Last week Dennis Davern, who was the captain of Natalie Wood’s boat and was steering it the night in 1981 when the actress disappeared, came out and suggested that her husband, actor Robert Wagner, was at fault.
But according to an interview that longtime Wood confidant Mart Crowley recently gave to The Advocate, nothing could be further from the truth.
“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s obscene to suggest that R.J. [Wagner] could have harmed her. There isn’t a human being on the face of the earth that he worshipped and adored more than Natalie,” Crowley, who wrote The Boys in the Band, said. “He was besotted with her, and she with him in her own way.”
What probably was true, said Crowley, is that the couple and Christopher Walken, Wood’s costar in Brainstorm, were drinking all day It’s also possible, he said, that Wagner and Wood could have been fighting.
“They’d been drinking all day. She was 5'2" and weighed 95 pounds. It didn’t take more than a thimble of something to make her drunk. I don’t know how she got through drinking all that champagne and wine without throwing up,” he said. “They were all drunk out of their minds. If we don’t know anything else from AA, we know that you’re not the same person when you're drunk. Your inhibitions change and loosen. You become hostile and aggressive. If [Wagner] was being shut out of the conversation, I know he resented it and acted out. I’d seen them argue before.”
An argument between the two, however, does not mean that Wagner was responsible for his wife’s untimely death.
“Whether R.J. followed her into the stateroom, I don’t know,” Crowley said. He also noted that Wagner’s bad mood was understandable. “I just think that all the drinking and them talking about Brainstormand giggling and having their private things pissed R.J. off and he overreacted and said things he wouldn’t have normally, because he’s not that kind of person.”
Still, despite his proximity to the couple, it’s hard to say exactly what happened.
Crowley’s version of things goes something like this: “[Wagner] went up to the bridge with Dennis. Then after a while they didn’t hear a word from [Wood] and thought she’d just gone to sleep. He went downstairs to see if she was OK and she wasn’t there. Then he opened up the back doors and saw the dinghy was gone. He thought she’d taken the dinghy and left in a huff. There was no reason to believe she was dead. Who jumps to the conclusion that when someone has left the boat or house, that they’re dead? That’s why they didn’t call the police immediately. The last thing in the world they thought was that she was dead.”