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Social Media Fuels Old Rumors about Kirk Douglas and Natalie Wood

Saturday Feb 8, 2020
Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas  (Source:AP Photo/DAB)

Kirk Douglas received many heartfelt accolades following his death on Wednesday at the age of 103; but not all the commentary has been good.

Actually, some of it is pretty career-shattering.

Social media and a number of different websites have revisited a rumor, first published on the website Gawker in 2012, that Douglas has raped actress Natalie Wood when she was 16-years old.

"The allegation came from a commenter (who used the name Himmmm) that many believed was actor Robert Downey Jr on a website called 'Crazy Day and Nights'", reports the website Distractify. In March 2012 Fox News reported that Downey has denied being the source.

"In the comment," Distractify adds," the source claimed that Kirk had raped Natalie decades ago in a hotel room and then laughed at her afterward."

"Because of the detail of his story and his existing reputation, many felt the allegation might be credible.


Natalie Wood, 1981  (Source:Associated Press)

"The initial comment also suggested that Natalie had a consensual affair with an older director in order to earn edgier parts," the Distractify report continues. "From there, many actors and directors assumed that Natalie would be willing to sleep with anyone, but Kirk took things too far. The commenter claimed that the actor violently beat her and raped her repeatedly, shouting obscenities as he did so."

The alleged assault was "never corroborated completely and Douglas was never charged," reports the website Indy100 operated by the British paper The Independent.

In 2018 Wood's sister Lana Wood alluded to the alleged event in an interview with the New York Times. Natalie, she recalled, was "summoned one night to an audition at a Los Angeles hotel.

A story called "Why some prefer to honor Natalie Wood than Kirk Douglas" on the French Huffington Post site summarized the narrative:


Natalie Wood, 1959  (Source:Associated Press)

"For some, it was 15 years old. For others, at 16. The facts would have taken place in the spring of 1954. A star child from the age of 9, the young Natalie Wood would have been invited by "a great Hollywood personality" to audition in her hotel room at the Ch√Ęteau Marmont, we learn in the blog naming Kirk Douglas. A story that can also be found in a 2018 podcast with Lara Wood, the actress's sister, entitled 'Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood '. Without giving the name of the aggressor this time.

"At the hotel, the actor allegedly handed him a glass of alcohol. He then explained to her that he had a weakness for "young girls". After which, he brutally threw the teenager on the bed and sexually assaulted her for long hours. 'If you tell someone about it, it will be the last thing you do in your life,'" he said, as initially posted in 2012 on Crazy Day and Nights".

The Huffington Post piece continues: "Friends of the young woman, to whom she would have confided a few years later, say that her mother would have discouraged her from filing a complaint. She feared that it would harm her daughter's career. Kirk Douglas, then at the height of his career, was considered one of the most prominent actors in Hollywood.

"Natalie Wood would never have recovered from this attack. According to her relatives, the actress of 'The Fury of Living' has spent years of therapy working on it. She could shiver as soon as she heard the name of her attacker, can we also read in the blog post accusing Douglas. The latter, he never recognized the facts, citing having long been a simple 'womanizer'".


Kirk Douglas in a still for the 1963 film "For Love or Money"  

Douglas acknowledged cheating on both his wives and having affairs with numerous Hollywood stars, including Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.

"I'm a sonofabitch, plain and simple," he admitted in his 1988 autobiography, "The Ragman's Son."

Hours after his death the hashtag #NatalieWood began trending on Twitter.










Pushback against the allegations can be found in John Ward's piece on the website The Slog called "KIRK DOUGLAS & NATALIE WOOD: deconstructing the lie."

"Let's get real: someone who does that kind of attack doesn't do it once and then retire gracefully. That sort of Hollowood (sic) rape was very real for nearly seventy years, but it is a cast-iron serial condition. I know of no other similar accusation against Douglas," Ward writes.

He goes on to deconstruct the supposed event, then dismiss the accusations on social media that Douglas was responsible for Wood's troubled life. The key character here is, without any doubt, Natalie's mother Maria Zakherenko... Natalie Woods (sic) was made by her mother, not Kirk Douglas."

He concludes with:

"The people screaming their deranged, ill-informed and ideologically bloated accusations around #NatalieWood today really have no place in a civilised culture. They resemble, far more (it seems to me) the sort of blinkered, obsessive compulsion that drove the woman and mother Maria Zakherenko to destroy her beautiful daughter."


Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood at the 2978 Academy Awards  (Source:Associated Press)

Perhaps the person who has the key to understanding this mystery is Lana Wood, who acknowledged her sister's rape account in the Times story, but didn't mention the name of the actor involved. If she knows, she's not telling at this point in time. What was headline-making in her Times interview was her being suspicious of the role her brother-in-law, Robert Wagner, in his wife's 1981 death, ruled a drowning at the time. The Times reported that at CrimeCom, a true crime conference held in New Orleans this past June, Lana asked the crowd: "Robert Wagner maintains her death was an accident. How was she accidentally assaulted?"

Then on Sept. 18, 2019, she appeared on Dr. Phil's show along with Dennis Davern, the man usually identified as the "skipper" of the yacht from which Wood mysteriously disappeared, telling Dr. Phil that Wagner had "something to hide," according to USA Today.

"Are you suggesting that he knocked her out and threw her in the water?" McGraw asked. "Something like that, absolutely," she said," writes USA Today.

"At the time, Ms. Wood's death was ruled an accident and the case was closed," reported the Times.

"But in 2011, the investigation was reopened by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after Mr. Davern said he heard Ms. Wood and Mr. Wagner arguing earlier in the evening. After re-evaluating the case details, the coroner changed the cause of Ms. Wood's death to 'drowning and other undetermined factors.'"


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