in April 1962.
Natalie Wood at the Oscars in 1962.
Steve McQueen kisses Natalie Wood's hand in 1963.
Natalie Wood smokes with Steve McQueen in 1963.
Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen meeting in 1963.
Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.
John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Natalie Wood: Rare and Classic Photos of the Lifelong Movie Star

Nov 29, 2013

At nearly every stage of Natalie Wood's career — the early days as a cute studio-contract moppet; her teenage Method experiments inspired by her work in Rebel Without a Cause; and her emergence as a powerful leading lady who could more than hold her own with Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen — LIFE's photographers were there, capturing Wood's talent and beauty as they blossomed over the years.

But not every picture from those many rolls of film could make it to print, of course. Here, LIFE.com presents a selection of the best photos of the late, radiant star which were not originally published in LIFE magazine.

Natalie Wood died, far too young, in 1981. She was just 43 years old. She drowned near Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of California. In 2012, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner reclassified the cause of her death as "drowning and other undetermined factors."

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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