Woods began her career performing on stage in New York City, where she met producer Hal Wallis. He cast her in his film noir classic They Live By Night (1948), followed by roles in The Snake Pit (1948), On Dangerous Ground (1950), and A Place In The Sun (1951). She won acclaim for her performance in the drama The Member Of The Wedding (1952), directed by George Stevens. Her breakthrough role came in 1955, when she starred opposite James Dean in Giant.
She had a recurring role on the sitcom Father Knows Best, starring Robert Young, and guest spots on such TV programs as Climax!, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, and 77 Sunset Strip. She played the lead role in the 1957 Broadway musical comedy I Can Get It For You Wholesale, which ran for over 300 performances. She performed in several films including The Ten Commandments (1959), The Nun’s Story (1959), and The Great Impostor (1960). She portrayed the mother of Elvis Presley in King Creole (1958).
In 1960, Woods married actor Gary Merrill; they divorced in 1962. She later married director John Frankenheimer, with whom she had a daughter, Alexandra. After divorcing him, she married musician Dick Haymes, with whom she had another child, Nicholas.
Woods retired from acting in the late 1980s. She died of cancer at age 78 on July 1, 2010, in Los Angeles, California.
Woods grew up in Cypress Gardens, Florida, where she learned how to play golf. She attended high school at Miami Carol City Senior High School in Miami, Florida. After graduating in 1961, she went to New York City to study singing at Manhattan School of Music. While there, she met fellow student Michael Thompson, whom she married in 1964. They moved to Los Angeles in 1965, where she studied voice further at UCLA.
In 1966, she won a talent contest sponsored by NBC Radio and began hosting a local show called “The Nancy Wilson Show.” In 1967, she hosted a TV variety show, “Nancy,” on KTLA.
She became a regular performer on The Merv Griffin Show in 1968, and later recorded several albums on Capitol Records. In 1969, she had a hit single with “You Light Up My Life.”
Her marriage to Thompson ended in 1973, and she subsequently dated actor Robert Wagner, musician David Crosby, and tennis player Jimmy Connors.
Woods’ career took off in 1977, when she signed a recording contract with Arista Records. A song she wrote for the film] became a major hit. In 1978, she sang the theme song for the movie version of, which included the song “Heaven Help Us All”.
She had another big success with her album. In 1981, she starred in the horror comedy film. In 1982, she played a witch in the fantasy adventure film.
Woods recorded the three songs in one day, and they became the most successful singles ever released by Capitol Records. They sold over four million copies, and earned Woods a Grammy Award. She went on to become one of the best-selling female artists of all time, selling over 50 million records worldwide.