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Investigation into Natalie Wood's death re-opened
November 18, 2011 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Homicide detectives who have reopened an investigation into the death of Natalie Wood after three decades said on Friday that the film star's husband, actor Robert Wagner, was not considered a suspect.

"She was probably half asleep, and she was wearing a coat," said [Christopher] Walken, who was aboard the yacht owned by Wood and husband Robert Wagner at the time. "She apparently moved the boat around, slipped, hit her head, fell into the water."
posted by Trurl (48 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wood's appearances in the home movies of Roddy McDowell were part of a splendid recent FPP.

She is also the subject of this photograph by William Claxton and this photograph by William Lovelace.
posted by Trurl at 9:18 PM on November 18, 2011


Recent AP reported Walken interview a hoax.

These articles are very unclear (to me) on which Walken quotes were from the hoax and which are legitimate.
posted by maryr at 9:31 PM on November 18, 2011


Walken's interview was a hoax?
posted by tomswift at 9:32 PM on November 18, 2011


or, what maryr said.

I'm not seeing much point in reopening this, unless there is some sort of revenue stream for the police that will result.
posted by tomswift at 9:33 PM on November 18, 2011


Interestingly, seems that the captain of the boat who is now claiming he lied about Wagner's involvement before, co-wrote a book on Wood's death last year. That seems like awfully good motivation to stir up controversy on it...
posted by maryr at 9:35 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apropos of nothing, I wonder if Natalie ever took off that eyeliner.
posted by Gator at 9:38 PM on November 18, 2011


i'm really worried that walken might be implicated. i'm not sure i can live in a reality in which christopher walken is a murderer, and not just a kinda-cooky guy.
posted by Partario at 9:39 PM on November 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


i'm really worried that walken might be implicated. i'm not sure i can live in a reality in which christopher walken is a murderer, and not just a kinda-cooky guy.

Me, I'm just content to mentally Photoshop Walken into every famous murder scene of the last fifty years. Does anybody know where Chris Walken was on November 22, 1963?
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:55 PM on November 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


i'm really worried that walken might be implicated. i'm not sure i can live in a reality in which christopher walken is a murderer, and not just a kinda-cooky guy.

I thought the clinically casual malice was his appeal.
posted by clarknova at 10:08 PM on November 18, 2011


I doubt the police are implicating anyone on the basis of a radio call-in show hoax interview.
posted by hippybear at 10:27 PM on November 18, 2011


So, just to be clear, the interview with Walken referred to in the post is a 1997 Playboy magazine interview, not the recent hoax radio interview.
posted by taz at 10:29 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


All I know for a fact about Walken is that he loves hot dogs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:35 PM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


And robots.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:58 PM on November 18, 2011


Better left unsolved.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:59 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So there's a piece on the yacht captain on FOX filed under "Entertainment".

More Cowbell indeed.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:03 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q: What type of wood doesn't float?
A: Ironwood.
posted by pracowity at 11:23 PM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Have you seen that man dance?

A man who dances like that is no murderer.
posted by Malice at 11:24 PM on November 18, 2011


Q: What did Grace Kelly have that Natalie Wood could have used?
A: A good stroke.

But thanks for the post. I didn't know she was married to Robert Wagner.
posted by Goofyy at 11:29 PM on November 18, 2011


Could someone spell it out for the dummies like me?

If the police are reopening the case based on the Captain's memories but Wagner isn't a person of interest, does that mean Christopher Walken really needs to talk to his lawyer? I mean there were only those three and Natalie there that night, right?
posted by codswallop at 12:32 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The captain's book came out in hardcover in September 2009, and a slightly updated paperback in November 2010, and I'm seeing references to another 'updated' version, which may go into another pressing with this announcement, I would guess.

It's just too convenient of a time to come forward with 'new information' and not put the author's motives under a certain level of suspicion. IANAL, but I think that it would be doubtful that he could face any consequences for his previous statements to the police after this much time.(first a crime would have to be proven to have been committed, for him to be guilty of anything more than a misdemeanor, and since the chances of getting enough evidence to make a case that something illegal happened are tiny) So coming forward with this information lacks the 'good man coming forward with the truth' vibe, as he has no consequences to his actions, save for helping his book sales and get a new edition into print, and that makes his whole story suspect

We'll never really know what happened on that boat that night. Simple as that. In my opinion, there is far more suspicion in what, and more importantly, when the captain said what he did than anything in the version of events told by Wagner and Walken.

If the captain had nothing to gain from all this, I might have been more inclined to believe him, but this just comes off as a guy dredging up a horrible event and causing a lot of hurt to the people involved for the sake of making a few bucks.
posted by chambers at 12:34 AM on November 19, 2011


From the linked article: The opening of the new investigation coincides with a TV special airing Saturday on the CBS-TV news show "48 Hours," which in conjunction with Vanity Fair magazine purports to have new findings which "make it clear that there was reason to reopen the case," Vanity Fair said in a statement.

The TV special, called "Vanity Fair: Hollywood Scandal" is based on revelations first reported in a 2000 article in the magazine that is being republished this week in a special edition. Vanity fair said "everything seemed to come together at once."


So the 2000 article's revelations significantly predate the captain's book. Not that I know the motivations for this. I can't imagine police would reopen an investigation this old unless they had some good reason. Of course, that could be wrong and the police could just be easily coerced into such things, thought that doesn't seem incredibly likely. I suppose we'll see.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:21 AM on November 19, 2011


One of the odder parts of this story is the yacht captain, Davern, telling the woman who would write their book about his suspicions -- in 1983. (This link provides insight into the arguments presumably published in the book.) Basically, Noguchi^ -- LA's legendary coroner, who may have inspired Quincy, ME, and whose freewheeling media availability may have led to his forced resignation in 1982 -- comes in for some harsh review, albeit by amateur sleuths.
posted by dhartung at 2:34 AM on November 19, 2011


Any chance this was the inspiration for all of this?
posted by ShutterBun at 4:25 AM on November 19, 2011


I was under the impression that unsolved murder cases are never closed.
posted by srboisvert at 4:46 AM on November 19, 2011


I was always under the impression that most people that Wagner was guilty but no one could prove it.
posted by drezdn at 5:12 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


That most people thought Wagner was guilty but couldn't prove it.
posted by drezdn at 5:20 AM on November 19, 2011


I was always under the impression that most people thought Wagner was guilty but no one could prove it.

I too had no idea she was married to him, so I asked Mrs. Trurl just now, "Did you think Robert Wagner killed Natalie Wood?"

Her response was instant and chipper: "Yup."
posted by Trurl at 7:07 AM on November 19, 2011


I was under the impression that unsolved murder cases are never closed.

Her death was ruled accidental by the coroner, as all signs were consistent with drowning. It was never considered a homicide.

I too had no idea she was married to him

She was married to him twice.
posted by dhartung at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


i'm not sure i can live in a reality in which christopher walken is a murderer

Surely you mean prankster?
posted by indubitable at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2011


Does Blanche Knott have a new book coming out?

the Natalie Wood and Karen Ann Quinlan jokes are sooo 80s.
posted by Challahtronix at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2011


This: Does Blanche Knott have a new book coming out?
posted by Webbster at 7:56 AM on November 19, 2011


Personally, I'd check the chauffeur; he seems a little overly loyal to the OTHER Mrs. Robert Wagner. MOI-DUH!
posted by KingEdRa at 8:41 AM on November 19, 2011


I knew she was married to Wagner twice, but I had no idea Natalie Wood was Russian. Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko.
posted by oflinkey at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2011


It was probably the same guy who stabbed Sal Mineo and cut James Dean's brakes.

Almost makes you wonder, of the two final cast members of Rebel Without A Cause to die (both in 2010), whose diary had the confession in it: Corey Allen's or Dennis Hopper's.

Almost. Not really.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:48 AM on November 19, 2011


Perhaps it was a time-traveling Earl of Oxford
posted by canoehead at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The opening of the new investigation coincides with a TV special airing Saturday on the CBS-TV news show "48 Hours," which in conjunction with Vanity Fair magazine purports to have new findings which "make it clear that there was reason to reopen the case," Vanity Fair said in a statement.

Ah yes, as well as it was clear there was reason to open Al Capone's vault.
posted by rhizome at 12:13 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew she was married to Wagner twice, but I had no idea Natalie Wood was Russian. Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko.

Huh. I thought she was Puerto Rican.

But seriously, folks, ever since a particularly vivid dream in college I've had a weird - not obsession, really, because I haven't actually done much research into it - I guess you'd say connection to this case. My hunch is that, yeah, Wagner did it but there's no way to prove it. Can't think of a good reason to reopen it now.

Now the Cobain case, on the other hand. That I'd like to see opened again.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:55 PM on November 19, 2011


I was always under the impression that most people thought Wagner was guilty but no one could prove it.

I think the thing that made people suspicious of the official story was that Wood's fear of water made it seem unlikely that she would have gotten in the dinghy in the first place.

Natalie Wood was too 'terrified' of water to try to leave Robert Wagner on yacht by dinghy
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on November 19, 2011


Robert Wagner is no murderer. Her death was accidental and reopening the case is a massive waste of time and money. Some putz is trying to sell books, that's all.
posted by Renoroc at 1:51 PM on November 19, 2011


Just an anecdtor, but I knew a former Hollywood production assistant who had worked with Robert Wagner on a movie, and she was insistent that Wagner had killed Natalie Wood.
posted by jonp72 at 2:35 PM on November 19, 2011


Re: the official statement that Wagner was not a suspect. I saw the guy make this statement (I thought he was from the DA, not the police) and he was really speaking officialese. This is not a murder investigation, he said, because the finding was accidental death so there was no murder until we figure out that there was = Wagner is not a murder suspect until we charge him. (Sub Walken for Wagner if you wish. Or the boat captain.)
posted by CCBC at 4:06 PM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Her death was ruled accidental by the coroner, as all signs were consistent with drowning. It was never considered a homicide.

dhartung, drowning while boating is hardly proof she wasn't the victim of homicide. The coroner's report may have decided that, but seriously: that's like saying her death was ruled accidental, as all signs were consistent with a gunshot wound.

Robert waited hours before notifying authorities that his wife went missing at sea. Whether or not he actually pushed her, that alone makes him incontrovertibly a murderer to me because there was a chance she was still alive, and could have been saved.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:30 PM on November 19, 2011


There's little point for conjecture until there's an official statement made from the police, but I thought perhaps that her fall and subsequent drowning was accidental but that she could possibly have been saved (much like the 'accident' scene in A Place In The Sun).

(I've been watching all those Roddy McDowell home movies for months now, and my God.. the camera ADORED her. There are quite a few uncomfortable moments watching her frolic in the ocean in Malibu and wading in a swimming pool for the Inside Daisy Clover shoot. ...For someone so afraid of drowning, she sure spent a lot of time in the water...)
posted by Mael Oui at 8:06 PM on November 19, 2011


And, anyway, if police say that Wagner is NOT a suspect and there were only so many people on board.. are they insinuating that Walken IS a suspect? Why now? The timing for this announcement (anniversary of her death, practically coinciding with the publishing of a book about the accident written by the accuser) is as suspicious as anything. I bet money or media attention has more to do with this than a guilty conscience.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:12 PM on November 19, 2011


I knew a guy who used to sell sub sandwiches to Robert Wagner, and he was insistent that Wagner was completely inncoent.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:34 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom, I was speaking factually. It was a death investigation, the result of which was a ruling of accidental drowning. As such, there was never any time at which it was a homicide investigation, and nobody was investigated or named as a suspect. That may not be right according to your instincts, but it's what happened. The whole point of having a coroner or medical examiner is to determine when deaths warrant further investigation.

As for "incontrovertibly a murderer", the closest actual criminal charge here (assuming one could prove what you have described) would probably be some variety of negligence -- which carries substantially lesser penalties.

police say that Wagner is NOT a suspect

All they're really saying is that there is no homicide investigation at this time.

I had no idea Natalie Wood was Russian

She was born in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents who fled the Bolshevik Revolution.
posted by dhartung at 3:21 AM on November 20, 2011


Is this where I can post my very favorite Walken dance number of all time?
posted by kinnakeet at 5:30 AM on November 21, 2011


Got it, dhartung. But I was speaking in a moral context, not a legal one. The motherfucker did nothing, when minutes counted, and shat on her chances of survival.

... which, derivatively, casts serious doubt on the base premise that he did not either push her in, or watch her fall. It may not meet legal standards for murder, but it sure as hell condemns him in my eyes.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:10 AM on November 21, 2011


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