Robert Wagner is the well-known television star best known for his roles in shows like Hart to Hart and for the enduring mystery surrounding the death of his wife, the Hollywood legend, Natalie Wood.
Wagner, who was 87-years-old in 2018, has insisted over the years that Natalie’s death in 1981 was an accident that may have occurred when she tried to take a dinghy to shore after an alcohol-fueled night on the couple’s yacht, Splendour. Wagner and Wood were on the yacht that night with actor Christopher Walken and captain Dennis Davern.
However, a new CBS program that airs February 3 is causing new questions about Robert Wagner and what happened the night that Natalie died. An investigator has now labeled Robert Wagner a “person of interest” in his wife’s untimely death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Investigators Say That Wagner Was the Last Person to See Natalie Alive
Robert Wagner was married twice to Natalie Wood, and they had a famously tempestuous relationship. According to USA Today, Natalia perished on Nov. 29, 1981 in Santa Catalina Island, Calif. “After disappearing from a yacht under circumstances that remain murky at best, her body was found hours later, clad in a flannel nightgown, red down jacket and blue socks. The body had floated in the Pacific about a mile away from the yacht and off the island’s Blue Cavern Point,” the newspaper reports.
At first, Natalie Wood’s cause of death was officially labeled “accidental drowning.” You can read Natalie’s autopsy report here. The autopsy report says Natalie had “numerous bruises to legs and arms.” However, it also said that “foul play is not suspected at this time.” In 2011, authorities relabeled Natalie’s cause of death “drowning and other undetermined factors” in part because of bruises found on her body. That happened after Davern, the captain, came forward “claiming he lied to investigators about certain details related to Wood’s death,” People Magazine reports.
Davern claimed Wagner shouted at Walken: “Do you want to f*** my wife” before smashing a bottle of wine and then later yelled “get off my f***ing boat.”
First Coast News tried to track down Davern in St. Augustine, Florida, where he now lives part of the year, but he was out of the country. Instead, the news outlet talked to Marti Rulli, who wrote a book with Davern about what he says happened that night.
“Dennis knows there was a huge fight on the back of the deck. He heard it. He turned on the music to try to drown out the sound of the fight just to protect them. He loved both of them,” Rulli told the news site on February 2. “Then, when everything went quiet, he went down to the deck immediately and Robert Wagner was right by the swim step and nervous and shaking and said ‘Natalie’s missing. Go look for her.’ And Dennis did that.”
According to Rulli, “Dennis wanted to call for help. He wanted to turn on the searchlight and Robert Wagner said ‘no.’” She alleged to First Coast News, “Robert Wagner was with Natalie the last minute of her life, and Dennis believes he had something to do with it.”
In 2018, CNN reported that authorities now consider Wood’s death to be “suspicious” because new witnesses have come forward. “The statements from these new witnesses differ from the original version of events as related by previous witnesses, including the individuals on the boat,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement about the new developments. Specifically, according to CNN, “a witness told investigators there were yelling and crashing sounds coming from the couple’s stateroom that night and another witness said a woman and a man were arguing on the back of the boat.”
Investigator John Corina told 48 Hours “As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s (Wagner) more of a person of interest now. I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared. She looked like a victim of an assault. I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened.”
2. Over the Years, Robert Wagner Has Insisted Natalie’s Death Was an Accident
Wagner once wrote of Natalie’s death that the theories about it were “all conjecture. Nobody knows. There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.”
Robert Wagner has provided details on Natalie’s death several times over the years. “The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris. I saw her shut the door,” Wagner wrote in his autobiography. That’s an account now disputed by the ship’s captain, Dennis Davern.
The memoir was published in 2016. “When Natalie died I thought my life was over. My children helped me heal. I got on my feet but it was a very, very difficult and sad time,” Wagner also wrote.
3. Robert Wagner is Married to a Former Bond Girl, Jill St. John
Robert Wagner has been married to Bond girl Jill St. John since 1990, and she’s brought stability to his life. Her movie career dates to the 1950s and such films as The Lost World, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Tony Rome, Foreign Exchange, The Concrete Jungle, and The Player. “She is most widely recognized for her Golden Globe nominated performance in Come Blow Your Horn, and as Bond Girl, Tiffany Case, in Diamonds Are Forever,” reports Celebrity Net Worth.
The Richest and other sites peg Robert Wagner’s net worth as being around $15 million, money that derives from his television shows and movie appearances. However, it’s possible that Robert Wagner’s net worth could be even higher.
In 2007, Wagner and his wife sold a six-bedroom Brentwood, California “ranchette” for $15 million, according to Daily Variety. The house was 4,556 square feet, with 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and came with a guest house that itself was 2,448 square feet, with 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms.
4. Born in Detroit, Robert Wagner Is the Star of Many Television Shows & Films
Robert Wagner was born in Detroit, Michigan, but he moved to California as a child. “His father was a successful steel executive who was called Bob; to distinguish the two, Wagner became R.J., a nickname that lasted all his life,” reports Biography.com. “In 1937, Wagner and his family relocated to Bel Air, California. They lived near the Bel Air Country Club, and Wagner went on to caddy for well-known club members like Fred Astaire and Alan Ladd.” That gave him the entree he needed to Hollywood, and he soon moved from being an extra to starring roles.
According to The Richest, “Best recognized as Number Two in Austin Powers trilogy of films, Robert Wagner is a stage, screen, and TV actor with a total net worth of $15 million.” However, some might argue that Robert Wagner is better known for his role alongside Stefanie Powers in the television show, Hart to Hart.
Wagner’s career as an actor started in the 1950s. Some of his first movies include Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, Prince Valiant, A Kiss Before Dying, and Between Heaven and Hell. His star rose in the 1960s when he starred in To Catch a Thief, and Switch. He began starring in the 1970s in the television show Hart to Hart. He has guest starred in top television shows in more recent years, ranging from Seinfeld to Boston Legal.
5. Robert Wagner Is the Father of Two Daughters & Helped Raise Natalie’s Daughter With Another Man
Wagner has raised three daughters: Courtney Wagner, his daughter with Natalie Wood; Natasha Gregson Wagner, Natalie’s daughter with Richard Gregson; and Katie Wagner, the daughter of Wagner and another woman he married in between his two marriages to Natalie.
Natasha has described how she would alternate living with Robert Wagner and her biological father Richard Gregson while growing up, and she called both men dad. “I think my Dad and Daddy Gregson, they were trying to pick up the pieces for us and stumble forward and find out what our life looked like after that,” she told People Magazine. “I was so lucky I had two dads who were deeply committed to raising me and helping me through.”
Courtney Wagner is a jewelry designer who has had some troubles over the years. Courtney was only 7 when her mother died.
You can read more about her here: