The mystery Surrounding The Death of Actress Natalie Wood
Natalie Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko) July 20, 1938 was an American film and television actress. Natalie began acting in movies at the age of four and at age eight was given a co-starring role in the classic Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street. As a teenager, her performance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She starred in the musical films West Side Story (1961) and Gypsy (1962), and received Academy Award for Best Actress nominations for her performances in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963).
She also starred in several television productions, including a remake of the film From Here to Eternity (1979) for which she won a Golden Globe Award. During her career, from child actress to adult star, her films represented a "coming of age" for both her and Hollywood films in general.
Natalie’s two marriages to actor Robert Wagner were highly publicized. Natalie said that she had had a crush on Wagner since she was a child, and on her 18th birthday she went on a studio-arranged date with the 26-year-old actor. They married a year later on December 28, 1957, a marriage that met with great protest from Wood's mother. She and Wagner separated in June 1961 and divorced in April 1962. On May 30, 1969, Wood married British producer Richard Gregson.
In early 1972, she resumed her relationship with Wagner. The couple remarried on July 16, 1972, just five months after reconciling and only three months after she divorced Gregson.
During the making of her last film Brainstorm, Wood drowned while on a weekend boat trip to Santa Catalina Island, California, with her husband Robert Wagner, and Christopher Walken, and the boat's captain, Dennis Davern. Many facts surrounding her drowning are unknown, because no one admitted seeing how she entered the water. Wood's body was discovered by authorities on November 29, 1981 at 8am , one mile away from the boat, with a small inflatable dinghy found beached nearby. 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.
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. Following his investigation, Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi ruled her death an accident by drowning and hypothermia. According to the coroner, Wood had been drinking and may have slipped while trying to re-board the dinghy.
The case was reopened in November 2011 after the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, publicly stated that he had lied to police during the initial investigation and that Wood and Wagner had been fighting that evening, and alleged that Wagner was responsible for her death.
After nine months of further investigation, Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, amended Wood's death certificate and changed the cause of her death from accidental drowning to ‘drowning and other undetermined factors.’ The amended document includes a statement that the circumstances of how Wood ended up in the water are ‘not clearly established.’ The coroner's office had been instructed by detectives not to discuss or comment on the case.
Natalie Wood was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. Scores of representatives of international media, photographers, and members of the public tried to attend the funeral; however, all were required to remain outside the cemetery walls. Among the celebrity attendees were Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, David Niven, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelly, Elia Kazan and Sir Laurence Olivier, who flew from London to Los Angeles to attend the service.
On January 14, 2013, the Los Angeles County coroner's office offered a 10-page addendum to Wood's autopsy report stating that some of the bruises on her body may have been sustained before she went into the water and drowned, but that could not be definitively determined.
Wagner has always denied any involvement with Wood's death. Later, in his book Pieces of My Heart, Wagner acknowledged that he had had a fight with Wood before she had disappeared.