Happier days: The above photo shows Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner at their first marriage in 1957. They divorced then years later remarried. They were still wed on the night of her untimely death.
As mentioned on Friday, there have been new developments in the Natalie Wood drowning case, with rumors and other reports adding fuel to the speculation.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here to hopefully shed some light on the actress’1981 death, a subject that still exerts fascination in the entertainment world.
On a sunny California morning, Wood’s body — clad in a down-filled red parka — was fished out of waters near Catalina harbor. A vacant dinghy was found in an isolated cove. The death was ruled at the time as an accident.
Wood, actor Christopher Walken (then in his late 30’s and her costar in Brainstorm, the movie she was making that was released in 1983) and the actress’s husband Robert Wagner were the only passengers aboard the their yacht besides the captain. They were taking a Thanksgiving holiday cruise to Catalina Island.
So far, the best account — that we know of — of what occurred on that late November night is contained in a harrowing chapter — titled, Everything Went Away From Me — in Wagner’s own 2008 memoir, Pieces Of My Heart: A Life, co-authored by Scott Eyman.
The actor doesn’t conceal the fact that alcohol, a nasty marital spat and friction with Walken all played a role that night. According to his book, on the afternoon and early evening of Nov. 27, Wood, Wagner and Walken went shopping on Catalina Island, then stopping off at a favorite watering hole where the three W’s ordered margaritas and beer chasers. The evening went downhill from there.
OK, enough of the backround. Let’s get to our 10 questions:
1) At the time of her death, how old was the actress? a) 54; b) 43; c) 38; or d) 45?
ANSWER: b) 43. It’s eye-opening in retrospect to consider how young Wood was.
2) What is the name of the yacht she was on that fateful night? a) Rebel Without A Cause; b) RobNat; c) Splendour; or d) The Miracle.
Answer: c) Spendour. We leave the irony to you.
3) Wagner is still somehow a suspect in the case? a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) False. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has all along asserted that Wagner is not considered a suspect.
4) The investigation into the cause of Wood’s death was re-opened because: a) The captain of the yacht brought to light new details; b) Actor Christopher Walken provided new information; or c) New physical evidence was uncovered by authorities?
Answer: c) New physical evidence was uncovered. Authorities revealed that Wood’s death certificate has been amended to attribute her death to “drowning and undetermined factors,” notably bruises on her upper body that might have occurred before Wood entered the water.
5) It’s been said that Natalie Wood was uncomfortable at sea because she was such a lousy swimmer. Is that: a) True; or b) False?
Answer: a) True. She couldn’t swim. She had trouble managing a swimming scene in Brainstorm, and the sequence ultimately had to be cut.
6) The drowning case was reopened in 2011 because new physical evidence on Wood’s body was discovered by the Los Angeles coroner. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) False. The captain of the Splendour was said to have provided new information. The “physical evidence” part came later.
7) The cause of Wood’s death is now attributed to “drowning and undetermined factors.” a) True; or b) False.
Answer: a) True (see above).
8) Walken is being more outspoken these days about what happened to Natalie. a) True; b) False.
Answer: b) False. Although repeatedly asked about Natalie’s death, Walken refuses to discuss the subject.
9) Walken’s role in the case is being questioned? a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) False. As mentioned, Robert Wagner is not a suspect in any way and neither is Walken.
10) Has Walken ever expressed his impressions of the circumstances surrounding Wood’s death? a) Yes; b) No; c) Yes, but only partially.
Answer: c) Apparently. The Hollywood trade press reported that the actor gave an interview to Playboy in 1997 in which he stated that “what happened that night only she knows, because she was alone. She had gone to bed before us, and her room was at the back (of the yacht).” The actor suggested that Wood hit her head while trying to stabilize a noisy dinghy before falling into the water and floating away.