Since the episode of What’s My Line with her in it:
… I’ve reflected a bit on Natalie Wood and sister Lana Wood. But mainly on Natalie. Her death mainly.
Now Le Monde has a piece on it and though speculative, it has twists. Trouble is it’s in French, which might cut out a few readers. I think you can get the general idea though:
Accident ou homicide ? Depuis plus de trente ans, la mort de Natalie Wood reste l’une des plus mystérieuses d’Hollywood. Le 29 novembre 1981, vers 8 heures, le corps de l’actrice de 43 ans est retrouvé flottant au large de l’île Santa Catalina, dans la baie de Los Angeles, seulement vêtu d’une chemise de nuit de flanelle, d’une veste et de chaussettes.
The story in a nutshell:
Many facts surrounding her drowning are unknown, because no one admitted seeing how she entered the water. Wood’s body was discovered by authorities at 8 am on November 29, 1981, one mile away from the boat, with a small inflatable dinghy found beached nearby. Wagner and Walken told officials that they had an argument the previous evening but eventually calmed down.
According to Wagner, when he went to bed, Wood was not there. The autopsy report revealed that Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as an abrasion on her left cheek. Later, in his book Pieces of My Heart, Wagner acknowledged that he had a fight with Wood before she had disappeared.
The autopsy also found that Wood’s blood alcohol level was 0.14%, and there were traces of two types of medication in her bloodstream: a motion-sickness pill and a painkiller, which increase the effects of alcohol.
A few things to throw in:
# She had a morbid fear of water and referred to it in interviews. Why did she have that fear?
Wood had developed a deep-rooted fear of water ever since her mother warned her as a child that she would meet her death by drowning in ‘dark water’, Lana Wood told TMZ.
She said: ‘It gave Natalie a great fear. She hated the water, she wouldn’t even go into her own pool at home.’
# Her last [completed] film, The Memory of Eva Ryker, was about the reopening of a case decades later in which a woman had drowned. Natalie Wood played both the mother who had drowned and the daughter who had escaped but had been mentally ill for the remaining time. The plot turns on Eva having her memory unlocked, as she holds the key to the death of her mother.
In fact, the mother died when her husband swam out to save her from the water but in fact hit his wife and she drowned. Then he “rescued” her.
# Wagner was reported to have said to let her learn her lesson [Wood in real life that night].
# He was reported to be on with Jill StJohn and yet she is the one accused of an affair with Christopher Walken.
# There have been other cases of starlets foretelling their deaths. There was also the story of Norman Jean as a strongly alleged mind control victim. It seemed to be the time of these things.
# A woman claims she heard Wood screaming for help and that she was drowning.
# Natalie Wood was unforgiving of infidelity and it only took an overheard snippet for her to divorce her second husband. Yet:
Biographer Suzanne Finstad writes that Wood had a relationship with director Nicholas Ray, director of Rebel Without a Cause, when she was 16 and he was 43. During her teens, Wood went on studio-arranged dates with older men, including actors Tab Hunter and Nick Adams, and dated actor Raymond Burr, when she was 17 and he was 38. Wood also dated actors Michael Caine, Steve McQueen, Tony Curtis, Warren Beatty, Dennis Hopper, singer Elvis Presley, director Henry Jaglom, and politician Jerry Brown.
It’s one thing sleeping your way to better positions and Hollywood starlets have been known to do it and yet she had a crush on Wagner and it still hadn’t dissipated by the time he married her a second time. Or else had a hold over her.
A year after their wedding, Wood expressed her feelings in a letter to her new husband: “You are my husband, my child, my strength, my weakness, my lover, my life.”
When asked to describe him, Marco and the other soldiers automatically respond, “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”
# This is a tenuous one, I know but there is also a clue in “went on studio-arranged dates with older men”. Let’s just say it fits the profile of a Norma Jean.
# There’s something about the colour red as well – more than tenuous but:
Natalie Wood was wearing a red down jacket when authorities discovered her body 30 years ago … and her wardrobe could prove she floated alive in dark water for hours while Robert Wagner allegedly stalled rescue efforts.
# It’s just a film and a conspiracy theory but look at the pic at the foot of the page. What colour jacket is she wearing?
Was I googling red jacket? No, I was googling red Monarch programming. The jacket just appeared.
# “I knew that Natalie Wood had never taken the dinghy alone, day or night, as she did not know how to operate it.” — From statement of captain Dennis Davern.
# Lana Wood, her sister, in James Bond, is thrown out of an upstairs window into a pool below. Here’s Lana’s take on her sister’s death:
# Just read one last thing – don’t know why I thought of Norma Jean rather than anyone else:
Lana often visits Natalie’s grave in Los Angeles’s Westwood cemetery – the star is buried alongside Marilyn Monroe.