ABOUT THE BOOK
Who is Natalie Wood?
On Sunday, November 29, 1981, the world woke to the news that the talented and well-loved movie star Natalie Wood was dead. She was only 43 years old. But as details of her death became known, the loss became both a tragedy and a mystery. How was it possible that she would die from the one thing that terrified her most: drowning in dark water? For many, it was inconceivable unless something more sinister occurred.
Officially, the cause of death was an accident. Although the specifics are unknown, speculation by the authorities and by Robert Wagner, her husband who was on the boat with her at the time, is that she attempted to retie the dinghy that was thumping against the boat and fell in the water. Because Wagner was in a heated argument with their guest, actor Christopher Walken, he didn’t hear her fall or cry for help. In fact, some think she may have hit her head when she fell and was unable to call for help. Regardless, the heavy coat she was wearing would have hindered her attempt to save herself.
Thirty years later, the mystery surrounding her death continues. In November 2011, the investigation was reopened based on “new” information, but quickly closed again with the same finding.
What’s unfortunate is that Natalie Wood’s death has overshadowed the career of a talented actress. She was a celebrity throughout her career, making the transition from child star, to teen phenom and acclaimed adult actress. She starred in over 56 films, most of which were made when she was a child. She had earned three Oscar nominations by the time she was 25 years old.
Her private life was equally as interesting. She was married three times, twice to actor Robert Wagner in what was considered the big Hollywood romance of the time. When she wasn’t married, she was connected romantically to many of the leading actors of her time including James Dean, Warren Beatty, and Elvis Presley.
As glamorous as her life appeared, Natalie struggled with depression and insecurity, stemming from a domineering mother and an alcoholic father. Her mother, Mud was a classic showbiz mother who controlled Natalie’s career, including what pictures she’d do and firing agents when she didn’t feel they were doing their job. But Mud’s behavior went well-beyond directing Natalie’s career. She controlled everything and wasn’t opposed to using emotional and psychological manipulation to keep Natalie close. For example, she told Natalie that serial killers stabbed children in the back if they sat too close to the screen in movie theaters. As a result, Natalie was afraid to view movies anywhere but at the studio. Later while watching Natalie’s daughter, Natasha, Mud changed the locks on the doors of the house and told Natasha that her mother and stepfather, Robert Wagner, were dangerous. Mud supposedly also predicted that Natalie would die in dark water, which likely reinforced her fear. This behavior led to resentment by Natalie towards her mother. At the same time, she often felt guilty for not allowing her mother more access to her.
Well-liked by her peers, close friends reported Natalie could have a dark side as well, particularly if she was drinking, according to several biographers. At 26 years old, she attempted suicide and semi-retired from her acting career. Even so, she continued to make acclaimed and though provoking films such as Inside Daisy Clover, This Property is Condemned and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Natalie started work on Brainstorm, co-starring Christopher Walken and because of his show, Hart To Hart, Wagner was not able to accompany her to Raleigh N.C. for the shoot. He made a weekend visit and became concerned about a possible affair between her and Walken....
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