Portrayed by: Natalie Wood
Race figures prominently in 1961's West Side Story: It follows the story of two rival NYC street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, Puerto Rican and Polish. And yet Natalie Wood—not Puerto Rican—played the Puerto Rican female lead, Maria. To the film’s credit, Puerto Rican actresses were cast in supporting roles as Maria’s friends, but those are minor roles. They hang in the background, handmaidens to Wood’s whitewashed Maria.