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Natalie Wood was probably the epitome of the American film star. She started as a child actress at the age of five and appeared in popular films such as Miracle on 34th Street before starring in Rebel Without a Cause, The Searchers and Splendor in the Grass and with their roles in the musicals West Side Story and Gypsy occupy a place in the history of Hollywood. Unfortunately, Wood's work and contributions to pop culture are often overshadowed by her death: she drowned in 1981 during an excursion on her husband Robert Wagner's yacht. She was 43 years old.
In a new HBO documentary, Natalie Wood: What's Behind It Woods daughter Natasha interviews Wagner and Woods other friends and family members to paint a more complete portrait of who she is as an actress, woman and Was mother. The film also looks at the mysterious circumstances surrounding Wood's death, which have led to widespread speculation and the suspicion that Wagner was somehow involved.
The known sequence of events is as follows. Wood and Wagner went to Catalina Island on the yacht, the Splendor, on Thanksgiving weekend – something they had done many times. They invited a number of their friends, but some declined the invitation, so the only people on the boat with the couple were the actor Christopher Walken, who worked with Wood on the film Brainstorm and the yachts Captain Dennis Davern.
Wood's body was recovered by the coastal authorities on the morning of November 29. One of the boat's tenders was also found nearby. The autopsy revealed that Wood's blood alcohol level was 0.14 percent and that she also took an analgesic and motion sickness pill, which may have exacerbated the effects of the alcohol. There were also bruises on the body.
The cause of death ultimately became accidental Drowning classified. A hypothetical scenario for the coroner was that Wood slipped and fell into the water while trying to board the dinghy. In the documentary, Natasha assumes that her mother tried to reattach the tender because she was sensitive to noise and the pop of the tender that was pushed against the boat by the water may have woken her up.
Wood's sister Lana has claimed for years that Natalie is afraid of water and would never have gone out on a dinghy alone. (In the documentary, Woods' daughter Natasha explains that her grandmother was very superstitious about using water, but her mother had never shown such fear.)
Lana has repeatedly accused Wagner of being involved in her sister's death. Wagner, who married Wood in 1957 and remarried after their divorce in 1972, has always denied such claims. Since then, however, he has admitted that he initially lied and said that he and Wood didn't quarrel the night before they drowned. In the film, he remembers that he was jealous of Wood's working relationship with Walken, despite several documentary filmmakers refuting rumors that Walken and Wood were having an affair (a popular theory at the time). Wagner now calls Walken a "stand-up type".
In 2011, the police re-opened the investigation into Wood's death after ship captain Davern wrote a book claiming that Wood and Wagner had argued ] and that he believed the flirtation between Wood and Walken infuriated Wagner. In 2012, the official cause of death changed from accidental drowning to accidental drowning and other indefinite factors. A 2013 coroner report detailing the bruises on Wood's body led officials to determine that she may have been attacked before her death.
In 2018 the police appointed Wagner to be of interest to the current case. He keeps his innocence. In Natalie Wood: What's Behind It all of his and Woods daughters state their unbelief that he would ever have done anything to hurt their mother. The film does not offer a solution to the persistent mystery of Wood's death, but focuses on creating a picture of the life that led her and the impact she had on the world in such a relatively short space of time.