Thursday, 17 November 2011


Film star Natalie Wood's 1981 drowning death has been reopened as a homicide investigation, primarily because a book written by Captain Dennis Davern, skipper of the Splendor, the boat where Natalie Wood spent her last minutes, suggests the death wasn't accidental as ruled by the coroner 30 years ago.

Co-author Marti Rulli has given Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators documents supporting claims in the book and 2 full-time homicide detectives have been assigned to the case.

In "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendor", Rulli and Davern claim before Natalie disappeared from the boat, she was drinking and taking Quaaludes with her husband, Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken, with whom she was making the film  Brainstorm. Wagner became enraged when he saw Wood and Walken speaking, and smashed a wine bottle, yelling at Walken, "What do you want to do, f**k my wife?  Is that what you want?"

Walken returned to his cabin and Natalie and Robert went to their state room. According to the Captain, he heard a loud argument between the couple, loud thumping sounds, and eventually silence.

A short time later, the Captain went to the deck and was told by Wagner, "Natalie is missing."

A dinghy was gone from the ship's side, along with Natalie. The coroner suggested that Natalie had either tried to secure the dinghy from banging against the side of the boat and fallen overboard, or had tried to leave the Splendor of her own accord, but some doubted that because she was deathly afraid of water.

Robert Wagner remained silent for years about the hours leading to her death until he published his memoirs in 2008. Of the tragic night he wrote:
"I found a note from Natalie saying she and Chris had taken our dinghy and gone to a restaurant on the island. I wasn't angry, just agitated. I called the shore boat and joined them.
We had wine with dinner, but we were tipsy rather than drunk. We returned to the salon of the Splendor and had more drinks.
Chris began talking about his 'total pursuit of a career', which he admitted was more important to him than his personal life. He clearly thought Natalie should live like that, too.
I got angry. 'Why don't you stay out of her career?' I said. 'She's got enough people telling her what to do without you.'
We got into an argument and I slammed a wine bottle on the table, breaking it into pieces. Natalie got up during the argument and went down from the salon to the master cabin to go to the bathroom.
The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris. I saw her shut the door. She was going to bed.
About 15 minutes later, Chris and I moved up to the deck. Things were threatening to get physical, but the fresh air calmed us and we went back into the salon.
Chris then went to bed and I sat for a while with Dennis Davern, who looked after the Splendor for us, before going below.
Natalie wasn't there. Strange.
I noticed the dinghy, usually attached to the side, had gone. Even stranger. I wondered if she'd taken it. But she was terrified of dark water and the dinghy's motor fired up so loudly we would have heard it.
I radioed for the shore boat and went back to the restaurant. Natalie wasn't there. Neither was the dinghy.
It was about 1.30am. I was scared and confused. The Coast Guard started the search and rescue, crisscrossing the ocean surface with helicopters. Hour after hour - nothing.
At 5.30am, they found the dinghy in an isolated cove. The key was in the off position, the gear was in neutral and the oars were fastened to the side. I didn't allow myself to contemplate what that meant - it was too unthinkable.
Two hours later, they found my wife. Natalie was wearing a down-filled red jacket, and that helped them spot her.
I remember the morning was sunny. I was standing on the aft deck when Doug Bombard, the harbourmaster, pulled up and got out of his boat.
'Where is she?' I asked. Doug looked at me. 'She's dead.'

Natalie's funeral was attended by a host of celebrity friends including Sir Laurence Olivier, Rock Hudson, Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Gene Kelly, Hope Lange and Frank Sinatra.

Lana Wood, Natalie's sister, has been attempting to get the death investigated for several years to no avail.

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood aboard the Splendor

Natalie with Christopher Walken on the set of her final film, Brainstorm, released in 1983

Robert Wagner released this statement through his spokesman: "Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. They will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death."


  1. Cause of death?. I don't recall that.

  2. Such a great loss for all.
    Another death possibly helped on by improper use of an improper drug, Quaaludes.


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