LIFE

10 Tragic Facts About The Life And Death Of Hollywood Starlet Natalie Wood

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

The world was shocked when legendary actress Natalie Wood passed away in 1981 at just 43 years old.

Word spread quickly about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death while out at sea with her husband, Robert Wagner, and costar at the time, Christopher Walken. Even after all these years, there are many lingering questions that may never be answered.

Long before the tragic boating accident, the actress battled several dark clouds hanging over her life. Starting at a young age, Natalie’s world was filled with unfortunate influences taking advantage of her beauty and talent — even from her own family.

It’s heartbreaking to know how much she was forced to put up with throughout her life and career.

Take a look below to learn just how many hardships Natalie endured before her untimely passing.

And don’t forget to SHARE the surprising facts about the classic actress with your friends on Facebook.

1. She Never Really Had A Childhood

young natalie wood

Starting her career at just 5 years old, Natalie was often the victim of her overbearing mother’s attempts to fulfill her own dreams of stardom.

After the huge success of Miracle on 34th Street, Natalie was working pretty much nonstop with over 20 films under her belt by the time she was 14. According to reports from Newsweek, her mother, Maria, even went so far as to keep her daughter from reporting a sexual assault from a powerful producer at just 16 years old.

2. She Always Wore Bracelets To Cover Up An Old Injury

natalie wood wearing bracelet

While filming The Green Promise in 1949, a scene called for the young actress to run across a bridge that would then collapse. The stunt didn’t go as planned, and Natalie ended up with a broken arm.

Her wrist never healed quite right, so she always concealed a protruding bone with large bracelets.

3. She Hated Her Stage Name

natalie wood name in credits

Natalie was born Natasha Nikolaevna Zacharenko on July 20, 1938, but as was common back in her early career, a studio executive changed it to the one we’re used to seeing on her film credits.

According to Natalie and R.J.: The Star-Crossed Love Affair of Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, she said at one point, “I didn’t mind Natalie, but I hated ‘Wood.’ It didn’t suggest a nice image to me.”

4. She Was Incredibly Self-Conscious About Her Looks

young natalie wood

At just shy of 5’2, she would frequently wear high stiletto heels to appear much taller. She would also coat her face in heavy makeup and wear low-cut dresses to try to bolster her self-image.

Again as described in Natalie and RJ, someone once suggested that Natalie should tone things down, to which she replied, “I’m Natalie Wood and this is how I look when I go out.”

5. Warren Beatty Seriously Broke Her Heart

natalie wood and warren beatty in splendor in the grass

After Natalie and Robert Wagner ended their first marriage, she spent time in a relationship with her Splendor in the Grass costar. When Warren decided to end things, however, he was brutally abrupt.

Reports from People magazine claim she was so distraught by his sudden absence that she even attempted to take her own life.

6. She Lost A Crucial Role To Meryl Streep

meryl streep in sophie's choice

It’s hard to argue with the casting of Meryl in Sophie’s Choice, especially considering she won one of her many Oscars for the role, but it absolutely devastated Natalie at the time.

She was desperately trying to get back into the business but kept finding herself, now in her early 40s, being passed over for younger actresses.

7. She Passed Away Just Before Her Big Comeback

natalie wood in brainstorm

Natalie had taken a break from acting to focus on motherhood, but returned to a major studio in 1981 to film her first big break in years, Brainstorm.

They managed to complete the film using a body double in her place.

8. She Was Terrified Of Water

natalie wood

One of the most mysterious aspects of Natalie’s death is the setting, as Entertainment Weekly reported back in 1992.

Quoting the actress herself, she claimed, “I’m frightened to death of the water. I can swim a little bit, but I’m afraid of water that is dark.” Statements like this are exactly what keeps rumors circulating since her 1981 death. Many fans, friends, and family members suspect the tragic loss might not have been an accident after all.

9. Her Mother Predicted Her Fate

natalie wood with her child

According to a Variety review of one of her biographies, a psychic predicted that Natalie’s mother, Maria, would pass away in “dark water,” and she passed that paranoia of dark water onto her daughter.

That, plus the incident that broke her arm as a young actress, also factored into her fear of water.

10. Authorities Are Still Investigating Her Death

natalie wood gravestone

Details surrounding her last day alive are sketchy at best. While on a yacht with Robert and Christopher Walken, her costar at the time, she apparently went missing at some point during the night and was found dead a mile away from the boat.

In 2011, Dennis Davern, the boat’s captain, admitted to lying to authorities at the time. According to reports from Daily Mail, he claimed to be instructed by Robert to keep quiet. The case was reopened and remains unsolved today.

Were you shocked by any of these sad facts about Natalie’s life?

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