Did Kirk Douglas Rape Natalie Wood?

Natalie Wood

"You get tough in this business, until you get big enough to hire people to get tough for you. Then you can sit back and be a lady." ~ Natalie

Natalie Wood was a child star who went on to have very successful adult career. Unfortunately the beautiful actress was also the victim of a horrific sexual assault. When she was fifteen years old Natalie was raped by an older actor. Although she never went to the police she told several friends that her rapist was actor Kirk Douglas. Natalie was born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California. Her Russian mother moved them to Hollywood determined to make Natalie famous. At age nine she was cast as a cynical little girl in Miracle On 34th Street. It was a hit and she became a popular child actress. She costarred with Bette Davis in The Star and with in Joan Blondell in The Blue Veil. Then in the Spring of 1954 Kirk Douglas invited Natalie to his room at the Chateau Marmont for an audition.

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 Her mother drove her to the hotel and waited in the car. When she got to the room Kirk gave Natalie a drink and told her he liked "young girls". Then he threw her down on the bed and brutally raped her. The attack lasted for several hours. When it was over he told her "If you tell anyone it will be the last thing you do.". The rape was so violent that Natalie started bleeding and had to go the hospital. Her mother discouraged her from filing a complaint because she worried it would hurt her movie career. At the time Kirk Douglas was one of the most powerful stars in Hollywood. He later admitted that he had been a womanizer and an alcoholic but he's never confessed to rape. Natalie was traumatized by the assault and spent years in therapy. Friends said she would "shudder" every time she heard Douglas's name.

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 Natalie and Kirk Douglas

In 1955 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Rebel Without A Cause. She also began an affair with the film's forty-four year old director, Nicholas Ray. She married actor Robert Wagner in December 1957. Their marriage ended five years later when she caught him in bed with another man. Her success continued with starring roles in West Side Story, Splendor In The Grass, and Gypsy. Natalie fell madly in love with actor Warren Beatty and was heartbroken when he dumped her. She fell into a deep depression and tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists. Natalie married producer Richard Gregson in 1969. The following year they had a daughter named Natasha. After divorcing Richard she rekindled her romance with ex-husband Robert Wagner. They remarried and their daughter, Courtney, was born in 1974.

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Natalie began to work less so she could spend more time with her family. Although she suffered from a lifelong fear of dark water she and Robert owned a yacht called "The Splendor". On November 29, 1981 Natalie was on the yacht when she fell overboard and drowned. According to sources she had been drinking that night and had a fight with Robert. Police ruled her death was an accident. She was just forty-three years old. Natalie is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. Her daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, also became a successful actress. In 2012 the investigation into Natalie's drowning was reopened and her official cause of death was changed from accident to "drowning and other undetermined factors". Meanwhile Kirk Douglas has never been charged with a crime and celebrated his 102nd birthday in 2019.

Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood Funeral
Robert Wagner with Natalie's coffin