Hollywood deaths always raise eyebrows because not only is death one of the more baffling parts of life, but we are on the outside of the personal lives of these people we feel like we know, and yet don’t. Cold cases and mystery deaths seem to hit us even harder because there seems to be no chance for closure. One of these moments was Natalie Wood’s death in 1981.
Academy Award Winner
Starring in mid 50’s-60 films, such as Splendor in the Grass, Natalie Wood quickly became one of the best actresses in Hollywood. She was nominated for an Academy Award for best-supporting actress in Splendor in the Grass (1961). West Side Story, earned her three Oscar nominations and she was the youngest to hold that until Jennifer Lawrence, most recently. In the 70’s she married Robert Wagner- for the first of two times. She and her husband had two children and in the time she was raising them she only appeared in a few Hollywood movies.
On November 29, 1981, the star was suddenly proclaimed dead, by accidental drowning. There are many undetermined factors concerning her cause of death. This is what is known. She was on a weekend trip to Catalina Island with her husband Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken. The Hollywood stars were all having a little getaway, aboard the Splendour, during the filming of their movie Brainstorm. The Splendour was captained by Dennis Davern.
Wood’s body was recovered a mile away from the boat with contusions on her arm and face on the morning of November 29th. An LA coroner, Thomas Noguchi, ruled her death to be hypothermia and accidental drowning, assuming she slipped trying to re-board The Splendour’s dinghy. Natalie Wood’s sister, Lana Wood, expressed that there was no way this could have happened as her sister was, and had always been afraid of the water and would never have gone on the water alone. Wood was buried in Los Angeles, California.
Years later, in November 2011, the case was re-opened due to The Splendour captain, Dennis Davern, admitted that he hadn’t been completely honest in his original interview. He further explained that the couple had gotten into an altercation while aboard The Splendour. Natalie had allegedly had been flirting with her co-star, Christopher Walken and her husband did not like that. Davern essentially claimed that Wood’s husband was at fault for the movie star’s death and that he did not allow him to turn on the searchlights after she had gone missing.
Her death certificate was changed to “drowning and undetermined factors” by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2013 in a ten-page addendum. That is essentially the status it is at now. Wagner was named a person of interest in the actresses death in 2018. He has since denied murdering his wife and routinely declines to comment on the situation. Which does make you second think about the whole situation.
This post was originally published on August 30, 2019.