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Over 60 ... And Getting Younger: December 15, 2011


The recent media revival of the shipboard death of Natalie Wood awakened a sore place, 30 years dormant in my heart. I definitely had a crush on this tiny little actress.

The first time I ever saw her perform, she was playing a little girl in Macy’s Department Store in the delightful 1947 fantasy Miracle on 34th Street. The wonderful cast included Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara and John Payne. After that performance, she was destined to become a movie star in later life.

In 1955 she starred with James Dean in the film that made him a Hollywood legend, Rebel Without a Cause. Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams, along with Natalie, were the kids in trouble with their parents and the law. She was James Dean’s girlfriend in this memorable film on juvenile delinquency.

The role that won my heart was in the 1958 film Marjorie Morningstar. Marjorie was an 18-year-old who fell for a show-biz, carefree Gene Kelly as a theatrical producer in a Catskills mountain hotel. She was so beautiful and innocent that the whole world, including me, fell in love with her. The movie was based on the Herman Wouk novel. Ed Wynn, her eccentric uncle, was almost a show-stealer.

She went on to many significant movies and a career as a superstar. Splendor in the Grass with Warren Beatty featured her in another successful role.

Can the authorities re-open the case for an incident that happened 30 years ago? Her husband Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken were aboard an anchored boat on the California coast when Natalie slipped off the vessel and drowned. The story did not make much sense at the time. Drinking was a large part of the problem.

The blame seems to go back to Robert Wagner and/or Chris Walken. What can be determined 30 years after the incident is questionable; I doubt that anything conclusive will be discovered.

Natalie, you deserved better! Signed: A fan.