I usually like The Huffington Post, but sometimes they can get appallingly sensationalistic. Three decades after Natalie Wood’s death in late November 1981 — ruled an accidental drowning — new stories have been coming out regarding What Actually Happened. Now, The Huffington Post quoting something — "a sex secret" — found in The National Enquirer? And, to boot, under the heading "Natalie Wood Death: An Alleged Affair With Christopher Walken Is Revealed." That’s pretty low.
Rumors of an affair between Wood and Walken, the two stars of visual effects master/director Douglas Trumbull’s Brainstorm, have been floating around since the early ’80s. Other rumors have Walken dating Robert Wagner, Wood’s husband. Others yet, have a WWW triangle: Wood, Walken, and Wagner all rolled up as one.
Although anything could have happened, it makes little sense that various people — including one with a book out — would finally be revealing the truth in 2011 about a death that took place exactly thirty years ago. Why didn’t all those revelations — from love triangles to death threats and desperate cries in the middle of the night — come out back in 1988? 1996? 2007? (If any came out back in 1981, they surely weren’t taken seriously.)
This reminds me of another death that allegedly was the result of foul play on another November boat trip, this one back in 1924. That’s when film producer Thomas H. Ince was taken ill while aboard publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst’s yacht. Ince died on Nov. 19.
The yellow press claimed that Ince had died after being shot by Hearst because of an alleged affair with Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. According to other such tales, Hearst had actually aimed his gun at Charles Chaplin after catching The Little Tramp in an NC-17 situation: Chaplin was either on top of Davies or topped by her — I forget the exact positions. Those stories have been debunked elsewhere, though many have chosen to believe the sensational lies. Chances are that’s what’s going to happen in Natalie Wood’s case as well.
A beautiful (the older she got, the more striking she became) and at times a quite capable actress, Wood was nominated for three Academy Awards: as Best Supporting Actress for Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955), with James Dean and Sal Mineo; and as Best Actress for Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass (1961), losing her sanity after being rejected by rich boy Warren Beatty, and Robert Mulligan’s Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), unmarried, pregnant, and loved by Steve McQueen. Wood’s best performance, however, was in Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), as the female half of one of the film’s two swinging couples (Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon, and Elliott Gould were the other partiers).