The life of actress Natalie Wood was truly a dramatic movie. Drugs, alcohol, her alleged love triangle with Christopher Walken and her mysterious death drowned in a lake would create a myth around the star who had managed to shine with her own light in titles like Splendor in the Grass and Rebel Without a Cause. Wood died in 1981 and over the following decades, rumors about her suggested that she had been raped by one of the most powerful men in the Hollywood industry.
Little Sister: My Investigation Into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood is the memoir by Lana Wood, Natalie’s sister and also an actress and producer, where she blames no less than Kirk Douglas for this alleged sexual assault. Actually it’s not the first time that the controversial actor’s name had been pronounced in relation to these accusations, but it is the first time someone so close to Natalie has done it.
Rumors arose following the 2020 death of Douglas at 103 and Lana’s allegations on a podcast that someone powerful had used his privileged position to rape her then-16-year-old sister at the Chateau Marmont hotel. “I remember that Natalie looked especially beautiful when Mom and I dropped her off that night at the Chateau Marmont entrance,” Lana recounts.
A story in which she also points to Douglas as responsible for this alleged assault in that summer of 1955, at a time when both sisters were filming The Searchers. According to Lana Wood, their mother, Maria Zakharenko, arranged that meeting between Douglas and Natalie thinking “many doors might be thrown open for her, with just a nod of his famous, handsome head on her behalf,” but the actress took a long time to return, and when she did, something had gone wrong.
“She looked awful. She was very disheveled and very upset, and she and Mom started urgently whispering to each other. I couldn’t really hear them or make out what they were saying,” Lana, who was 8 at the time, points out. “Something bad had apparently happened to my sister, but whatever it was, I was apparently too young to be told about it.”
According to Lana Wood, her sister did not discuss the incident until they both were adults, when she described her meeting with Douglas saying, “And, uh … he hurt me Lana.”
Despite all odds, the matriarch decided to prioritize Natalie’s career and advised her to “suck it up,” according to Little Sister. Lana claims that she had promised her sister never to tell anything in life. “It was like an out-of-body experience. I was terrified, I was confused,” she remembers her saying.
This first encounter was described by Kirk Douglas in his memoirs in a different way. His 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son recalled Wood in this chapter as “a pretty little girl wearing a suede jacket [who] hopped out” and ran up to him.
The three-time Oscar-nominated actress endured a truly complicated life, ending abruptly in the 1980s. A decade ago investigations were reopened to determine if her death was a possible alleged murder. In 2020, HBO released the documentary Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, a look into Wood’s life drama. A perfect way to honor the memory of an actress who gave us great films, despite the tragedy that ended her life.