Friday, November 18, 2011

Through the Lens: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood

Thirty years after the drowning death of Natalie Wood, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced today that they are reopening the case based on new evidence -- the ship's captain, Dennis Davern has come out with allegations that Wood's husband Robert Wagner was responsible for her death.

Natalie Wood's fear of the water was widely known, and one that she had had ever since she was a child.  In Suzanne Finstad's biography, Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, Wood revealed in an interview in 1981 (shortly before she drowned) her experience with water on the set of a film she was shooting with Bette Davis when she was just a teenager, in which she had to jump from a boat into the ocean.
"I was a complete wreck by the time I had to leap into the water... I looked over the rail and saw a huge shadow swimming by.  The director told me: 'Just jump.  There'll be men in rowboats to pick you up.  If you get scared, just scream.'  The second I hit the water, I panicked.  The icy ocean took my breath away.  I swam a bit, but was hysterical."
I'm not sure what investigators will find, but the story has been told that Wood, Wagner and Christopher Walken were on a yacht off Catalina Island -- they'd been drinking all night and Wagner and Walken got into a heated argument -- at which point Natalie left the room.  Six hours later, her body was found floating in the water one mile from the yacht; she was in her nightgown and a jacket and covered with bruises.  It was ruled an accidental death.  Davern said he had been keeping the true details of her death a secret because of Wagner, but who knows how credible anything he says could be after all of the conflicting information he has offered over the years.

Wood was best known for her roles in Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without a Cause, and West Side Story.  One of my personal favorites is the heartbreaking Splendor in the Grass.  Here are some photos of her with some of her leading men.



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