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In her new memoir, Lana Wood, the younger sister of Natalie Wood, said that a long-standing rumor about her deceased sibling is true — she was raped as a teenager by film star Kirk Douglas.
As reported by The Guardian, Lana Wood wrote in "Little Sister: My Investigation Into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood" that their mother, Maria Zakharenko, had arranged a meeting between her teenage daughter and the then-38-year-old, Academy Award-nominated movie star in the summer of 1955 at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont hotel. Natalie Wood was filming "The Searchers" at the time, according to her sister; Natalie turned 17 in late July of that year.
Zakharenko, her daughter wrote, set up the meeting with the belief that "many doors might be thrown open for her, with just a nod of his famous, handsome head on her behalf."
Their mother and her younger daughter, who was around 8 years old, waited in the car while Natalie went inside, she wrote in her tell-all book.
"It seemed like a long time passed before Natalie got back into the car and woke me up when she slammed the door shut," she wrote. "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. Something bad had apparently happened to my sister, but whatever it was, I was apparently too young to be told about it."
Zakharenko and Natalie apparently agreed that it would have ended the aspiring star's career to publicly accuse Douglas of sexual assault; Lana Wood recounts that her mother told her sister instead to "suck it up."
Natalie confided in her sister about the incident when they were both adults, Lana Wood writes in her new book.
"And, uh … he hurt me, Lana," she told her, after describing being brought to Douglas' suite at the hotel, according to Lana Wood.
There have been rumors that Douglas, who died in 2020, had assaulted Natalie Wood for years, according to The Guardian; Douglas acknowledged having been a "womanizer" and serial adulterer.
In his 1988 memoir, "The Ragman’s Son," Douglas recounted his memory of meeting Wood — and her mother — well before "The Searchers." He says that he was driving home in Los Angeles and, while stopped at a red light, "a pretty little girl wearing a suede jacket hopped out" of the car in front of him and asked him for an autograph on her jacket.
"As I obliged, the woman who was driving got out and introduced her," he wrote. "‘This is my daughter. She's in movies, too. Her name is Natalie Wood.'"
Douglas wrote that he saw her "many times" after that before her mysterious death.
In a statement in response to Lana Wood's allegations issued by his publicist that was published by The Guardian, Kirk Douglas' son, actor Michael Douglas, wrote, "May they both rest in peace.”
Wood died in November 1981 after going overboard during a boating trip with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and her "Brainstorm" co-star Christopher Walken; the 60-ft. yacht, Splendour, belonged to Wagner, and a man named Dennis Davern was captain of the vessel that night. Wood's cause of death was determined to be drowning and hypothermia — but how Wood ended up in the water has never definitively been determined. In 2018, Wagner was named a "person of interest" in Wood's death. He has denied all involvement.
Lana Wood's book mostly chronicles her search for the truth into her sister's death.
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