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What Happened To Famous Actress Natalie Wood?

What happened to Natalie Wood?

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On November 29, 1981, Natalie Wood's body was found floating face down in the Pacific Ocean about 200 yards away from Catalina Island. These are the events leading up to her death:

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When Wood was 10-years-old, an old bridge collapsed from under her while filming The Green Promise. She broke her wrist and left the incident more terrified of water.

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It is said she had such a phobia about water that she was afraid to wash her hair and had reoccurring nightmares about drowning.

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The captain of the boat and family friend, Dennis Davern, claimed that Wood had become infatuated with Walken during filming. Wagner had even flown out to where they were filming to make sure Wagner wasn't going to "make a fool of himself over this."

Wagner was not the only one with a jealous streak though. At around the same time, reports say Wood was suffering from jealousy over Wagner's on-screen romance with his costar, Stefanie Powers.

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So Davern was prompted to tell the truth. He went on to say that he and Wood spent the night in the same room, but they drank wine and went to sleep. He claimed that he felt very protective of Wood and she was very comfortable with him.

The party's waitress recalled at dinner the group consumed two bottles of wine and champagne, and one of the men also drank Daiquiris. She also said that Wood did not eat much of her dinner and didn't seem to be in a good mood.

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At one moment, Wood was said to have thrown a glass onto the floor. Walken later explained the incident and said it was his fault because he threw his glass on the floor after making a toast and she had followed suit.

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Reports say there was a "nonviolent argument" soon before Wood disappeared. Wagner has said that he and Walken had a political debate that started at dinner and it continued aboard the yacht.

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The inflatable dingy (which she had presumably left the boat on) was found washed up on the rocks just a little further south. The ignition was off, the gear was set to neutral, and the oars were locked which implied she may have never started the vessel.

The coroner reported that she had drunk 7 or 8 glasses of wine before the incident. She had superficial bruises on her arms and lower legs with a cut on her cheek. At the time, the police ruled her death as accidental.

The first theory is that Wood accidentally fell into the water and drowned while trying to board The Valiant. Chief Medical Examiner, Thomas Noguchi hypothesized that her down jacket became heavy and soaked, but she never thought to remove it due to being intoxicated.

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The fingernail scratches found on the side of The Valiant showed she tried to climb back in the dinghy. It was likely she clung to its side as it drifted away from the yacht and likely drowned due to hypothermia and exhaustion.

Robert Wagner said in a 1986 autobiography:

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Adding, "It happened many, many times before, and I had always gone out and pulled the ropes tighter to keep the dinghy flush against the yacht. She probably skidded on one of the steps after untying the ropes. The steps are slick as ice because of the algae and seaweed that's always clinging to them. After slipping on the steps, she hit her head against the boat. I only hope she was unconscious when she hit the water."

However, some have criticized this theory since The Valiant was a rubber dinghy. According to Noguchi, the dinghy would make little noise when bumping a yacht. Additionally, Noguchi reported forensic evidence, including the untouched algae on the swim step. It appeared that Wood may have been attempting to board the dinghy rather than adjust the rope.

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However, a testimony of Davern differed. He claimed that Wagner smashed a wine bottle in a jealous rage over Wood and Walken's interactions. He claimed Wagner said, "Jesus Christ! What are you trying to do? Fuck my wife?!"

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Despite blaming the rough seas at first, Wagner admitted to breaking the wine bottle in his autobiography in 2009.

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Walken claimed that an argument broke out between Wood and Wagner over her time spent away from family. Walken defended Wood at first and then stepped outside to not get more involved. When he returned the two had made amends.

Davern also described the events similarly. But instead of Wood and Wagner making up, he stated that he heard them continuing to argue from the bridge of the boat. He even claimed he heard the dinghy being untied.

Davern has also said that Wagner discouraged him from turning on the boat lights and starting the engine in any attempt to search for Wood because he didn't want to alert people nearby. He believed something malicious may have occurred because Wood would have never gone to shore alone, she would have had him take her like she did the night before.

Based on new information the case was reopened in 2011. In 2012, the LA county coroners office changed the cause of death from, "accidental drowning" to "drowning and other undetermined factors."

In the end, the tragic passing of Natalie Wood will continue to confound the world. The familiar faces will only add to the mystery of what truly happened to her that night. Unfortunately, we may never truly know what happened to Natalie Wood leaving the case...unsolved.

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