At one time, Natalie Wood was one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood. You may know her from Rebel Without a Cause:
Or Miracle on 34th Street:
At one time, she was one half of a Hollywood power couple. The other half was Robert Wagner...
...who was starring on this show in late November of 1981.
Natalie was finishing up a movie called Brainstorm with an up-and-coming actor named Christopher Walken. Yes, that Christopher Walken.
On Thanksgiving weekend, Natalie, Robert, and Christopher decided to take their boat to Catalina. Here's Natalie on one of their earlier trips:
The last time Natalie Wood was seen in public was November 28th, when the three of them had dinner at a Catalina restaurant. Natalie and Robert were reportedly extremely intoxicated. At around 1:15 a.m., a neighboring boater heard a radio call from Robert Wagner, claiming they had someone missing in an 11-foot rubber dinghy.
The next morning, the news broke. Natalie Wood's body had been found one mile South of the yacht with the dinghy nearby.
Robert eventually acknowledged they'd had a fight just before her death. Some say it had to do with jealousy over Christopher, who apparently went to bed to escape the drama. Robert said Natalie went to bed, too. He said he'd been in another part of the ship and hadn't seen Natalie when she (supposedly) left bed to go outside the boat.
The dinghy was found with its oars tied down and the key in the off position, making it unlikely she'd been trying to drive or row it away. She was wearing a coat and nightgown when she was found. Oh...and she had a lifelong deathly fear of water due to her mother telling her as a child that she would die in dark water.
|Natalie and her mother|
The boat's captain and Natalie's sister, Lana, seem convinced Robert had something to do with her death. Robert maintains his innocence, but in 2012, the L.A.P.D. noted the severity and amount of bruises on Natalie's autopsy report and changed the cause of death to "undetermined."
Natalie's sister recently confronted Robert Wagner on camera. She asked why he won't talk to the police. He chose to turn it back around on her. "You’ve accused me of murdering her," he said. "It’s incredible. I just can’t believe it."
Did Robert Wagner deliberately murder Natalie Wood? Probably not. However, after reading a book by the boat's captain, who was there that night, it does sound possible that they were arguing, she fell in, and he left her out there. She was, after all, found only a mile from the boat hours after he discovered she was missing. I'd like to believe if I disappeared from a boat, my husband would, you know, look for me.
Likely the mystery will outlive Robert Wagner, going down in history as yet another unsolved Hollywood death.
⬅️ M Is for Mothman