Well, it seems that Robert Wagner’s version of the events leading up to Natalie Wood’s death 30 years ago — the story he told in his 2008 memoir Pieces of My Heart: A Life coauthored by Scott Eyman — is more or less accurate.

That, at least, is what we glean from a tabloid supermarket headline (Case Solved).

And when it comes to such stories, we always trust the tabs, which have been closely following the recent re-look by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at the circumstances of Wood’s death on Nov. 29, 1981.

So, it appears that Natalie’s drowning off the waters of California’s Santa Catalina Island really was preceded by bouts of heavy drinking, signs of serious marital discord and friction between Wagner and an under-appreciated second man (Christopher Walken) on board the yacht Splendour.

But no culpability on Wagner’s part. (To check our Nov. 21 blog, click on What Really Happened To Natalie Wood — According to Robert Wagner.)

Hello, everybody.  Joe Morella and Frank Segers here today to consider another Robert Wagner romance that was equally as intense — if not more so — than his tempestuous two marital rounds with Natalie Wood.

Four years before his first marriage to Wood, Wagner had an intense affair with with an established Hollywood actress that left a lifelong impression upon the young actor, who is still with us at the age of 81.

The romance thematically dovetails with those cataloged our two recent blogs (Nov. 17-18) covering Classic Movie Cougars about older female stars bedding younger men.

That’s because in 1953, Wagner was 22.  The woman he fell in love with was 45.

Writes Wagner: Barbara Stanwyck and I began our relationship on (the Fox film) ‘Titanic’, although we had actually met years before. (He had gone horseback riding years prior with Stanwyck and her then husband, Robert Taylor.)

During shooting, Wagner found himself enthralled by her and terribly attracted to her. This was about a year after Stanwyck’s marriage to Taylor (her last) had fizzled. She had caught him cheating, and abruptly ended the union.

Towards Wagner intially, she was friendly but not overly so.

After a dinner party at the home of Titanic director Jean Negulesco, Wagner drove Stanwyck home. After opening the front door, he turned to the actress to discover something I hadn’t seen in her eyes before. It was a magical look of interest…and appreciation…and desire. 

I immediately took her in my arms and kissed her. I had never had a reaction from a woman like I had from Barbara.  A different kiss, with a different feeling.

The affair began that night. She cooked for him. They went hiking in the mountains above Malibu. They watch boxing matches on TV, and screened some of Stanwyck’s movies together (Union Pacific, Ball of Fire, Baby Face).

The romance lasted a full four years when we became part of each other’s lives.  (Stanwyck died in 1990, at the age of 82.)

Making love with her was an entirely different thing than I had ever experienced….I had never been with a woman with her level of knowledge, her level of taste. I was so incredibly taken with her, taken by her.

The affair ended because both finally realized that it couldn’t go  anywhere — it was a classic back street romance.

Wagner summarizes: (Stanwyck) was an enormous influence in my life, and still is….She gave me self-esteem … Barbara was the first savior in my life.




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