Website last updated: 8-12-2017

A Celebration Of Bond Girl Lana Wood At 70

By: Anders Frejdh
Published:
2016-03-01
Lana Wood Plenty Diamonds Are Forever
It's birthday time for the lovely Lana Wood, sister of the beloved Natalie Wood and "James Bond Girl" in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) directed by Guy Hamilton. Like more than 40 Bond ladies in the franchise’s long history, Lana also graced the pages of Playboy.

With this page, FSWL would like to extend our personal wishes to Ms. Wood for her birthday. Her portrayal as Plenty O'Toole is one of our favourites. (Read our interview with Lana Wood from August 2012.)

"Dear Lana, happy birthday and lots of love from Sweden, we love you!"

About Lana Wood:
Lana was born 1946 in Santa Monica, California, to Russian immigrant parents. Her father Nicholas Zacharenko changed his name to Gurdin before she was born. Lana was the youngest of three girls, along with older sisters Olga and Natalie.

Lana's screen debut came while her sister Natalie was filming Driftwood (1947). "I played what was intended to be an adorable little baby, one of those who elicit oohs and ahs from audiences. I instead, I cried. My part ended up on the cutting-room floor." Lana's first credited role came in the 1956 John Ford classic The Searchers, voted the Greatest Western of all time by Entertainment Weekly. Along with Natalie, the film starred John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles and Ward Bond. Lana played the young version of Natalie's character "Debbie Edwards".

Lana appeared in such television classics as Playhouse 90 (1957), Have Gun - Will Travel (1958), Dr. Kildare (1964), The Fugitive (1964) as well as the films Marjorie Morningstar (1958) with her sister Natalie, Five Finger Exercise (1962) and the summer favourite The Girls on the Beach (1965).

In 1965 she was put under contract at 20th Century-Fox and was cast in her first television series The Long, Hot Summer (1965-1966). Lana played the part of “Eula Varner”, made famous by Lee Remick in the movie version in 1958. Lana explains: “The cast of the series changed constantly. I auditioned with Tom Skerritt, who had already been cast for the pilot. We shot the pilot and Tom vanished. By the time we were ready to shoot the first show the series – we had been picked up for thirteen episodes – everyone in the cast except Edmond O’Brien and me had been replaced, sometimes twice.”

After the cancellation of The Long Hot Summer, Lana played “Sandy Webber” on the original prime time soap Peyton Place (1966-1968) for two years. “Sandy was from the wrong side of the tracks, a waitress in a water-front café married to a bullying garage mechanic. She was also given to chasing after “Rodney Harrington”, who was played by Ryan O’Neal. It would become a case of life imitating television, except the chase was reversed. After two years it was decided that Sandy Webber would be written out of the series.

After Peyton Place, Lana starred in such films as For Singles Only (1968) and Scream Free (1969) as well as guest appearances on television shows such as The Wild, Wild West (1967-1969), Bonanza (1967), Felony Squad (1968) and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1969).

In 1970, Lana decided to pose for Playboy. Lana comments: “I had been asked before and had always resisted, but this time when Hugh Hefner and his people approached me to pose for Playboy, I was willing to consider the possibility”. The pictures appeared in the April 1971 issue of Playboy, along with Lana’s poetry. “I feel that the poetry surrounding them bares more of me than the pictures do”.

The Playboy pictorial was a great career boost. Albert R. Broccoli who was about to begin shooting what was being touted as Sean Connery's final James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever, telephoned Lana asking her to play Bond’s girlfriend, “Plenty O’Toole”. It was a dream job. Lana has spent many of her high-school years with her nose buried in Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventures. The filming would lead to a romance with Bond star Sean Connery. “Our relationship was less a romance than it was an interlude”. Lana’s scenes were shot in Las Vegas and her hotel fall scene is legendary. Thanks to her portrayal, Plenty O’Toole is one of the most popular and sexiest “Bond Girls” of all time.

After Lana posed for Playboy and filmed Diamonds Are Forever, it became something of a joke among her friends to say she’d never do a Disney film. “Imagine my surprise when I was summoned to Disney to audition for Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1972). Imagine my surprise when I got the part! I made sure they understood I had appeared in Playboy in not much and in Diamonds Are Forever in less, and they seemed to think that might work to their advantage. Times had changed”.

Beside films such as A Place Called Today (1972) and television appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1971-1972), Night Gallery (1972) and Mission: Impossible (1972), Lana’s most important event in life would take place. On August 11, 1974, Evan Taylor Smedley was born. “She had her father’s round face and my coloring and she was, to me, the most impossibly beautiful little thing I’d ever seen”.

Lana stayed busy through the seventies with films such as Nightmare in Badham County (1976), Little Ladies of the Night (1977), Grayeagle (1977) and Captain America II (1979). There were also many television guest starring roles including Police Story (1974-1978), Starsky and Hutch (1976-1979), Baretta (1976) and Fantasy Island (1978).

Tragedy struck Lana and her family on November 29, 1981. Her beloved sister Natalie drowned while trying to board the dinghy tied to her yacht off Catalina Island.

Lana adds: “The person I loved more than anybody else, with the sole exception of my own daughter, is dead. I cry for her often. I expect I always will”.

Lana’s film and television work in the eighties included the horror film Satan's Mistress (1982), along with Britt Ekland and Kabir Bedi, and guest starring roles on The Fall Guy (1984) and Mike Hammer (1985). In 1983 she was a regular on the daytime soap Capital playing Fran Burke.

In 1984 Lana penned the book Natalie, A Memoir by Her Sister. A warm but unflinchingly account of a great star’s passionate love affairs, violent fights, stormy marriages, bitter divorces, and of her controversial death by drowning at the age of forty-three, stunning a nation that adored her.

These days Lana spends her time on the other side of the camera as a producer working on various projects. She lives with her daughter, son-in-law and three precious grandchildren along with a host of animals. She also enjoys appearing at conventions and getting to meet and talk to her loyal fans – all of whom wish her a wonderful 70th birthday!

Photo above:
Bond girls are forever - Lana Wood with Maud Adams and Britt Ekland at the Hollywood Celebrities Show in Chicago, September 2010. © Joe Arce / Starstruck Foto for Pat McDonald of Hollywood Chicago. All rights reserved.

For more information about Lana Wood's career, check out her IMDB profile:

www.imdb.com/name/nm0939836/

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#birthdays
#bond_girls

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