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Wagner, Robert (Robert John "RJ" Wagner, 1930.02.10-    )  Actor.

Wood, Natalie (Natasha Nikolaevna Zakharenko, 1938.07.20-1981.11.29)  Actor.

Above:  This was the sanctuary of the Scottsdale Methodist Church where RJ and Natalie took their vows in 1957.  Today, it is the Scottsdale United Methodist Church, and a new sanctuary has relegated the old sanctuary to a general meeting hall.  Note the row of windows on the left. 3-05.
Below:  The exterior of the old sanctuary. 3-05.

Married in Scottsdale


Robert Wagner married Natalie Wood on December 28th, 1957 at the Scottsdale United Methodist Church, 4140 North Miller.  A reception followed a few blocks west at the Valley Ho resort, 6850 East Main, Scottsdale.

In November, 1957, the new minister at the Scottsdale Methodist Church was contacted by a Hollywood agent.  The agent wanted to know if Reverend Frank Knouse would perform a marriage ceremony for a couple of Hollywood celebrities.  He was told that Wagner's parents lived in Scottsdale, that he had some connection to the Methodist Church, and that they wanted to get married with a minimum of publicity.  Reverend Knouse wasn't too sure who Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood were, but he was happy to oblige.

Sometime between the wedding arrangements and the wedding day, word got out.  The reverend called the agent, telling him that one wall of the church was open windows, and if the couple were to have any privacy the windows would have to be covered.  Attempts were made to have draperies made, but because they could not be completed in time, the windows were covered with butcher paper.  Were it not for the butcher paper, the nearly 300 curiosity seekers that gathered on the church grounds outside the sanctuary might have had a view of the ceremonies.

The 19 year old Natalie was a former child actress who had successfully moved into teen roles.  At the time of her marriage, she had been in 27 feature films with major roles in such notable movies as Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955).  Her career would not peak for a number of years after her marriage when she would have staring roles in West Side Story (1961) and Gypsy (1962).

The reception for the Wagner-Wood wedding was held in  the then brand-spanking new Valley Ho resort hotel.  It had opened in 1956 as Arizona's first year-round resort since it had a new feature for the valley--central air conditioning.  In 1973 as its shine faded, it was acquired by by Ramada.  While most resort properties undergo major renovations every decade or so, virtually nothing more than routine maintenance was done to the Valley Ho in its nearly half century of service.  Westroc Hotels & Resorts partners bought the property in 2002, and began major renovations in December, 2004.  Not only were rooms stripped to their masonry shells, the main building housing the lobby and restaurant was replaced with a seven story tower.  Starting on the third story, the tower will house 35 exclusive residences which are expected to sell for between $600,000 and $1.4 million each.  The old common areas will be replaced by the two bottom stories of the tower which will house a restaurants, a ballroom, and boardrooms.  Other additions to the property include a second restaurant, and a new wing which will bring the total number of rooms to 194.  02-05.

RJ, who was 27 when they were married, did not start his film career until he was a year older than his new bride.  He had been in 16 movies including the lead in A Kiss Before Dying (1956) and the title role in Prince Valiant (1954).

Never shy at promoting celebrity romances, Hollywood exuberantly proclaimed the marriage as the "glittering union of the 20th century."  It was not to survive the pressures of Hollywood, and they divorced on April 27, 1962.

Hollywood's fondness for sequels was rewarded when, after second marriages for each, RJ and Natalie met by accident in a restaurant in 1971.  Romance was rekindled and they were remarried June 16, 1972 on their yacht "Splendour".  They were still married on November 29, 1981 when Natalie fell off the "Splendour" and drowned.

On July 29, 2005, Robert Wagner returned to Scottsdale for the premier of the very small budget film, Little Victim.  The short dark comedy, was the eighth film by Brian and Dean Ronalds. Here Wagner emerges from his limousine in front of Farrelli�s Cinema Supper Club , 14202 N. Scottsdale Road. 7-05.


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