Robert Wagner Sr. was a well-to-do steel company executive who decided to move his family to Beverly Hills when his son Robert John Wagner Jr. was nine. Robert Jr who would later be referred to as RJ reveled in the glory of what was Hollywood.
He made his first acting appearance in drag playing Priscilla Alden in a high school production of Longfellow's "The Courtship of Miles Standish" but it was that role that made him step into the limelight. At 15 he became a golf caddy at the Bel-Air Country Club where he met the likes of Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, and Alan Ladd among others. In 1947 RJ was scheduled to begin working on a project at Warner Brothers but the debut was cancelled due to a strike. Despite his father's wishes for his son to be in the steel industry RJ insisted that acting was his life. Robert Sr. gave his son one year to "make it" in Hollywood or he would join him in the family business. Within months Robert Wagner Jr. had his first role in "The Happy Years". Although only a bit part, it attracted the attention of Agent Henry Wilson who took him to Fox for a screen test. Darryl F. Zanuck placed him under a $150.00 per week contract and the rest they say is history...
Working in the shadows of Troy Donahue, Rock Hudson, and Cary Grant, RJ had some rather big shoes to fill but stepped up to the plate in his early films "Teresa" and "The Halls of Montezuma" but didn't really get noticed until his 1952 role in "With A Song In My Heart" co-starring Susan Hayward. The fan letters started pouring in.
In 1953, Robert Wagner got his first star billing in "Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef" and followed it up with the leading role in Prince Valiant. 1954 brought new roles and a new mentor in the form of screen legend Spencer Tracy. Tracy requested that RJ be loaned out from Fox to co-star in "Broken Lance" which lead to "White Feather", "A Kiss Before Dying", and another role with Tracy in "The Mountain". "The Mountain" turned out to be a huge turning point in the life of Robert Wagner and would lead to meeting three friends who would all share one man...
He called to ask her on a first date on July 20, 1956. It just happened to be her eighteenth birthday and he took her to see "The Mountain". The lucky lady was actress Natalie Wood. After the first date they didn't see each other for five months until bumping into each other at a CBS gathering. Saying that she was much too thin, RJ invited her to lunch. She agreed but then showed up three hours late. On December 6, 1957 he made dinner reservations at Romanoff's and slipped a ring into the bottom of her champagne glass. The inscribed ring read "Marry Me". They did just that on December 28, 1957 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Following the fairy-tale wedding of Hollywood's sweethearts, RJ starred in "The Hunter" and "Say One For Me" with Bing Crosby and Debbie Reynolds (*Note RJ also sings in this movie). It was in 1960 that Natalie's career would be put on the front burner as she appeared in the films "Splendor In The Grass" and "West Side Story". On April 27, 1962 Natalie filed for divorce. Oddly enough it was during the filming of "West Side Story" that RJ would meet a young actress and former dance school classmate of Natalie's named Taffy Paul whom as it turned out would be his "future wife"...
After several more movies including "All the Fine Young Cannibals", and "Harper", RJ met actress Marion Marshall. They married on July 22, 1963 and he signed to play in "The Pink Panther". On May 12, 1964, thirty-four year old Robert Wagner took on his life's most important role: Daddy to new daughter Katharine. In late 1968 RJ would take the step from the silver screen to the small screen as his first television series was picked up. It was called "It Takes A Thief" and ran for three seasons during which he would again meet "Taffy Paul". In June 1970 he and Marion would separate. Marion had custody of daughter Kate and Natalie had also had a daughter Natasha Gregson. After a meeting at a dinner party in 1971 and another broken marriage for both, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood married again on July 16, 1972. Their renewed love was forever sealed with the arrival of Courtney Brooke Wagner on March 9, 1974.
During their second marriage RJ and Natalie formed a production company aptly named RONA II standing for "Robert and Natalie: Second Time Around". The production company would enter into an agreement with Aaron Spelling and ABC for two series. The first of the two would be the smash hit "Charlie's Angels" starring Farrah Fawcett, Jacklyn Smith, Kate Jackson, David Doyle, and John Forsythe. They also starred together in the movies "The Affair" and Sir Lawrence Olivier's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". RJ then signed on to the new television series "Switch" with Eddie Albert. In 1978 while filming the Mini-Series "Pearl" in Hawaii, Robert Wagner would be asked to perform the role last would last a lifetime...
The script started out as "Double Twist" and was written by master author Sidney Sheldon. Something just wasn't right so Tom Mankiewicz reworked the script and it soon took shape as "Hart to Hart" and RJ was the only person who came to mind for the role of self-made millionaire Jonathan Hart and it would be the second series for RONA II. With their leading man solidly locked in place the hunt for someone to play his wife began. For Robert Wagner, the hunt started and ended with one person: Stefanie Powers. The young lady who he met all those years earlier as Taffy Paul had already worked with him in an episode of "It Takes A Thief" and she was his only choice for Jennifer Hart. Although the network fought, RJ fought harder and along with Stefanie and Lionel Stander "Hart to Hart" premiered in September 1979 to mixed reviews. The pilot featured guest star Jill St. John and even a cameo appearance by Natalie. Hart to Hart ran for five years and it wasn't long before Jonathan and Jennifer Hart had been etched into the minds of fans forever.
With Hart to Hart riding the wave of success, Natalie was set to return to the big screen in the movie Brainstorm. It was during this wonderful time that reality hit hard... In November 1981, William Holden; legendary actor and longtime companion of Stefanie Powers died after an accidental fall. In a cruel twist of fate, two weeks later Natalie would also die in a horrible accident. The Hart stars were left to pick up the pieces and did so one day at a time and with the strength of each other to lean on.
Jill St. John had worked with RJ on the movie Banning and expressed to Tom Mankiewicz that she would like to see RJ to offer condolences. Two months later, Tom invited him to dinner where he would again meet with the third member of the women in his life. The day after, RJ asked Jill out and they began casually dating. They married in 1990.
Following the cancellation of Hart to Hart, Robert was again asked to star in another ABC series titled "Lime Street". The show had promise but in another tragic twist, Samantha Smith who was to play his daughter was killed in a plane crash. Lime Street ran one season.
With the silver screen again calling his name, RJ returned to work in movies such as "The Player", "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story", and "Overdrive". Then came the treading of the boards as he and Stefanie teamed up again and toured the world in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters". He formed another production company KANACO named for his three girls and during the tour they took time out to bring the Harts back to life and with Lionel Stander along for the ride, "Hart to Hart Returns" aired as an NBC Friday Night Mystery in November 1993. It would be the first of eight movies reuniting RJ and Stefanie. Sadly, Lionel Stander died shortly after the fourth movie was filmed.
In 1997 Mike Myers of "Saturday Night Live" fame came up with a spoof of James Bond called "Austin Powers". In the movie Powers would be a super slueth in search of Dr. Evil. Dr. Evil's sidekick is a man named Number Two. Rising to the occasion, RJ donned a pirate patch over his eye and became the newest villain on the silver screen. "Austin Powers" was a huge success and was followed with "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and is currently filming the third in the series tentatively titled "Goldmember" (scheduled to be released this summer). He and Jill are currently touring the country in "Love Letters" and he is actively involved in raising money for St. John's Hospital and the Jimmy Stewart Marathon.
With his three girls all grown up and in the entertainment field too, Robert Wagner has come full circle. The little boy grin and sparkling blue eyes are still completely intact and with the charisma that constantly shines you can bet that "Hollywood's Golden Boy" is going be around for a long time to come.… Expand
Robert Wagner's Scores
- By date
- By user score
|Crazy in Alabama||Oct 22, 1999||Harry Hall||8.0|
|Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery||May 2, 1997||Number Two||7.4|
|Hoot||May 5, 2006||Mayor Grandy||7.0|
|Wild Things||Mar 20, 1998||Tom Baxter||7.0|
|Man in the Chair||Dec 7, 2007||Taylor Moss||7.0|
|Making the Boys||Mar 11, 2011||Himself||7.0|
|Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me||Jun 11, 1999||Number Two||6.9|
|Austin Powers in Goldmember||Jul 26, 2002||Number Two||6.6|
|Play It to the Bone||Dec 25, 1999||Hank Goody||5.0|
|Everyone's Hero||Sep 15, 2006||Mr. Robinson||4.9|