The disappearance of Hollywood star Natalie Wood is one of those cases that still haunts the nation.
In 1981, the actress was on a yacht headed to Santa Catalina Island with her husband, Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken, when she vanished. The Miracle on 34th Street star’s body was later found afloat in the sea off the island and officials ruled her death as accidental drowning after a brief investigation.
However, as the public caught wind of some of the details of the investigation, people began to speculate that the 43-year-old’s death may have been due to murder.
The night before her disappearance, Wood and Wagner got into an argument before heading to bed but moments later, when he attempted to say goodnight, Wagner noticed Wood was missing.
There have been many questions about that fateful night, most of which remain unanswered. This prompted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to reopen the case nearly 30 years after her death.
More recently, police revealed that Wagner is now a person of interest in the case.
Sadly, Wood’s tragic end has in a way clouded the life she lived up to that point.
Wood, whose real name was Natalia Zakharenk, started out as a child actress, and by the time she was 25 years old, she racked up three Oscar nominations for her roles in major blockbuster hits, like Rebel Without a Cause alongside James Dean, Splendor in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger.
Filmmakers wanted to cast her in their projects and magazines wanted her on their covers. Everyone who has worked with her had nothing but good things to say about who she was as a person and as an actress. Orson Welles once said that she was “so good, she was terrifying.”
Celebrated photographer, Bill Ray, is one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to work with Wood, and he has recently shared a few of his favorite pictures he took during a “dream assignment” for LIFE magazine.
The rare pictures give us a glimpse into Wood’s life behind the scenes, years before she passed away.