The oldest of two daughters, she was born in Boston, Massachusetts to parents Frank and Natalie Trundy Campana. Young Natalie showed a precocious poise as well as an innate affinity for the camera from an early age.
Modeling by her ninth year, she won her first acting job at the tender age of eleven. While taking dance lessons at a studio in the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York, she caught the eye of respected talent agent Bob Banner, who was searching for a youngster to play the part of Red Riding Hood in a Fred Waring live television broadcast. After interviewing her and two ates, he settled on Natalie, perhaps in part because of her natural strawberry blonde hair, certainly because of her already evident ability to hold her own in the entertainment world.
Natalie gave a flawless performance in the Sunday evening broadcast, singing, dancing, and delivering lines alongside adult professionals. This might have seemed unusual to those who didn't know her, considering that this was her first television appearance, but to her friends and family it was hardly surprising at all. That broadcast opened the door to numerous television commercials for leading companies such as General Electric and Westinghouse, which further led to regular appearances on many of the live television programs that were so common to the New York acting industry at the time.
Although she was in the top of her at the Catholic parochial school she attended, Miss Trundy was anything but subdued. After reading in the NY Herald Tribune about an open casting call for a Broadway production, thirteen-year-old Natalie smuggled some of her mother's clothing out of the house, determined to attend the audition. With the help of her schoolmates, she changed in the ladies room of a coffee shop after school. After padding her mother's bra, she finished her ensemble with a grown-up dress and high heels, and using her school bus pass, rode to her destiny.
When she arrived, it was to note that the other hopefuls she was auditioning against ranged in age from 18 to 28. Not one to be discouraged, Natalie told the casting director that she was 16. After narrowing the selection down to two girls, Miss Trundy was chosen for her first stage role, appearing opposite Janet Blair. Because the interview had run late, she phoned her surprised mother to explain that she had no cab fare with which to return home. Fortunately, Janet Blair and her husband Nick Mayo, assured Mrs. Trundy that they would give her a ride. The play ran for 4 months. It was during this time that the demanding schedule of 8 weekly performances forced Natalie to transfer from parochial school, to New York's Professional Children's School.
Following this invaluable introduction to stage work, Miss Trundy returned to her career in live television, and further branched out into radio broadcasts, where she once performed with the legendary Helen Hayes. Although still very young, Natalie had established a reputation in the business for professionalism and talent, which brought her many opportunities.
The coming summer led her to steady roles in summer stock, appearing in plays such as "Our Wilderness", with notables Mildred Dunnock and Gene Lockhart. Her next Broadway production was a musical opposite Shirley Booth. Natalie was brought in to replace the ingenue who had originally performed the role, but was forced to step down due to ill health. On her way to work during a hurricane one evening, Miss Trundie's rain-slicked feet slipped out from under her, and she fell, cutting her forehead open very badly. At the hospital her mother refused to allow the intern to stitch the wound. Instead, she tracked down a talented plastic surgeon who was attending a party, to care for her daughter. The injury forced Natalie to relinquish her role to her understudy, but after a four-day recovery, (during which she attended every performance), Natalie was back on the boards. It was during this exciting Broadway production that Miss Polly Bergen came backstage to compliment her on a wonderful performance. Natalie went on to perform the same role in two subsequent summer productions of the same play.
It was in one of these summer performances that she was seen by Sam Taylor, who was searching for someone to play Arthur O'Connell's daughter Jane, in his upcoming film "The Monte Carlo Story". Although she was a mere 15, Natalie and her mother were flown to the exotic location of Monte Carlo, where she found herself working with Marlene Dietrich and Vittorio De Sica. Once again, destiny raised its head. It was here that Miss Trundy was introduced to Arthur Jacobs, who was representing Miss Dietrich, one of his many notable clients, of which Grace Kelly was also included. Arthur told Mrs. Trundy that he was going to marry Natalie when she grew up. Natalie herself took little notice of Arthur, so absorbed was she in her work.
After the filming was finished on "The Monte Carlo Story", director Roberto Rossellini approached Mrs. Trundy about casting Natalie in a pending production, but Natalie's mother declined, and they returned to New York, where Natalie continued her career in stage work.
Her next Broadway play was in the production of "Girls of Summer", with Shelley Winters. The play was fated for a short run, but it was after seeing her perform in it that Kirk Douglas who had recently started his own production company called "Bryna Productions", decided to cast her in a leading role opposite Dean Stockwell in the upcoming film, "The Careless Years". This was the first film directed by Arthur Hiller. Natalie's performance as a troubled teenager was critically acclaimed, and she was dubbed a "rising star". Within four years of that first audition in her mother's heels, 17-year-old Natalie Trundy had her foot firmly in the door of Hollywood's film industry.
Miss Trundy's work with Arthur Hiller led to a number of live television roles on Hollywood's "Matinee Theatre", which was an Arthur Hiller/Walter Graumann production at NBC. She commuted between New York and Hollywood, supported and chaperoned by her mother, until it was time for her to emerge as a debutante in New York society and begin her education at New York's Briarcliff College. Acting work was put on hold during this hectic year, while she attended the lavish social functions that were designed to educate & present the daughters of that city's elite. While being presented at one of the four glamorous debutante balls she attended during the season, Natalie was named "Debutante of the Year", and the New York Post sent noted society reporter Doris Lilly to accompany her for five consecutive days to describe Natalie's life and activities. During this period, a headline story about her was printed each day in the Post.
In 1963, Natalie was struck by a car, and suffered a severe back injury that disrupted the momentum of her acting career. She spent a year recovering in a back brace, after which she travelled to London, where lived with roommate Vanessa Mitchell-Clyde.
Vanessa was with a date at the opening night of Londons Playboy Club in 1966, when she recognized Arthur Jacobs sitting alone at a table. Arthur resided in London at this time, and was working on the filming of his musical "Dr. Doolittle". By sheer chance Vanessa mentioned that her roommate was single. As the story goes, Arthur's face lit up at the mention of Natalie's name and he said, "She is the only girl I ever wanted to marry." Without consulting Natalie, Vanessa arranged for the three of them to meet for lunch the next day at the Claridge Restaurant, an establishment known for its glamorous clientele and gourmet menu. While the girls were waiting for Mr. Jacobs, a bottle of champagne was brought to their table, a romantic gesture that he had arranged before his arrival. The attraction was immediate between the now grown-up Natalie, and Arthur, who had turned his interest to producing films. After an intense courtship, they were married in 1968. The wedding, held in London, was a gala occasion, attended by Hollywood royalty, as well as London's elite.
Shortly after, production began on the first of the 5 apes movies, "Planet of the Apes". Arthur had spent many years attempting to find financial backing for the film. He had recently connected with Richard Zanuck of 20th Century Fox, who had agreed with his estimate of the script, and offered the support of his studio in filming the movie.
Although Natalie did not appear in "Planet of the Apes", her husband did find a part for her in each of the 4 subsequent ape films that followed. In the first sequel "Beneath the Planet of the Apes", which was released in 1970, she played the part of Albina, the radiation scarred mutant leader who mentally tortured Brent (James Franciscus), and Nova (Linda Harrison) during their search for the lost Taylor. In recalling the most memorable aspect of that role, Miss Trundy particularly remembers the ordeal of wearing the mutant mask. "It took 4 1/2 hours to apply the makeup, and two hours to remove it," she said. " Taking it off was agony. Jack Barron, the talented makeup artist, would use a hairdryer and acetone to remove the mask. It was so painful I would cry. After that, Carol Pershing, the lead hairdresser would wash my hair. We would leave the studio at 9 pm, and be back at 2 am to do it all again." Natalie went on to say, "Although for the actors the makeup was miserable, it was the talents of Jack, John Chambers, and Stan Striebeck that brought the film the Oscar nomination for makeup and costuming, for which we were all so proud."
After that experience, Natalie was cast to play the less stressful human role of attractive Dr. Stephanie Branton opposite good friend Bradford Dillman in the second sequel, "Escape from Planet of the Apes". In this film, her character was a sympathetic ally to the apes Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), and Zira (Kim Hunter), who were mistakenly transported back in time through the by now familiar time-warp that had laid the foundation for the plots in the first two movies. Her next performance was in sequel three, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes", in which she played the chimpanzee Lisa, who evolved into Cornelius' wife in the fourth and final sequel, "Battle for the Planet of the Apes." "Roddy, Arthur, and I had been friends for a very long time before the "Planet of the Apes" films, and the two of us listened to very different types of music," Natalie recalled, "He enjoyed cal, while I always listened to rock and roll. We had an agreement that whoever reached the makeup department first would win the right to pick the music we would be listening to for the approximately 4 hours that it took to attach the appliances. It was a good-natured race between us to see who would get to choose the music for the day."
After the final apes film was concluded, Arthur Jacobs cast his wife in another of his projects. Natalie played the character Mrs. Loftus in Jacob's musical adaptation of Mark Twain's novel, "Huckleberry Finn". Miss Trundy was on location in Mississippi anticipating her daily phone conversation with Arthur, when she received a call notifying her that he had passed away at their home in Hollywood from a sudden heart attack. Since they were shooting in a remote area of Mississippi, getting home was difficult. Natalie was driven on the back of a policeman's motorcycle to the governor's lear jet, which flew her to the airport, where she was able to make a connection to Hollywood. Arthur Jacobs was widely respected in the film industry for his talents, and beloved by all that knew him. His funeral was attended by luminaries from every area of show business.
After Arthur died, Natalie assumed production duties of his film company, APJAC productions.
After a brief second marriage, which produced her son and daughter, Miss Trundy devoted several years of her life to volunteer work at Mother Theresa's hospice in Calcutta, India. Encouraged by Fr. Herbert De Souza, she travelled as often as twice a year, bringing medicine and supplies with her. During her visits, she lived at the convent and spent her time caring for India's poor and sick.
Natalie Trundy is now semi-retired, and lives in Los Angeles. She shares her home with her children, and beloved pets.