Jill St. John is the wife of Robert Wagner. Her name has been circulating online because police have named her husband a “person of interest” in the death of actress Natalie Wood. Wagner and Wood were married when she drowned back in 1981.
On Saturday, February 3, Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water, will air on CBS.
St. John was born in Los Angeles in 1940, and got her start in the entertainment business at the tender young age of 5. She has been in countless television shows, movies, and theatrical productions over the course of her 80-year career.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Wagner Has Been Named a ‘Person of Interest’ in the Natalie Wood Case
Wagner and his first wife, Natalie Wood, married in 1957. They divorced in 1962, but rekindled their romance years later, remarrying in July 1972. Two years later, Wagner and Wood welcomed their only child together, daughter Courtney Wagner.
In November 1981, Wood and Wagner were on their yacht near Catalina Island, drinking with some friends, including actor Christopher Walken. The next day, police found Wood’s dead body in the water.
Wood’s autopsy noted “fresh bruises on her body,” but an investigation concluded that she had accidentally drowned. Charges were never filed, but Wood’s death has remained a mystery for several years, despite her case being closed.
In 2011, however, Wood’s case was reopened.
A year later, theHer cause of death was changed from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
Now, police have named Wagner a “person of interest” in the case.
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think [Wagner’s] 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,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina said during an interview on CBS’ 48 Hours.
“I haven’t seen [Wagner] tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case. I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up,” Corina added. “I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened,” Corina responded when asked if he believed Wood was murdered.
“[Wood] looked like a victim of an assault,” Ralph Hernandez, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said in the 48 Hours interview. “We have not been able to prove this was a homicide. And we haven’t been able to prove that this was an accident, either. The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water,” he added.
Wagner has not commented on the case since it was reopened.
2. St. John Married Wagner in 1990 & Is a Stepmother to His 3 Daughters
St. John started dating Wagner in 1982, less than one year after Wood died. The two were together for eight years before tying the knot on May 26, 1990. The two didn’t have any children together, although Wagner had children from previous relationships, thus St. John is the stepmother of three girls.
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Katie Wagner is Robert Wagner’s oldest daughter from his marriage to Marion Marshall. Courtney Wagner is the only daughter of Wagner and Wood. Wagner also adopted Natasha Gregson Wagner, Natalie Wood’s daughter from her relationship with producer Richard Gregson, who died in 1972.
Gregson Wagner has spoken out about suspicions that Robert Wagner had involvement in her mom’s death.
“The details of did she hit her head and fall into the water or did she fall into the water and then hit her head, those little things don’t concern me. The result is the same. She died. And she left when I was 11 and my sister (Courtney) was 7, and we needed her. And even when I hear that stuff that my aunt creates and people call me and say, ‘Oh my God, I am so sorry,’ I say, ‘Don’t be sorry for me.’ It’s literally like saying my dad has two heads or three heads. It’s so preposterous that I can’t even relate to it. It doesn’t even touch me,” she told the New York Times in 2016.
In 2002, St. John appeared alongside Wagner and two of his daughters (Courtney and Katie) when he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can see a photo from the event below.
St. John has been married a total of four times. She wed her first husband, Neil Dubin, heir to a linen fortune, on May 12, 1957, when she was just 17 years old. The two eloped to Arizona, but divorced the following year. Next, St. John married Lance Reventlow, a sports car racer who was heir to the F. W. Woolworth fortune, on March 24, 1960. The two divorced in 1963, and Reventlow died in a plane crash in 1972. In 1967, St. John married singer Jack Jones. St. John and Jones divorced in 1969.
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It has also been reported that St. John had romantic flings with some of Hollywood’s hottest men including Frank Sinatra and Henry Kissinger.
3. She’s a Former Bond Girl
St. John got her start in the business when she was 5 years old. She acted under her birth name, Jill Oppenheim, until her mom, Betty Lou Oppenheim, changed her surname to “St. John” in 1953.
She made her television debut in The Christmas Carol back in 1949. She made her movie debut in 1958, starring in Summer Love alongside actor John Saxon.
“She filled the bill as an exuberant, slightly dingy teen and as well as shapely love interest in such innocuous but fun films as The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959) and Holiday for Lovers (1959), Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963), Who’s Minding the Store? (1963) and Honeymoon Hotel (1964),” according to her IMDb bio.
In 1971, St. John starred as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever opposite Sean Connery (who played 007). In the 80s, she starred in various television series including J.J. Starbuck, Dempsey and Makepeace, and Emerald Point N.A.S. She also starred in the film, The Act, in 1984.
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Moving on to the 90s, St. John starred in the 1995 television movie, Out There. She also starred in an episode of Seinfeld.
In 2002, St. John starred in The Calling and The Trip before deciding to retire. She returned to the small screen in 2014, however, starring as Mrs. Claus in a television movie called Northpole, which aired on the Hallmark Channel. St. John starred opposite her husband, Robert Wagner, who played Santa.
“Northpole, the magical home to Santa & Mrs. Claus, has grown into a huge city powered by the magic of holiday happiness around the world. Yet as people everywhere get too busy to enjoy festive time together, the city is in trouble. Who can help save the cherished traditions of Christmas? One young boy, Kevin, might have a chance if he can convince his protective mom, Chelsea, to rediscover the magic of the season. With a little added help from Kevin’s charming teacher Ryan, a mysterious elf-like girl Clementine (Madison) and a gospel singer named Josephine, Kevin is determined to bring his mom in on the fun and prove that one small voice can change the hearts of many,” reads the network’s description of the TV movie.
4. She Enrolled at the University of California Los Angeles When She Was Just 15
St. John is an incredibly smart woman, despite always seeming to play the role of the beautiful red-head with the stunning figure, and the quick tongue. However, St. John is incredibly intelligent and reportedly has an IQ of 162.
She attended Hollywood Professional School in California, a private school for kids working in show business. The school held classes in the mornings so that the children could head to work in the afternoons. She earned her high school diploma in 1955, when she was just 14 years old. The following year, she enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Extension School (UCLA Extension School).
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She majored in dramatic art and minored in psychology, according to Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. After attending college for two years, St. John was offered a deal with Universal Pictures. She left UCLA and pursued her acting career full time.
5. She Is an Avid Skier & Has Her Own Cookbook
St. John and Wagner spend their time enjoying the great outdoors. According to St. John’s IMDb bio, the couple own homes in Aspen and the Pacific Palisades (in California), “where Jill keeps a number of horses.” The couple enjoys skiing, horseback riding, and playing golf.
“I’m a mountain gal now. I love the outdoors and I love harvesting and using fresh vegetables and herbs. I even grow my own horseradish,” St. John told the Chicago Tribune in 2015.
St. John has spent a lot of her free time hitting the slopes in Aspen, Colorado. In 2005, St. John was on a ski trip with her husband in Aspen when she fell and fractured her hip. She was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital after the accident and was later transferred to a hospital in Los Angeles where she underwent surgery, MSNBC reported at the time.
In addition to being outdoors, St. John also has her very own cookbook, which was published in 1987.
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“Featuring recipes adapted for simpler preparation from cuisines worldwide, this cookbook includes main dishes, salads, and desserts, as well as foods to eat in bed and to present as gifts,” reads the cookbook’s description on Amazon. The Jill St. John Cookbook is available for as little as 25 cents.