For all but Baby Boomers, it is probably puzzling to see murder headlines about a starlet who allegedly drowned drunk when she fell off her yacht “Splendor” near Santa Catalina 43 years ago.
But no actress who lived such a short life figured more in the lives in those born after World War II than Natalie Wood.
There were no videos and not much TV. Just the movie show or the drive-in.
Orson Welles said even as a youngster she was “so good she was terrifying.” She earned three Academy Award nominations before she was 25.
Wood had just turned 43, virtually completed her 56th film, while working in film 39 of those years with few breaks.
She was headed to Broadway for her dream role: the mysterious Anastasia. There have been many claims, none proven, that Tsar Nicholas II’s youngest daughter survived a massacre by Russian Bolsheviks.
Wood, who was born in San Francisco of Russian parents who had fled Siberia, had taught herself about movies while watching them on her mother’s lap. She thought the cast was talking to her.
Who can forget John Wayne chasing her down on horseback in “The Searchers” in 1956 as she ran away to stop him from killing her in revenge for having been kidnapped and living with a tribe of Comanche led by the warrior Scar? Wayne’s character, Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards, had just scalped Scar for murdering his family and others.
But instead of killing his niece, Wayne lifts her up and says: “Let’s go home Debbie.”
In 1981, many movies later, including the storied “West Side Story,” and the generation-defining “Rebel Without A Cause,” she starred with Steve McQueen, James Dean, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon. and Laurence Olivier, Welles, James Garner, Christopher Walker and Robert Wagner, who married her twice. Wagner was eight years her senior, and Hollywood wags said the studio arranged their marriage when she was 18.
When she was found drowned Nov. 29, 1981, police treated it as an accident brought on by drink. Wood could not swim. There were many unanswered questions, most important why no one noticed her missing overnight on a small boat.
Friends and family never bought that narrative.
Wagner kept quiet until giving an interview to the Daily Mail, in which he admitted there had been angry words with yacht guest Christopher Walken, mostly over whether Wood she devote more attention to her career.
Three years ago police began revisiting the case, partly because the yacht’s captain doubted the official version of events.
Celebrity Journal claims Wood’s body will be exhumed to determine the exact cause of death and whether there were any injuries.
Homicide detectives investigating the mysterious death of NATALIE WOOD 33 years ago should exhume the body to determine whether or not Robert Wagner killed her.
“That’s the bombshell demand from the chief investigator on the cold case who claims to have unearthed new evidence suggesting the screen siren’s skull was brutally bashed in before she plunged to a watery death off Catalina Island in 1981,” The National Inquirer said.