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A new biography of the actress exposed the complicated relationship between one of the best-known marriages in Hollywood.
In the case of Natalie Wood, it is almost impossible to make use of the recurring phrase used to dismiss the deceased, because “rest in peace”, they do not seem adequate words for her life or for her still mysterious ending. Almost 40 years after her body was found in the sea after having fallen overboard the boat he was spending the weekend of Thanksgiving in 1981, the unknowns continue about what happened on that boat with her husband, Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken, and the ship’s captain, Dennis Davern, were also present. The actress, who became internationally famous for playing Mary in the movie West Side Story, which premiered in 1961 when Wood was 23 years old, still does not find that rest because the causes of his death are reviewed over and over again without being fully clarified whether it was an accident or a murder.
The latest revelation about her life and her relationship with her husband, also actor Robert Wagner, comes from the hand of a biography, Natalie Wood: The Complete Biography , written by Suzanne Finstad and published by Broadway Books. As recounted in the book, Natalie was 22, had not yet released West Side Story, and was not a famous actress but a young woman in love who had made her dream of marrying Robert Wagner a reality, when she discovered a fact that marked her forever. He was an established actor, eight years older than her, who had been one of his childhood idols. The couple embodied one of those golden Hollywood dreams that come true and lived in a large white mansion in Beverly Hills with a Greek palace air.
One night Natalie Wood woke up in her double bed, she realized that her husband was not next to her and, terrified to be alone in the dark – a recurring nightmare since she was a baby -, she got up to look for him. He found him red-handed maintaining a relationship with another person: David Cavendish, the actor’s English butler. According to the author of the book, Wagner’s sexual treasonIt was the reason that their first marriage came to an end – they were married twice, from 1957 to 1962 and from 1972 until the death of the actress – and became the “dark cloud” that hung over the couple when they married for the second time and also about the actress’ mysterious death in 1981. Finstad suggests that if Wood, who was 43 when she died, had not been devastated by Wagner’s disloyalty two decades earlier, she would not have tried to make him jealous with his friend. , the actor Christopher Walken, and the night of her death would not have ended with the fight that the marriage had on the boat they were on and with all their drunk passengers. Circumstance that caused that, when the actress supposedly fell into the sea, no one was in a position to save her.
It was precisely another exhaustive biography of Natalie Wood published by the same author in 2001 that revealed new evidence that suggested that the actress’s death was not accidental , as determined two weeks after her death, and that caused her to Los Angeles police reopened the investigation of the case in 2011. In 2012, the city coroner changed the official cause of death: from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors”. And although Wagner, now 90, always denied any involvement in the events, in 2018 the police named him “person of interest” in the case and Wood’s death was requalified as “suspicious.” Now, both the actress’s sister, Lana Wood, a former Bond girl, and the skipper of the yacht from which Wood fell, Dennis Davern, point to Wagner as the author of his death.
But in addition to these facts, the new biography reveals part of the content of Natalie Wood’s never published memoirs, in which she not only clarifies the true reason for the end of her first marriage to Robert Wagner but also exposes even darker circumstances that she has to do with the mother of the actress and how she used a very young Natalie. Some portrayed the young Wood as manipulative, self-centered, insecure and precocious from the sexual point of view, but her biographer points out her parents as guilty. She portrays her father as a violent and alcoholic man and the mother as a tremendously ambitious woman who threw her daughter into the arms of men much older than her to help her prosper in her career.. This is how she claims that she had an affair with Frank Sinatra when he was 38 and she was only 15, and that a year later she was forced to have sex with director Nicholas Ray, 43, to demonstrate that she could play a “bad girl ”In Rebel Without a Cause.
Around the same time, Wood told her friends that she was raped by a famous movie star, whom Finstad does not name, after he had invited her to the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood to offer her a role. Natalie buried her secret, but the ghosts reemerged with the end of her fairy tale with Wagner, a union that began with a first date that the Warner Bros. studio arranged when she turned 18. They married despite rumors that he was gay or bisexual. A latent rumor though in the actor’s memoirs, published in 2008, he claims to have had sex with a long list of iconic movie names , from Joan Crawford to Elizabeth Taylor, Anita Ekberg, Joan Collins or Barbara Stanwyck.
Natalie Wood knew the rumors about her partner’s bisexuality but was so in love that she just said to her friends, “Everyone is jealous of us.” At the time, these revelations would have destroyed the career of a leading man like Richard Wagner, so the decision to have a butler who accompanied them on successive house transfers was strange for many and convenient for the actor. Meanwhile, Wood was fulfilling his illusion of conquering the myth with whom he fantasized since when he was 11 years old he placed a poster with his photography on the head of his bed and had no ears for anything else. Of course, the biography shows that on several occasions the actress tried to do without the uncomfortable butler and on the same occasions Wagner found good reasons not to.
The rest is history, although it remains to close what really happened on the Splendor yacht from which Wood fell dressed in flannel pajamas without anyone presumably finding out, but after an explosive marital fight of which the friend and the pattern that accompanied the couple. The body of the actress appeared on the island of Catalina, in southern California, in November 1981, where she arrived dragged by the sea.