Late actor Kirk Douglas may have been Hollywood royalty, but Lana Wood's recent memoir will forever taint his memory. Wood did a tell-all about Douglas as her late sister's assailant.
For years, it has been rumored that a young Natalie Wood was sexually assaulted by a top movie star twice her age when she met him at a Los Angeles hotel.
In a memoir set to be released next week titled "Little Sister," Natalie's younger sibling, Lana Wood, identifies the long-suspected assailant as Kirk Douglas.
Actor and director Kirk Douglas in the early 1950s (L). Actress Lana Wood, right, pictured with her sister, late actress Natalie Wood when Lana played Natalie as a young girl in the film "Searches." (R) | Photo: Getty Images
THE ALLEGED ASSAULT
Lana writes that she recalls how beautiful Natalie looked when she and her mother dropped her off that evening at the Chateau Marmont entrance.
The now-75-year-old actress alleged the incident occurred in the summer of 1955 when Natalie was busy filming "The Searchers."
She revealed the meeting had been arranged by their mom, Maria Zakharenko, who, according to her, believed her daughter would receive many acting opportunities because of the producer's influence.
Pictured: An undated photo of Lana Wood posing with her sister, the late actress Natalie Wood, right, when they were children | Photo: Getty Images
Lana writes it was not long before her sister got back into the car and woke her up when she slammed the door shut while adding:
"She looked awful. She was very disheveled and upset, and she and mom started urgently whispering to each other. I couldn't hear them or make out what they were saying.”
The film producer noted that even though that was the case, something had happened to Natalie and that whatever it was, she was too young to be told about it.
According to Lana, the former child star did not tell her anything about the incident until they were both adults. She said after she described what had happened to her, Natalie told her:
“And, uh…he hurt me, Lana. It was like an out-of-body experience. I was terrified. I was confused."
Lana was only eight years old when the alleged incident occurred and remembered her sister and mother agreeing it would ruin Natalie's career if they went public about the assault.
At the time, Natalie was a rising Hollywood star and was nominated for three Oscars before she turned 25. When she was 16 years old, she rose to stardom, starring alongside James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955.
She was also nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in "Splendor in the Grass." Born Natasha Zacharenko, Natalie also appeared in movies such as "Miracle on 34th Street" and "West Side Story."
According to Lana, Maria told Natalie to "suck it up" to contain the situation. The memoir is set to arrive on the 40th anniversary of Natalie's death.
In a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter, Lana said she had waited 40 years to talk about what happened to her sister.
BOOK BY SUZANNE FINSTAD
She expressed relief to being finally able to share everything she knew and what she knew then but was not ready to or brave enough to reveal.
Furthermore, according to a BBC report, the incident was part of Suzanne Finstad's book titled "Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood."
It is based on more than 400 interviews that touched on her assault. Finstad explained that she chose not to name the accused because she wanted people to focus on what happened to the victim and the trauma she experienced.
Finstad summarized the assault based on the essence of five close friends whom Natalie had confided in. The ladies revealed the married film star lured their dear friend and raped her so brutally that she was left physically injured.
The harrowing incident also left her so frightened that she did not even report Douglas to the police. Finstad shared the Golden Globe winner despised her former idol since then and even shuddered whenever his name came up.
She kept the secret to herself, and when they crossed paths, she acted as if nothing ever happened. The star was schooled by her mom into the politics of Hollywood to not go up against a powerful movie star.
Natalie died in 1981 at age 43 under mysterious circumstances following her disappearance from her family's yacht. She was discovered floating in the water.
At first, her death was ruled an accident following a two-week investigation. However, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the case in 2011.
The coroner amended Natalie's passing as a result of drowning and other undetermined factors. According to officials, her spouse Robert Wagner was considered the person of interest since he was the last person who saw his wife before her disappearance.
Pictured: An undated picture of actress and model Jean Spangler with her daughter, Christine | Photo: Getty Images
DISAPPEARANCE OF JEAN SPANGLER
One other Hollywood starlet who mysteriously disappeared was actress and dancer Jean Spangler. Her acting career began in 1948, a year before she vanished without a trace.
On October 7, 1949, Spangler informed her sister-in-law that she had to meet her ex-husband to discuss a child support payment and planned on shooting a movie in the evening.
A few hours later, she called again, telling her relative she would be working the entire night. However, when she did not return home the next day, they called the police.
After finding missing Jean Spangler's purse in Griffith Park, the search party begins to look for further clues in the park | Photo: Getty Images
DOUGLAS AS A SUSPECT
There were no records of her working that night, and her former husband said he had not seen her in weeks, and his new wife backed up his claims.
A few days later, officials found her handbag in Griffith Park, about nine kilometers away from her home. The bag straps appeared to be damaged, but all her belongings seemed to be there still.
The bag had a handwritten note inside which read, "Kirk: I can't wait any longer, going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away."
An undated image of Officer Howard Rose looking at purse belonging to missing model and actress, Jean Spangler | Photo: Getty Images
The LAPD followed up on the lead and interviewed every Dr. Scott in Los Angeles, but none had Spangler as their patient. Her friends revealed that she was three months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.
Detectives suspected the Seattle native was seeking an abortion, which was considered illegal and dangerous during those days.
Moreso, the focus was on the Kirk mentioned in the note as friends and family were left puzzled. Spangler's mother recalled that her daughter had been picked up by a Kirk twice from their home, but she never met him.
Pictured: Note left by dancer Jean Spangler who disappeared without a trace in 1949 | Photo: Getty Images
Soon after the story broke, the tabloids linked Spangler to Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas. Still, he was not on the suspect's list until he called the police himself.
He told officials that he did not know Spangler and had been vacationing in Palm Springs. But then a few days later, his story changed as he issued a statement through his lawyer writing:
“Mr. Douglas didn't even remember the girl, but when he talked with people who worked with him on the picture 'Young Man With A Horn,’ they recalled to him that she was a girl who wore a certain type of dress.”
DOUGLAS' RISE TO STARDOM
At the time, Douglas was one of Hollywood's up-and-coming stars on the verge of becoming an A-lister. He was cast in the musical as a lead, where Spangler was an uncredited extra.
The statement continued to reveal that the screenwriter suddenly remembered Spangler and used to joke around with her on set. He insisted he had never gone out with her or even knew her name.
Additionally, he cut his trip short to return to Hollywood for questioning, but the police never viewed him as a prime suspect. His career did not suffer because of the allegations either.
Douglas was a veteran star best known for his classic movies, "Spartacus" and "The Bad and the Beautiful." His first breakout role was on the film "The Strange Love of Martha."
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