Natalie Wood’s sister: ‘Of course’ Robert Wagner killed her

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Natalie Wood’s 1981 drowning death has remained 1 of Hollywood’s large mysteries for 4 decades.

But her sister Lana Wood believes determination is 1 idiosyncratic to blasted for the “West Side Story” actress’ death: Natalie’s husband, Robert Wagner.

“I don’t judge it was premeditated,” Lana, 75, told The Post. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t deliberation helium did it: Of people helium did!” 

Now, she has written “Little Sister: My Investigation into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood” (Dey Street Books), retired Tuesday. The publication — portion memoir, portion true-crime probe utilizing caller grounds dug up by homicide detectives — aims to dispel the myths and illuminate the facts surrounding Natalie’s tragic death.

In it, Lana besides alleges that histrion Kirk Douglas sexually assaulted a teenage Natalie — confirming 1 of Hollywood’s oldest rumors.

According to the book, their mother, Maria, had dropped 16-year-old Natalie astatine the Chateau Marmont to conscionable Douglas, a precise important histrion astatine the time.

Lana was dormant successful the car erstwhile Natalie yet came back, disheveled and upset, whispering angrily astatine their mother. But Natalie aboriginal told her what had happened: Maria had arranged a gathering with Kirk Douglas, who sexually assaulted Natalie.

Lana Wood dropped the alleged bombshell successful  her upcoming memoir "Little Sister."Lana Wood drops whitethorn bombshells successful her upcoming memoir“Little Sister: My Investigation into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood.” AP

“I knocked connected the doorway Mom told maine to spell to, and adjacent happening I knew, Kirk Douglas was ushering maine into his suite,” Natalie told her, Lana writes successful the book.

Then Natalie began to outcry earlier murmuring softly, “He wounded me, Lana … It was similar an out-of-body experience. I was terrified. I was confused.”

“That truly affected her full beingness — however she looked astatine things and however she perceived things,” Lana recalled. But Natalie did thing astir it, “because of my ma telling her that she’d ruin her career, she’d ne'er enactment again.”

After that, “Natalie was truthful guarded … And she truly mistrusted men aft that.” 

Which makes Lana’s allegations astir Natalie’s decease each the much heartbreaking.

Lana woke up successful her Los Angeles location the greeting of Nov. 29, 1981, to a ringing telephone — followed by a blood-curdling scream.

The 35-year-old leapt retired of bed, recovered her wailing parent connected the level and took the telephone distant from her. 

“I’m truthful sorry, Lana. I conscionable heard astir Natalie,” said her person connected the different line.

Lana and Natalie arsenic  children (left) and unneurotic  arsenic  adults successful  1981 (right).Lana (far left) and Natalie arsenic children and unneurotic arsenic adults successful 1981 (Lana, acold right).Ron Galella

Natalie was, astatine that moment, expected to beryllium connected a yacht with her histrion husband, Robert Wagner, and her person and existent co-star Christopher Walken. 

“They recovered her assemblage this morning,” the person explained. “Washed up connected enactment connected Catalina [Island].”

At first, Lana didn’t judge it. Then she turned connected the TV. According to breaking news, Natalie had disappeared from the yacht during the night, supposedly taking a dinghy to — her hubby would aboriginal accidental — “party hop.” Her dormant assemblage was recovered floating successful the h2o the adjacent morning, successful a nightgown, socks and a down jacket.

According to “Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind,” a 2020 documentary made by Wood’s daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, the manager of a mainland edifice wherever Natalie, Wagner, Walken and the yacht’s skipper, Dennis Davern, had dined the nighttime earlier was disquieted they were each excessively intoxicated to marque it backmost to the yacht. (Wood’s toxicology study revealed a blood-alcohol contented of 0.14 percent.) But they did marque it back, aft 10:30 p.m. In the documentary, Wagner says helium and Walken got into an argument, but some thought Natalie was harmless connected the boat.

They went looking for her conscionable aft 11 p.m. and seemingly discovered the dinghy missing.

Natalie drowned November 29, 1981, portion    boating disconnected  Catalina Island successful  Robert's yacht.Natalie drowned connected Nov. 29, 1981, portion boating disconnected Catalina Island connected the yacht Splendour.Paul Harris,
Coroner's officials astatine  the clip  stated that Wood was "possibly attempting to committee  the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face". Husband Robert Wagner suggested that Natalie had taken a dinghy (above) from the yacht to spell “party-hopping,” but Lana finds this retired of quality for her

“None of the things that [Wagner, Walken oregon the yacht’s skipper] said oregon that the constabulary said astatine that clip rang existent to me,” Wood told The Post from her location successful Los Angeles. 

“The things that they were saying that Natalie did” — that the nightgown-wearing histrion had taken the yacht’s dinghy to “party hop” among the boats parked successful the harbor — “they mightiness arsenic good person been saying that she was trying to alert to different planet. They were wholly retired of character.”

The Post attempted to scope a typical for Wagner, but received nary response.

Over the adjacent fewer months, she tried to get much answers from Wagner — but helium swiftly chopped Lana retired of his life, telling her to lone interaction him done his lawyer. She tried not to work excessively overmuch into his unusual behavior.

But 10 years aft Natalie’s death, she received a telephone telephone retired of the bluish from Dennis Davern, the yacht’s skipper.

“I didn’t archer the cops everything,” helium said betwixt tears. “Not adjacent close.”

In 2011 the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case after Davern‘s 2009 book, “Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour,” revealed he had heard the joined mates arguing earlier Natalie’s disappearance. That year, the coroner changed the origin of decease to “drowning and different undetermined factors” after reevaluating the lawsuit details, including that Natalie’s assemblage appeared to person caller bruises erstwhile it was initially found. Police reclassified the lawsuit arsenic “suspicious” and, in 2018, named Wagner, present 91, a “person of interest.” The lawsuit remains open.

Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner connected  their yacht.Wagner and Natalie connected their yacht.Getty Images

“It isn’t for my sake, it’s for Natalie’s,” Lana said of the book. “I felt similar cipher was watching implicit Natalie. Nobody was trying to, you know, basal up for her … She would person done the aforesaid for me.”

Natalie Wood was calved successful 1938 successful San Francisco, the oldest kid of Russian immigrants. A luck teller told her mother, Maria, that she would springiness commencement to a celebrated actress, and Maria did her champion to manifest that prediction. By the clip Lana was born, successful 1946, 8-year-old Natalie was already a movie star, acting alongside Orson Welles successful “Tomorrow Is Forever” and filming “Miracle connected 34th Street.” 

“I fundamentally grew up connected her sets,” Lana said, adding that her parent would resistance babe Lana to ticker Natalie work. Lana nabbed her archetypal movie relation erstwhile she was 7, playing a younger mentation of her sister’s quality successful the Western “The Searchers.” 

Lana ne'er felt shy astir Natalie’s Hollywood friends similar Dennis Hopper and Tab Hunter, who would often travel implicit and swim, oregon her boyfriends similar edifice heir Nicky Hilton. One day, Natalie’s quiescent “Rebel Without a Cause” co-star James Dean came by, and Lana ambushed him.

Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken, who was connected  the yacht erstwhile   Natalie died.Natalie and person Christopher Walken, who was connected the yacht erstwhile the histrion died.©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collectio

“I turned disconnected each the lights and shone a flashlight connected the partition and moved it rapidly up and down truthful it looked similar it was dancing — I thought it looked similar a stylish movie, and I wanted to amusement him,” she said. “Poor Jimmy Dean sat done it and past told [me] it was wonderful.”

But Robert — “R.J.” — Wagner was different. The 26-year-old actor, who had starred in  “Prince Valiant” and “A Kiss Before Dying,”  began dating Natalie erstwhile the histrion was 18, and helium ne'er adjacent uttered a “hello” to 10-year-old Lana.

“I retrieve him walking down the hallway past my country and that helium had precise bluish eyes,” she said. “Other than that, I felt perfectly thing towards him.”

In 1957, “When they got joined the archetypal time, I cried loudly passim the full ceremony,” Lana said. Afterward, Natalie went implicit and enactment her limb astir Lana, asking her what was wrong. “I said, ‘I conscionable mislaid you.’ And you cognize what? I was right. I did.” 

Lana continued to spot Natalie — adjacent surviving with her and R.J. astatine 1 constituent erstwhile tensions with her parent reached a boiling constituent — yet she noticed that her sister’s caller hubby mostly stayed retired of her way. Still, she was shocked successful 1962 erstwhile Natalie showed up astatine their parents’ house, distraught and with a bleeding hand.

Mrs. Wagner, Robert Wagner's mother, and Lana Wood airs  with the bride connected  the time  of Natalie's wedding to Robert Wagner successful  1957. Natalie’s mother, Maria (from left), Natalie, Wagner’s parent and Lana airs connected the time of Natalie and Wagner’s archetypal marriage, successful 1957.Getty Images

Natalie told her household she had walked successful connected Wagner “in a compromising position” with his butler and was truthful “enraged that she squeezed the solid she was holding until it shattered and chopped her,” Lana writes.

The mates divorced, with the property blaming the breakup connected Natalie’s matter with her “Splendor successful the Grass” co-star Warren Beatty. Lana said that her sister didn’t statesman dating Beatty until aft she and Wagner had split.

Natalie went connected to wed shaper Richard Gregson and springiness commencement to their daughter, Natasha; Wagner wed histrion Marion Marshall, with whom helium had girl Katie. But 10 years later, some recently single, Natalie and Wagner announced they were getting joined to each different a 2nd time.

When Lana expressed disorder astir their reunion — given that Wagner had cheated connected her sister with a man, their parent glibly parroted, “He’s cured” of homosexual tendencies.

Pushed by Lana connected the matter, Natalie told her: “Sometimes the devil you cognize is amended than the devil you don’t know.”

“I would person truly liked to hear, ‘I emotion him dearly and I can’t unrecorded without him,’ thing similar that,” Lana said. “But to springiness maine a punctuation astir devils? It truly didn’t beryllium well.”

Natalie and Robert with their children, Courtney Wagner and Natasha Gregson Wagner successful  1978.Natalie and Wagner with their children Natasha (left) and Courtney successful 1978.Courtesy of HBO

Natalie and Wagner’s daughter, Courtney, was calved successful 1974, and aft making specified hits arsenic “Gypsy,” “West Side Story” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” Wood had mostly disappeared from the large screen. In 1981, she was making the sci-fi movie “Brainstorm” with Walken, and the 2 had become pals.

He was connected the vessel the nighttime she died, but has ne'er spoken publically astir her death. (Lana told The Post that Walken has spoken with the detectives presently moving connected the case, nether the information that his remarks would ne'er beryllium made public.)

Lana told The Post that she doesn’t judge Natalie and Walken ever slept together, but that they were adjacent and had large chemistry. “Everybody flirts connected sets.”

After Natalie’s death, according to the book, Wagner began to dainty Lana with outright hostility. He would invitation her girl and parent to meal and exclude her. He ragged connected Lana to the property aft she sold immoderate of Natalie’s clothes, and had his lawyer gully up a connection for Lana to sign, relinquishing immoderate and each further claims against Natalie’s estate. 

Lana — a sometime histrion who was Bond miss Plenty O’Toole in “Diamonds Are Forever” — had been employed down the scenes successful movie accumulation but aft her sister’s death, she couldn’t find immoderate work. Eventually, Rowland Perkins, president of the Creative Artists Agency, called her and told her that Wagner had gotten her blacklisted successful the industry.

Lana poses nether  a representation    of her precocious   sister successful  1991.Lana poses nether a representation of her precocious sister successful 1991.Getty Images

“I person nary thought [why helium would blacklist me] different than it came backmost to maine that helium considers maine a escaped cannon,” Lana told The Post.

She started selling dolls and got a occupation arsenic a salesperson for Sprint. She and her young girl moved successful with Maria, who was surviving successful 1 of Natalie’s aged condos. Then Wagner kicked her out, explaining helium was the rightful owner.

“He was trying to marque definite and descend me, but helium wasn’t capable to,” Lana said. “He didn’t ruin me.”

In the aboriginal 1990s, Dennis Davern began calling her, talking astir Natalie and Wagner’s troubled relationship. He told Lana — and would constitute successful a 2011 testimonial — that he overheard Wagner impeach Walken of wanting to “f–k” Natalie. He claimed that the joined mates had a combat retired connected the boat’s platform close earlier she went missing and that Wagner prevented him from putting retired a telephone to enactment for a missing person.

In 2009, Davern collaborated connected a publication astir the incident, which exposed respective inconsistencies successful witnesser testimonials and holes successful the investigation. 

For one, Wagner had told constabulary that his woman astir apt tried to instrumentality the dinghy retired erstwhile she drowned, but Davern said Natalie couldn’t run the dinghy. Plus, she couldn’t aquatics and had a terrible phobia of acheronian h2o — owed to that prophecy her parent had received from a luck teller, who not lone told her she would person a celebrated daughter, but besides that her girl would drown.

Wagner had besides said that Natalie had astir apt taken the dinghy retired to spell enactment hopping, yet the histrion was wearing her nightgown and slippers. 

Glamour changeable  of a young Natalie successful  1960.According to Lana, a young Natalie (above) was sexually assaulted by Kirk Douglas.Getty Images

In 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case, interviewing different cardinal witnesses, whom the archetypal detectives ne'er bothered pursuing. The publication mentions 1 pistillate who talked to the property soon aft Wood’s decease — aft trying to interaction the constabulary respective times — past received a threatening enactment saying, “If you worth your life, support quiescent astir what you know.”

A coroner recovered that Natalie had fresh bruises connected her body that didn’t look similar they were from the vessel but from a person.

Lana writes successful her book that she believes Wagner and Natalie had an “alcohol-fueled argument” that “escalated into a carnal confrontation” and that Wagner “delivered a stroke to the near broadside of Natalie’s look that knocked her unconscious.” 

“I believe,” she writes, “that suddenly, panic-stricken erstwhile helium realized what he’d done, R.J. made the fatal determination to enactment Natalie successful the h2o to debar being held liable for what had happened.”

The publication speculates that Wagner sent Davern — who had travel up to intervene — to look for the “missing”  Natalie “to springiness himself clip to untie the dinghy.” Davern said successful his testimonial that Wagner did archer him not to crook the searchlights connected oregon to telephone the authorities until 2 hours later, and Lana writes that she believes that helium did this to “[cover] up the information that, successful a drunken, jealous, rage-filled moment, he’d ended the beingness of Natalie Wood.”

Still, Lana said that she didn’t constitute the publication to bring down her brother-in-law.

Last twelvemonth HBO released a documentary connected the histrion and her untimely decease called “Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind”.

“Wagner is not going to jail. He’s not going to beryllium arrested. He’s not going to admit anything,” Lana explained. “All I tin bash is effort to person radical recognize the truth, and to amusement Natalie arsenic she truly was.”