Natasha Nikolaevna Gurdin was born in July 20, 1938 in San Francisco, California. Natalie got her first role at the age of 4 in a movie called Happy Land . She continued playing the roles of young girls until the age of 17, where she landed the lead female role in the legendary film Rebel Without a Cause. For this role she was nominated for her first Academy Award, showing Hollywood and the world that she had grown up into a beautiful and very talented young woman.
Natalie dated many big names in the entertainment business: James Dean, Elvis, Raymond Burr and Dennis Hopper. However, on December 28th, 1957 Natalie married the man that seemed to be the love of her life: Robert Wagner. Unfortunately they divorced in 1962.
In the 1960s Natalie's career boomed and she was nominated for two more Academy Awards (Splendor in the Grass in 1961 and Love With The Proper Stranger in 1963). In 1969 Natalie married producer Richard Gregson and had a daughter, but she divorced Gregson after finding out he was having an affair. Robert Wagner and Natalie reconnected and re-married in 1972.
Natalie had a deep fear of drowning ever since she barely survived being drowned during the filming of The Green Promise as a child. She said in interviews that she loved to be around water, just not in the water. It's ironic that the thing she feared most would ultimately be the cause of her death.
In November 29, 1981, Wood was on board their yacht Splendor with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken just off Catalina Island. There were reports that Wagner and Walken had some kind of loud argument, but it did not come to blows, according to reports.
Around midnight, Wood left the two men in the boat's main cabin and went to her stateroom. Some time later, dressed in socks, nightgown and a down jacket, she stepped out on deck. She tried to either leave the yacht or to secure a dinghy that was banging against the hull. At any rate, reports indicated that she slipped and fell overboard, bruising her left cheek.
A woman in her own boat nearby said she heard cries for help: "Help me! Somebody help me!" from the water, cries lasting for about 15 minutes. The witness also heard someone answering, "Take it easy. We'll be over to get you."
"It was laid back," the witness recalled, explaining why she didn't help herself. "There was no urgency or immediacy in their shouts." Wagner, Walken, and the captain of the Splendor said they heard nothing.
By 1:30 a.m., Wagner had become worried about his wife and radioed the harbor master. A search was launched, and at 3:26 a.m., the Coast Guard was called in. Soon after dawn, a guardsman spotted Wood's body a mile down current from the yacht and 200 yards from shore. The empty dinghy, loaded with life jackets, was not far away, bobbing in the waves.
Although her death is still ruled today as an accidental drowning, it is still a mystery as to what happened that night. It was later revealed by police that Wood had drunk seven or eight glasses of wine and was therefore intoxicated when she died. Also marks and bruises were found on her body, which could have been received as a result of her fall. The coroner later wrote that had Wood not been intoxicated she likely would have realized that her heavy clothing were pulling her underwater and she would have removed them. He also wrote that he found Wood's fingernails embedded in the rubber boat's side.
She was only 43 years old.
[adapted from an article I originally wrote for and posted on Celebutaint]