Lana Wood
AUTHOR

Lana Wood

Provocative and ever the temptress in her prime, the dark-maned, gorgeous Lana Wood was born Svetlana Gurdin on March 1, 1946, in Santa Monica, California, the daughter of Nick Gurdin (née Nikolai Zacharenko) and Maria Gurdin (known by countless aliases, usually Mary Zudilova), émigrés of Ukrainian and Russian descent. Both her parents' families fled their Russian homeland following the Communist takeover and the couple met and married in San Francisco. Lana's more famous acting sister was christened Natalia eight years earlier and the eldest girl in the family was an Armenian half-sister named Olga Tatuloff, their mother's child from a 1920s marriage. Young Natalia (renamed Natalie Wood, out of respect to director Sam Wood) became a child star in the late 1940s, with such classics as Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and younger sis Lana would inevitably be drawn into films as a result of Natalie's overwhelming success. She made her "debut" as a baby in Natalie's "B" film Driftwood (1947) only to have her cute bit cut from the picture. Her first screen credit actually came with the John Ford classic The Searchers (1956) as a younger version of Natalie's character, and she was off and running. In an effort to break away from her sister's looming shadow and find her own place in Hollywood, Lana set out to secure TV roles and did quite well on such popular programs as Playhouse 90 (1956), Have Gun - Will Travel (1957), Dr. Kildare (1961) and The Fugitive (1963), while continuing her minor appearances in such films as Marjorie Morningstar (1958) (again with Natalie), Five Finger Exercise (1962) and the The Girls on the Beach (1965). In 1965 she earned a contract at Twentieth Century-Fox and was cast in her first television series, The Long, Hot Summer (1965), playing the Southern belle role Lee Remick had played in the 1958 film (The Long, Hot Summer (1958)). Better yet was her 1966 breakthrough role as hash-slinging waitress "Sandy Webber" on the original prime-time soap opera smash Peyton Place (1964), which she played for two seasons. Unlike the glamorous and refined Natalie, Lana developed an earthier "bad girl" persona. Her character femmes bore typical hard-luck stories--tarnished girls from the wrong side of the tracks who were often more trouble than they were worth. After Peyton Place (1964), Lana continued to exude sex appeal in such films as For Singles Only (1968) and Scream Free! (1969), a drug tale that reunited Natalie's West Side Story (1961) co-stars Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn. She kept her name alive on TV as well, making the guest rounds on The Wild Wild West (1965), Bonanza (1959), The Felony Squad (1966) and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967). In April 1971, Lana posed for Playboy. A major career boost presented itself in the form of producer Albert R. Broccoli (nicknamed "Cubby"), who caught the spread and offered her the role of Bondian femme fatale "Plenty O'Toole" in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) opposite Sean Connery. Following all this sexy publicity, Lana somehow nabbed an unexpected role in the Disney romp Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1972). Although she stayed fairly active throughout the next decade or so with such TV movies as Black Water Gold (1970), QB VII (1974) and Nightmare in Badham County (1976), and the films Grayeagle (1977) and Demon Rage (1982), her star began to diminish. After an extended absence, Lana was seen again on the screen into the millennium. Independent features include Deadly Renovations (2010), Donors (2014), Bestseller (2015), Killing Poe (2016), Subconscious Reality (2016), Wild Faith (2018) and The Marshal (2019). A devoted animal lover, the still-stunning grandmother-of-three occasionally appears at celebrity conventions and continues to work in films.
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