Robert Wagner: Wikis


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Robert Wagner

in Broken Lance (1954)
Born Robert John Wagner
February 10, 1930 (1930-02-10) (age 79)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation Actor, producer
Years active 1950 – present
Spouse(s) Natalie Wood (1957-1962;
Marion Marshall (1963-1971)
Jill St. John (1990-present)

Robert John Wagner (born February 10, 1930) is an American film and television actor of stage and screen, who starred in movies, soap operas and television.

Wagner starred in three American television series that spanned three decades: as playboy-thief-turned-secret-agent, Alexander Mundy, in It Takes a Thief (1968–1970), as Eddie Albert's ex-con man turned crime-fighting partner, Det. Pete T. Ryan, in the con-artist-oriented drama Switch (1975–1978), and as Stefanie Powers's super-rich husband and private-eye partner, Jonathan Hart, in the lighthearted crime drama Hart to Hart (1979–1984). In movies, Wagner is known for his role as Number Two in the Austin Powers films of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He also had a recurring role as Teddy Leopold on the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men.

Wagner's autobiography, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, written with author Scott Eyman, was published on September 23, 2008.


Early life

Born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of a steel executive,[1] Wagner moved with his family to Los Angeles, California, when he was seven. Wagner became an aspiring actor and was successfully employed in a variety of jobs, most prominently as a caddy for actor Clark Gable.

Early-mid film career

When he was dining with his family at a Beverly Hills restaurant he was "discovered" by talent agent Henry Willson. Making his debut in The Happy Years (1950), he would play minor characters in several military themed films until his performance in With a Song in My Heart (1952) starring Susan Hayward, which would lead to a contract with 20th Century Fox.

His signing on with Fox would lead to a series of films in starring roles including Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953) and Prince Valiant (1954) as well as smaller, although impressive performances, in A Kiss Before Dying (1956) and Between Heaven and Hell (1956).

Wagner (right), with Jean Peters in the 1954 film Broken Lance

He starred in White Feather (1955) with Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter.

It was during his early career that he became the protégé of veteran actor Clifton Webb, appearing with him in Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) and Titanic (1953). His performance earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer in motion pictures. Wagner starred opposite Steve McQueen in The War Lover (1962). Roles soon followed in The Longest Day (1962), The Condemned of Altona and the The Pink Panther. He reunited with McQueen, along with Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, in the 1974 blockbuster disaster film The Towering Inferno. He reprised his role in the sequel Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).

Career rises

Wagner was convinced by Lew Wasserman in 1968 to make his television series debut starring in It Takes a Thief, after signing with Universal Studios in 1967. While the success of The Pink Panther and Harper began Wagner's comeback, the successful two and a half seasons of his first TV series completed his comeback. In this series he acted with Fred Astaire, who played his father. Astaire was a long-time friend of Wagner's, who had gone to school with Astaire's eldest son, Peter.

In 1972 he produced and cast himself opposite Bette Davis in the television movie Madame Sin, which was released in foreign markets as a feature film.[2]

By the mid-1970s, Wagner's television career was at its peak with the television series Switch opposite Eddie Albert, after re-signing a contract with Universal Studios in 1974. Before Switch, Albert was a childhood television hero of Wagner's, after watching the movie Brother Rat along with a few others. The friendship started in the early 1960s, where he also co-starred in a couple of Albert's movies. After the series' end, the two remained friends until Albert's death on May 26, 2005. Wagner spoke at his funeral, and gave a testimonial about his longtime friendship with him.

In part payment for starring together in the Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg production of the TV movie The Affair Wagner and Wood were given a share in three TV series that the producers were developing for ABC.[3] Only one reached the screen, the very successful TV series Charlie's Angels for which Wagner and Wood had a 50% share, though Wagner was to spend many years in court arguing with Spelling and Goldberg over what was defined as profit.[4]

Wagner and Wood acted together with Laurence Olivier in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (as part of the UK television series Laurence Olivier Presents). Wood also made a small cameo appearance in the pilot episode of Wagner's own television series, Hart to Hart.

His third successful series was Hart to Hart that co-starred Stefanie Powers. Before those roles, Wagner also made guest appearances in the pilot episode of The Streets of San Francisco and as a regular in the UK World War II drama Colditz. He would later be nominated for an Emmy Award for Best TV Actor for his performance in It Takes a Thief and for four Golden Globe awards for his role as Jonathan Hart in Hart to Hart.

Robert Wagner's radio and television career was recognized by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters on January 30, 2009 when they presented him with their Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award.

Return to film and TV

Robert Wagner as Number Two in New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

Wagner's film career received a revival after his role in the Austin Powers series of spy spoofs starring Mike Myers. Wagner played Dr. Evil's henchman Number 2 in all three films: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

He also became the host of Fox Movie Channel's Hour of Stars, featuring original television episodes of The 20th Century-Fox Hour (1955), a series which Wagner had appeared on in his early days with the studio.

In 2007, Wagner had a role in the BBC/AMC series Hustle. In its fourth season premiere, Wagner played a crooked Texan being taken for half a million dollars. As Wagner is considered "a suave icon of American caper television, including It Takes a Thief and Hart to Hart",[5] Robert Glenister (Hustle's fixer, Ash Morgan) commented that "to have one of the icons of that period involved is a great bonus for all of us".[5]

Recently, Wagner played the pivotal role of President James Garfield in the comedy/horror film Netherbeast Incorporated (2007). The role was written with Wagner in mind.

Wagner had a recurring role of a rich suitor to the main characters' mother on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. His most recent appearances on the show were in May 2008.

On November 2, 2009, it was announced that Wagner will guest-star as Tony's father in the 150th episode of NCIS, has confirmed. Tony and his dad will reunite in the episode, which is slated for January.[6]

Personal life

Marriages and relationships

Wagner had a 4 year romantic relationship with Barbara Stanwyck after they acted together in the movie Titanic.[7] Because of the age difference - he was 22, she was 45 - they kept the affair secret to avoid damage to their careers. When the relationship ended, he graduated to young actresses including Joan Collins and Debbie Reynolds, eventually becoming lasting friends with both.

Wagner became involved with teen actress Natalie Wood and married her on December 28, 1957. The couple soon became involved in financial troubles. At Fox, Wagner's career was slowly being overtaken by newer actors such as Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. The two separated in September 1961 and divorced on April 27, 1962. Wagner, with his career stalled due to a lack of studio support, broke his studio contract with 20th Century Fox.[8] and moved to Europe in search of better film roles.

While in Europe he met an old friend, actress Marion Marshall. After a brief courtship, Wagner, Marshall, and her two children from her marriage to Stanley Donen, in the spring of 1963 moved back to America. Wagner and Marshall married on July 22, 1963 in the Bronx Courthouse. Soon after, they had a daughter, Katie Wagner (born May 11, 1964). The two were together for nearly nine years before they separated in late 1970. They were divorced on April 26, 1971. He then had a relationship with Tina Sinatra.

Wagner kept in contact with Natalie Wood, whose short-lived marriage to Richard Gregson ended in early 1972. Wagner remarried her on July 16, 1972 in a ceremony on a friend's yacht The Ramblin' Rose. On March 9, 1974, the couple had their only child, daughter Courtney. On November 29, 1981, Natalie Wood drowned near their yacht Splendour while moored near Catalina Island with Wagner and Christopher Walken, who was co-starring with her in the motion picture Brainstorm. Wagner was devastated by her death and later stated in his autobiography Pieces of My Heart and in several interviews that he went through a daze between the tragedy and her funeral then spent eight days in bed. He subsequently became the legal guardian of Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson.

In early 1982, Wagner began a relationship with actress Jill St. John, who coincidentally was a childhood friend of Natalie Wood and Wagner's Hart to Hart co-star Stefanie Powers. After an eight-year courtship, they were married on May 26, 1990. In the spring of 2000, St. John herself would become involved in an altercation with Lana Wood during a cover shoot for Vanity Fair featuring the actresses of the long running James Bond series. The two women co-starred in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds are Forever.

On September 21, 2006, he became a first time grandfather when his daughter, Katie, gave birth to a son, Riley Wagner-Lewis.

Wagner maintains residences in Los Angeles, California and Aspen, Colorado.

Wagner is currently pitching for a reverse mortgage company, the Senior Lending Network.

Aaron Spelling lawsuit

In June 2000, Wagner sued Aaron Spelling Productions for $20 million for breach of contract and fraud, claiming he had been cheated out of profits from the Fox television series Beverly Hills, 90210. The dispute centered on an agreement between Wagner and the show's creator-producer Aaron Spelling.

In 1988, Wagner agreed to become involved in Spelling's television series Angels 88, then in development, in which Spelling had agreed Wagner would receive a 7.5% gross profit for his participation, regardless of services rendered. However, when the series was initially picked up by Fox and later dropped in favor of Beverly Hills, 90210, Wagner claimed he was entitled to the rights previously agreed upon in their 1988 agreement.


Wagner's career as a supporting player in movies was solid in the 1950s, but declined in the 1960s, and he turned to television with great success. His notable roles include:

Other roles


Further reading

  • Wagner, Robert (2008). Pieces of my Heart - A Life. New York: Harper Collins. pp. 324 pages.. ISBN 978-0-06-137331-2.  

External links

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