Nightly News | November 18, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: and remember when they heard the news, it was shocking. Natalie Wood was a three-time Academy Award nominee. She was 43 years old and she was beautiful. And over the Thanksgiving holiday back in 1981 , she drowned during an alcohol-fueled night on board a boat off the course -- coast of California with two well-known actors who played different roles in her life. After the mourning for her, there was always a mystery about her death, and now there are enough questions and apparently enough new information to lead the LA County sheriff to take a new look at this case. It's where we begin tonight with NBC 's George Lewis .
GEORGE LEWIS reporting: Thirty years ago Natalie Wood 's death by drowning at age 43 was big news...
JOHN CHANCELLOR reporting: Natalie Wood , the actress, was buried today in Los Angeles .
...and a mystery. Her funeral attended by a who's who of Hollywood . Natalie Wood had three Oscar nominations to her credit, married actor Robert Wagner twice.
LEWIS: We were considered the princess and the prince of Hollywood , and we had a lot of pressure on us.
Mr. ROBERT WAGNER: She started off as a child actress notably in " Miracle on 34th Street ," grew up to play James Dean 's sweetheart in " Rebel Without a Cause "...
LEWIS: ...moved audiences as Maria in " West Side Story ," and starred opposite Warren Beatty in " Splendour in the Grass ." Because of that movie, the boat she and Robert Wagner owned was named Splendour . Wagner in 2008 :
LEWIS: We came to the conclusion that she had slipped on the swim step on the aft end of the boat and had hit her head and rolled into the water. A tragic, tragic night.
Mr. WAGNER: Christopher Walken , Wood 's co-star in the movie "Brainstorm," was a guest on board the boat, prompting gossip about a possible love triangle. Wagner admits he argued with Walken , smashing a bottle of wine on a table. The coroner theorized that to escape the argument, the actress might have tried to board a rubber dingy, but critics said that didn't add up because of a phobia Natalie Wood had.
LEWIS: I've always been terrified, still am, of water, dark water , sea water .
Ms. NATALIE WOOD ("Saturday Night at the Mill" 1980): Despite lingering suspicions, it was ruled an accident, case closed.
LEWIS: We have received information which we felt was substantial enough to make us take another look at this case.
But today this: Based on new information from the boat's captain, Dennis Davern . He spoke to David Gregory this morning on the "Today" show and was asked about Robert Wagner .
Lieutenant JOHN CORINA (Los Angeles Sheriff's Department): Was he responsible for her death in some way?
LEWIS: Yes, I would say so, yes.
DAVID GREGORY reporting: In a book published two years ago, Davern said after Natalie Wood went missing, Wagner ordered him not to search for her or alert authorities immediately. The sheriff's department says Wagner is not a suspect. The actor's publicist says the Wagner family welcomes the investigation as does Natalie 's sister.
Mr. DENNIS DAVERN: The truth for Natalie , that's all that matters. Nothing else matters.
LEWIS: Her life was the stuff of legend. Now her death will be the subject of a new investigation to separate fact from fiction. George Lewis , NBC News, Los Angeles .
Ms. LANA WOOD (Natalie Wood's Sister):