On November 29, 1981, the world mourned when Natalie Wood, a beloved actress, died when she drowned on a boat trip to Santa Catalina Island. She was on board the Splendour, a boat that she owned with her husband Richard Wagner, when the tragedy took place. For many years, the cause of Wood’s death was declared accidental. When Wood’s case was reopened in late 2011, the cause of her death was changed to undetermined in 2012. In February 2018, investigators told reporters that more witnesses have come forward to discuss what they believed happened when Wood drowned
Investigators have publicized several facts about Wood’s death. One of these facts is that Wood feared the water because she could not swim. According to the coroner’s report in 2013, Wood’s body was bruised before she drowned. Another fact is that Captain Davern was not candid with police when he said that Wood and Wagner did not have an argument that evening. In order to try to determine the exact cause of Wood’s death, investigators continue to work hard on her case.
Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner were one of the most glamorous couples in Hollywood. Ever since she was a young girl, Wood was infatuated with Wagner. On her 18th birthday, Wood went on a studio-arranged date with Wagner who was 26-years old at that time. Since the chemistry between both of them was strong, they tied the knot a year later on December 28, 1957. Despite all of the love that they both shared, Wood and Wagner broke up in June 1961. They were formally divorced in April 1962.
Even though Wagner would always remain Wood’s true love, she married Richard Gregson, a British producer, on May 30, 1969. With Gregson, she had one daughter, Natasha, who was born in 1970. In August 1971, she separated from Gregson. She divorced Gregson in April 1972.
Since her heart always belonged to Wagner, she returned to him after her divorce. She remarried him on July 16, 1972. In 1974, they both had a daughter, Courtney Wagner. The famous couple spent many happy years together until tragedy struck.
Born on July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, Natalie Wood was the daughter of Russian and Ukranian immigrants. Nikolai Stepanovich and Maria Stepanova were Wood’s parents. Wood’s mother, Stepanova, had aspirations of becoming a ballet dancer or an actress during her youth. Wood’s younger sister, Lana Wood, whose birth name was Svetland Gudin, also became an actress.
Stepanova pushed her daughter, Wood, into an acting career. Unlike Wood’s mother, her father did not like the idea of his daughter becoming an actress. When members of a crew noticed Wood, during a film shoot in downtown Santa Rosa, Stepanova moved the whole family to Los Angeles. She wanted Wood to acquire a career in show business.
When Wood began acting as a child, her Russian birth name was changed. Wood’s birth name was Natalia Zakharenko. David Lewis and William Goetz, who were studio executives at RKO Radio Pictures, changed her name to Natalie Wood.
Wood’s first major role, with 20th Century Fox studio, was in the 1947 classic Christmas film, Miracle on 34th Street. With her natural acting ability and sweet nature, Wood captured America’s heart. Playing the role of Susan Walker, she became a top child star in Hollywood. In fact, she became so popular that Macy’s invited her to participate in their annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
In addition to working in Miracle on 34th Street, she worked in 19 other movies as a youngster. She received her formal education on studio lots and was a straight A student. At the tender age of nine, Parents named her the most exciting juvenile motion picture star of the year.
Unlike other child stars, Wood was able to successfully transition to obtaining roles as an adolescent. At the age of 16, she co-starred with James Dean and Sal Mineo in the 1955 film, Rebel Without a Cause. For playing the role of Judy, in Rebel Without a Cause, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. While working as an actress, she graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1956.
When Wood became an adult, her strong career in show business continued. She starred in the 1961 film, Splendour in the Grass opposite Warren Beatty. Previously, she was cast in innocent roles, but this became her first real adult role. For playing Wilma Dean “Deanie” Loomis, in this critically acclaimed film, she was nominated for an Academy Award. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the movie, Splendour in the Grass.
Considered by critics to be one of her finest films, Wood played Maria in the Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise musical, West Side Story in 1961. This film became a huge box office hit. United artists earned $2.5 million for this flick. This classic movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10 including Best Picture.
After the birth of her first child, Natasha Gregson, in 1970, Wood became semi-retired from the film business. She dedicated herself wholeheartedly to one of the hardest roles of her life, becoming a mom. After becoming a mother, she only made four more films during her lifetime.
Today many of Wood’s films are still popular. Every year, during the holiday season, many people watch Miracle on 34th Street to get into the spirit of the holidays. They are still fascinated with Natalie Wood, that lively and innocent girl, who grew up and became an acclaimed Hollywood actress. Just as fans are interested in her films, they are also still intrigued with the circumstances surrounding her death.
While some people believe her death was accidental, others think it was something even more sinister. We will have to wait and see what the investigation unravels.