The Conversation: Was Natalie Wood Murdered or Is Her Reopened Case All for Publicity?

The Conversation: Was Natalie Wood Murdered or Is Her Reopened Case All for Publicity?

Nov 18, 2011

We're coming up on 30 years since the death of Natalie Wood on November 29, 1981. If you don't know who she is, welcome to the world of movies, and do yourself a favor and catch up. Since Peter Martin's news bite this morning on her case being reopened, which is just coincidentally so close to the anniversary, a few things have happened. Yacht captain Dennis Davern pointed a finger at Wood's widow, Robert Wagner, he came back with a claim Davern is an opportunist trying to sell a new book, and now Christopher Walken, who was the fourth party on the boat, has lawyered up. Nobody is a suspect, but that isn't stopping blogs from making assumptions in headlines. 

The quick accusations from people who have no business doing so is just a product of our society, but it is a very old case so it's also reawakening ancient jokes about the death ("what kind of wood doesn't float..."; "what did Natalie Wood say when asked if she wanted to take a shower on the boat..."), which now seem a bit wrong even if the "too soon" defense hardly applies. Plus, the fact this all might be about selling a new book by Davern is additionally tragic. If you're noticing Wood's name as a Twitter trending topic, let it remind you of her beauty and talent and then rent one of her films. Maybe the police will uncover something, but otherwise we should ignore that book in case this is just a new scandal atop a non-scandal. 


What are people saying about Natalie Wood's case being reopened? Here's The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter: 

So there’s quite a bit of disparity between the original story and the new one, though many people have always questioned the original one. Either way I hope this ends up with Christopher Walken on trial because everything that dude says sounds cool. - Brendon, What Would Tyler Durden Do?

The police officers that eventually question Christopher Walken about the events of that night will do a horrible impression of him while telling people about it at cocktail parties years later. - Vince Mancini, Film Drunk

So, doesn't look too good for Number Two — but then there's the little credibility issue of why it took this captain 30 years to offer this kind-of-important evidence, and that he chose to do it in the form of a true-crime memoir. - Seth Abramovitch, Gawker

This is the sort of thing that requires a grain of salt, as Davern has also written a book about the incident. - Damon Houx, ScreenCrave

Wagner’s also got a point: While Natalie Wood’s death has always been cloaked in mystery—as evidenced by his frustrating, deflection-filled interview on this morning’s Today (seen below)—Dennis Davern doesn’t exactly make the best case for finally being the one to help solve it. - Sean O'Neal, A.V. Club

Robert Wagner is 81 years old, and the fact that we’re only a few days away from the 30th anniversary of this tragedy smacks of opportunism. If the anniversary spurred Davern’s conscience, that’s one thing, but if he’s looking for attention (why the television interview?) or a payday at the expense of a man nearing the end of his life, that’s a second tragedy. - John Nolte, Big Hollywood

Do the math.  There were only three other people on that boat.  RJ, Christopher Walken, and the captain.  So unless there was a mermaid in the area I don't know who else they'd be investigating.  And the captain is the one who has come forward with this new "information".   You also have to figure that if they're re-opening the case after 30 years that they've got to have some pretty substantial evidence. - Ken Levine, By Ken Levine

If Robert Wagner was charged with murder, think about all the celebrities his age who have been. Robert Blake, Phil Spector, OJ Simpson. Think about how many celebrities got away with murder too. I think if the internet had existed in the form it does today back then that someone would have been charged. - Enty Lawyer, Crazy Days and Nights

So if Wagner is not a suspect this time around, is Walken? All those people were heavy drinkers and alcohol abusers who the hell knows what could have happened. Is the Yacht Captain a suspect? All speculation but never the less this is interesting. - Kevin Coll, Fused Film

Knowing Hollywood, numerous executives are scrambling to greenlight a Natalie Wood biopic in light of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopening the case [...] Should we just go ahead and cast someone like Bill Hader as Walken, seeing as few people can do Walken better than Walken? - Sarah Carlson, Pajiba


@FrankConniff: The Natalie Wood case evokes a distant, forgotten past when we had scandals that actually involved talented celebrities.

@robdelaney: It doesn't take a medical examiner to tell you that Natalie Wood died of Acute Foxaliciousness. Case closed.

@JHoffman6: Hopefully reopening the Natalie Wood case will resuscitate an interest in the film BRAINSTORM. I love that movie to pieces.

@devincf: Is Christopher Walken lawyering up? This Natalie Wood thing has me too excited, to be honest.

@JasTiarra: I've been saying for years..... Robert Wagner killed Natalie Wood!!!

@FunkynFortunate: OMG Natalie Wood is alive! Kurt Russell tricked her into thinking she was his wife after she fell off a yacht so she'd care for his kids.

@CRichardB: Natalie Wood dead, boat Captain writes book, California wants income tax revenues, reopen case for book sales, everyone happy.


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

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