Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Night Natalie Wood Drowned; Late Star's Sister Weighs in on Latest Book about Actress's Untimely Death

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Night Natalie Wood Drowned; Late Star's Sister Weighs in on Latest Book about Actress's Untimely Death

Article excerpt

Byline: Review by SANDY STRICKLAND

On a cold drizzly night, actress Natalie Wood drowned off the coast of Catalina Island. Twenty-eight years later, the mystery remains - how did she get in the water? Four people were aboard the yacht, the Splendour, when the actress with the luminous brown eyes went overboard. Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, had invited actor Christopher Walken for a cruise aboard the Splendour, captained by Dennis Davern.

Her badly bruised body, dressed in a nightgown, wool socks and a red down jacket, was found nine hours after she went missing. During the years, several books have been written on the subject. The latest is by journalist Marti Rulli, in collaboration with Davern. The title is "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour."

The official story is that Wood had retired to her stateroom after an argument between her husband and Walken and had slipped while trying to secure an inflatable rubber dingy banging against the side of the boat.

But Davern tells a shockingly different story. He contends that a drunken Wagner was so jealous over what he perceived as his wife's flirtation with Walken that he crashed a wine bottle onto a table. That prompted Walken to leave, while Wood and Wagner continued the argument in their stateroom, he said, screaming at each other as objects hit the walls and ceiling. Most frightening of all, Davern contends the raging fight went from the stateroom to the open deck.

Natalie's sister, Lana Wood, weighed in on the book in a recent telephone interview with the Times-Union. Lana, who lives in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is best known for her roles as the young Natalie in "The Searchers" and as a Bond girl in "Diamonds Are Forever."

Has anyone heard from Robert Wagner since the book was published?

Not a word. Certainly he hasn't said anything to me so I would imagine they haven't. I did hear that one news agency said he declined to comment.

What was there about Natalie that people are still talking about her almost 30 years later?

Natalie had that special quality that certain stars do, which is what I think makes them stars. It's a magical something that people can relate to because she started out as a child star and continued through adulthood as a major star. A lot of people identified with her because they grew up with her.

Do you think Wagner received special treatment during the inquest because of his celebrity status?

I'm sure he did. Most people do. I get special things at certain times. People, in general, are very taken with celebrity.

What do you think of the banging dinghy story?

For me, the whole thing was so nightmarish that, basically, I didn't think about anything other than the fact that she was gone. Her kids were without a mother. I was without my best friend. …

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