Written By: Ben Cosgrove

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. 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 edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.

Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood as a child in 1945, Miracle on 34th Street

Natalie Wood in 1945; at age eight she appeared in Miracle on 34th Street.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood swings upside down in her backyard as a child

Natalie Wood swung upside down in her backyard as a child, 1945.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood practices as her 16-year-old sister Olga plays a Chopin waltz, 1945.

Natalie Wood practiced as her 16-year-old sister Olga plays a Chopin waltz, 1945.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natasha Wood drawing a girl's face on her blackboard.

Natasha Wood drew a girl’s face on her blackboard.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Woods waters the lawn as her mother, Maria Gurdin, supervises

Natalie Woods watered the lawn as her mother, Maria Gurdin, supervised, 1945.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood sits poolside with a poodle in 1956

Natalie Wood sat poolside with a poodle in 1956.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood, Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams make dinner in 1965.

Natalie Wood, Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams made dinner in 1965.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood reads aloud for friends Hopper and Adams.

Natalie Wood read aloud from Thomas Wolfe’s The Hills Beyond for friends Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams in 1956.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood in Character with Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams

Natalie Wood in character with Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams, 1956.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood (with Nick Adams and a partly hidden Dennis Hopper above), 1956.

Natalie Wood (with Nick Adams and a partly hidden Dennis Hopper above), 1956.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood takes a call while sitting on her bed at home in 1965.

Natalie Wood took a call while sitting on her bed at home in 1965.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood in Research with actor friends in Los Angeles in 1965.

Natalie Wood with actor friends in Los Angeles in 1965.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Twenty-two-year-old Natalie Wood, 1960, at Beverly Hills home she shared with husband Robert Wagner.

Twenty-two-year-old Natalie Wood, 1960, at the Beverly Hills home she shared with husband Robert Wagner.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty pose for a portrait for Splendor.

Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty posed for a portrait for their movie Splendor in the Grass.

Eliot Elisofon The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, 1961.

Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, 1961.

Eliot Elisofon The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood gets ready for the Academy Awards in April 1962.

Natalie Wood readied for the Academy Awards in April 1962.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Woods gets ready for the Academy Awards.

Natalie Woods readied for the Academy Awards, April 1962.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Woods gets ready for the Academy Awards.

Natalie Woods readied for the Academy Awards, April 1962.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood gets the final touches on her updo with hair spray before the Academy Awards in April 1962.

Natalie Wood received the final touches on her updo with hair spray before the Academy Awards in April 1962.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

An assistant helps Natalie Wood into a showstopping, skin-baring number in April 1962.

An assistant helped Natalie Wood into her dress in April 1962.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood at the Oscars in 1962.

Natalie Wood smiled beside her date for the 1962 Oscars, Warren Beatty.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Steve McQueen kisses Natalie Wood's hand in 1963.

Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, 1963.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood smokes with Steve McQueen in 1963.

Natalie Wood smoked with Steve McQueen in 1963.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen meeting in 1963.

Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen in 1963.

John Dominis The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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