The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Mysterious death of the most successful Russian actress in Hollywood



The mysterious death of the West Side Story star has fascinated investigators from around the world for 30 years. Her body was found a mile off the coast of Santa Catalina. She spent the night before her death on a yacht. Accident or brutal murder? 29 November 1981 of the year killed Natalie Wood, who became the most successful Russian actress in Hollywood.

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The daughter of refugees from revolutionary Russia, who climbed to the top of the Western film Olympus, died under mysterious circumstances. Her mysterious death has been stirring the minds of fans and researchers for more than 30 years and remains as much a mystery as the real identity of Jack the Ripper or the story of the “Dyatlovites”, says


Natalie Wood was born in 1938 year. Her parents, Nikolai Zakharenko and Maria Zudilova, are natives of the Russian Empire. Nikolai Zakharenko was born in Vladivostok in the family of a chocolate factory worker. His father fought for whites and died in one of the skirmishes in the fall of 1918. His wife and three children fled the violence that swept over the country to Shanghai. From there, she managed to contact her brother who lived in Canada and move in with him. Later, Nicholas grew up he moved to the United States, where he met his wife Maria.

Maria Zudilova was born in Barnaul into a family of a very wealthy manufacturer, who owned candle and soap factories in the city and surrounding areas. In 1918, the family left everything and fled to Harbin, where they lived until the end of the 1920's. Later, Maria moved to America.

American "Irony of Fate"

Maria in her youth dreamed of becoming a ballerina, and later hoped that her daughter would be able to make a career in the creative field. Due to the fact that Natalya was born already in the USA, English was for her the same native language as Russian. She called herself Russian.

At the age of 4, Natalia got her first role in the film by Irving Pichel "Happy Earth". The role was tiny, but the director remembered the girl and promised his mother to put in a word for her in front of the big bosses when the opportunity arises. In the same year, she starred in an episode of the movie "The Moon Has Set", also directed by Pichel.

Only two years later, she got a larger role in the film "Tomorrow Forever," directed by the same Pichel. Starring star Orson Welles. After several episodic roles, 9-year-old Natalia (at that time, on the advice of Hollywood figures, had already changed her name to a more familiar to the American ear Natalie Wood) finally got her first truly starring role in the film Miracle on 34th Street. This film became a classic of Christmas cinema and for many years played a role similar to Irony of Fate in Russia.

After this film, Wood became a star child. Before reaching adulthood, she managed to star in more than 20 films, having worked with such legendary actors as James Stewart, Orson Welles, Bette Davis.

At 16, Wood starred in Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean (the main youth sex symbol of the time), who became a cult icon and received three Oscar nominations. Wood herself was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The role brought her a short romance with Elvis Presley, who just then burst into the charts deafeningly and was not yet the king of rock and roll, but a budding star.

A year later, Wood got a role in another cult film - "The Seekers", which became a classic of the western. The film was directed by the legendary John Ford, and the leading role was played by the equally legendary John Wayne. These two people are still symbols of the American Western, and The Seekers is the best American Western in history.

At the peak of glory

For child actors, growing up often means the end of a career. Many people fail to transition from typical childhood roles to adults. Nevertheless, Wood succeeded in this, although not immediately. Five years after the success of Rebel and The Searchers, she did not receive breakthrough roles, although she did not sit out of work.

Everything changed the film “Splendor in the Grass”, where Wood was invited to the main role by one of the most status directors of the era, Elia Kazan. The film had several Oscar nominations, and Wood herself this time fought for the statuette in the Best Actress category, but lost the fight to Sophia Loren.

The second major success was the film "West Side Story", in which Wood also played a major role. The adaptation of the Broadway musical was a resounding success. The film received ten Oscars (still one of the top five winners in this indicator) and is still considered one of the greatest musicals in history.

This was followed by the successful comedy melodrama Love with the Right Stranger, which brought Wood another Oscar nomination. By the age of 25, the actress had already had three Oscar nominations for Best Actress, but she never received one.

Starting in the second half of the 1960s, Wood began to appear a little less frequently. She took a break for the birth of a child, and also became interested in psychoanalysis and spent a lot of time with a psychoanalyst. Although the actress still got the first roles in high-profile films, many of which were successful (for example, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the film Scrapped!), there were no new breakthroughs in her career. Sometimes Wood herself missed chances.

For example, the main role in the movie "Bonnie and Clyde" was originally intended for her, but Wood refused. As a result, little-known aspiring actress Faye Dunaway was cast for the role. The film was a huge success and became a historical milestone. It is from him that it is customary to count the decline of classic Hollywood and the arrival of the “new wave” in American cinema, which in a few years irreversibly changed the face of American cinema. Dunaway after the release of the film became one of the main sex symbols of world cinema.

Three times married

Wood was married three times, but only to two men. Her first husband Robert Wagner became her third husband. Wood met Wagner on set when she was 10 (he was eight years older) and, by her own admission, fell in love forever. Wagner was known as a relatively famous actor, but was never considered a star in Hollywood (he was more popular as an actor in TV series). But thanks to his appearance, he was popular with women. In his memoirs, Wagner said that he had affairs with such stars as Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins.

They first got married when she was 19 years old. The marriage lasted four and a half years. Wood was then at the peak of her fame, star roles followed one after another, and Wagner's career, on the contrary, stalled. This complicated the relationship between the spouses, besides, Wagner was jealous of his wife for all the partners on the set.

In 1969, Wood married British agent Richard Gregson. Gregson's business then went uphill. His client, director John Schlesinger, was just then making his brilliant American debut with Midnight Cowboy. The picture won an Oscar as the best film and became a milestone in the history of American cinema. Another client of Gregson, actor Alan Bates, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor.

However, the marriage of a Hollywood star and a British agent was short-lived. Although they had a daughter, the couple divorced after a little over two years, when Wood accused him of treason. It is worth noting that the mother of the actress opposed the marriage with Wagner, whom she did not like, but did not support her daughter's decision to divorce Gregson.

Soon, Wood again married Wagner, with whom she remained until her death.

Mysterious death

29 November 1981, the body of Natalie Wood was found a mile off the coast of Santa Catalina. She spent the night before her death on a yacht in the company of her spouse, actor Christopher Walken and captain of the yacht Dennis Davern.

The police were never able to unambiguously establish how Wood ended up in the water. The investigation concluded that there had been an accident. That evening, the three of them drank wine, and Walken (Wood's partner in the film "Brainstorm") said that the actress should act more often (she paused due to remarriage and the birth of her daughter). Wagner, who was always jealous of his wife for his partners, answered very sharply, flared up, and the men began to swear. After an enraged Wagner broke a bottle of wine on the floor, Wood went to her room, although in fact she tried to get into a boat to swim to shore and return home. But, being in a state of slight intoxication, she lost her balance and fell overboard (Wood did not know how to swim), and the men quarreling in the cabin allegedly did not hear this. Although bruises were found on the actress’s arm and a scratch on her cheek, the experts could not establish under what circumstances they appeared.

The younger sister of the actress Lana Wood always considered Wagner responsible for the death of his wife and believed that he had something to hide. Moreover, after two months, the cheerful widower got along with another actress and was not very similar to the inconsolable spouse. However, no formal charges were brought against him.

In 2009, the captain of the yacht Davern published a book of memoirs in which he said that in reality everything was a little different that night. According to him, there really was a quarrel between Wagner and Walken, but when Wagner broke the bottle, Walken went to sleep in the cabin, and then Wagner and Wood were cursing. Accordingly, it was her husband who was the last to see her alive.

By the 30th anniversary of the actress's death, in 2011, the case was reopened and the investigation resumed. In February 2018, the investigation announced that Robert Wagner was “a person of interest”. This term from American justice has no analogue in the Russian system. It means that this person does not yet have official status in the investigation, but has important information for the investigation. The term does not have clear criteria, but it is often used in relation to suspects against whom there is not enough evidence or evidence of their involvement.

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