Robert Wagner

Robert John Wagner, Jr. (pronounced /ˈwæɡnər/; born February 10, 1930) is an American actor of stage, screen, and television, best known for starring in the television shows It Takes a Thief (1968–70), Switch (1975–78), and Hart to Hart (1979–84). He also had a recurring role as Teddy Leopold on the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men and has a recurring role as Anthony DiNozzo Sr. on the police procedural NCIS.

In movies, Wagner is known for his role as Number Two in the Austin Powers trilogy of films (1997, 1999, 2002), as well as for A Kiss Before Dying, The Pink Panther, Harper, The Towering Inferno and many more.

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

    Early life and career

    Jean Peters with Wagner in Broken Lance (1954)

    Wagner was born in Detroit, Michigan. He is the son of Hazel Alvera (née Boe), a telephone operator, and Robert John Wagner, Sr., a traveling salesman who worked for the Ford Motor Company. His paternal grandparents were born in Germany. and his maternal grandparents were Norwegian. Wagner has a sister, Mary. He graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1949.

    After an unsuccessful screen test directed by Fred Zinnemann for his film Teresa, Wagner was represented by Albert R. Broccoli as his agent.

    He made his film debut in The Happy Years (1950). He was signed by agent Henry Willson and put under contract with 20th Century-Fox, where he gained attention with a small but showy part as a shell-shocked soldier in With a Song in My Heart (1952). This led to starring roles in a series of films, including: with veteran actor Clifton Webb, Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) and Titanic (1953), Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), Prince Valiant (1954), and White Feather (1955, with Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter). In 1956, A Kiss Before Dying (in a rare villainous role), Between Heaven and Hell, and he co-starred opposite Spencer Tracy in The Mountain, again playing an unsavory character. Following his Fox contract Wagner moved to Europe.

    In 1960 Wagner signed with Columbia Pictures for three films, but only two were made; Sail a Crooked Ship (1961) with Ernie Kovacs and The War Lover (1962), opposite Steve McQueen, which was filmed in England. Roles soon followed in continental Europe such as The Condemned of Altona (1962), The Longest Day (1962) and The Pink Panther (1963) starring David Niven and Peter Sellers for Blake Edwards. Edwards wanted Wagner for the lead in The Great Race (1965) but Jack L. Warner overruled him.

    Career rise

    Wagner signed with Universal Studios in 1966 starring in the films How I Spent My Summer Vacation a made-for-TV movie released in the United Kingdom as Deadly Roulette and Banning (1967). In 1967, Lew Wasserman convinced Wagner to make his television series debut in It Takes a Thief. 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 it. In this series, he acted with Fred Astaire, who played his father. Wagner was a longtime friend of Astaire's, having gone to school with Astaire's eldest son, Peter. Wagner's friend and agent Albert Broccolli suggested that he audition to play James Bond, but he decided it was not right for him.

    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, and was a regular in the BBC/Universal World War II prisoner-of-war drama Colditz for much of its run. He reunited with McQueen, along with Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, in the disaster film The Towering Inferno released in the same year.

    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 hero of Wagner's, after he watched 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 partial payment for starring together in the Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg production of the TV movie The Affair, Wagner and Natalie Wood were given a share in three TV series that the producers were developing for ABC. 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.

    Wagner and Wood acted with Laurence Olivier in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (as part of Olivier's 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, which co-starred Stefanie Powers and ran from 1979 to 1984. Before those roles, Wagner also made guest appearances in the pilot episode of The Streets of San Francisco. 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.

    Return to film and television

    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 2005, Wagner became the television spokesman for the Senior Lending Network, a reverse mortgage lender and in 2010 he began serving as a spokesman for the Guardian First Funding Group, also a reverse mortgage lender. As of June 2011, Guardian First Funding was acquired by Urban Financial Group, who continue to use Mr. Wagner as their spokesperson.

    In 2007, Wagner had a role in the BBC/AMC series Hustle. In season four's 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", 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".

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

    Wagner has guest-starred as Tony's father, Anthony DiNozzo Sr., in seven episodes of NCIS: "Flesh and Blood" (2010), "Broken Arrow" (2010), "Sins of the Father" (2011), "You Better Watch Out" (2012), "Dressed to Kill" (2014), "The Artful Dodger" (2015) and "No Good Deed" (2015). He was set to star as Charlie in the 2011 reboot of Charlie's Angels, but due to scheduling conflicts, had to exit the project.

    Personal life

    Wagner with Natalie Wood in 1960

    In his memoirs, Wagner revealed he has had affairs with Yvonne De Carlo, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Anita Ekberg, Shirley Anne Field and Joan Collins. He had a four-year romantic relationship with Barbara Stanwyck after they acted together in the movie Titanic (1953). Because of the age difference – he was 22, she was 45 – they kept the affair secret in order to avoid damage to their careers.

    On December 28, 1957, Wagner married 19-year-old actress Natalie Wood. They separated in June 1961 and divorced on April 27, 1962.

    While working on location in Europe, Wagner reconnected with an old friend, actress Marion Marshall. In the spring of 1963, after a brief courtship, Wagner, Marshall, and her two children from her marriage to Stanley Donen 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). They divorced on April 26, 1971 after eight years of marriage.

    In 1971, Wagner was engaged to Tina Sinatra. In early 1972, Wagner reconnected with Natalie Wood and remarried her on July 16, 1972 after a six-month courtship. Their only child together, Courtney Wagner, was born on March 9, 1974. On November 29, 1981, Natalie Wood drowned near their yacht Splendour while it was moored near Catalina Island; also on board were Wagner, Christopher Walken, who was co-starring with her in the motion picture Brainstorm, and Dennis Davern, a captain. Wagner subsequently became the legal guardian of Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson, then eleven. He is estranged from his former sister-in-law, Lana Wood.

    Wagner and actress Jill St. John were married on May 26, 1990. On September 21, 2006, he became a first-time grandfather when Katie Wagner, his daughter with Marion Marshall, gave birth to her son Riley John Wagner-Lewis.

    In November 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened its investigation into Natalie Wood's death after the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, told NBC News that he lied to police during the initial investigation and that a fight between Wood and Wagner had led to her drowning. After nine months of further investigation, Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran amended Wood's death certificate and changed the cause of her death from accidental drowning to "drowning and other undetermined factors". The amended document also states that the circumstances of how Wood ended up in the water are "not clearly established." The police however have stated that Wagner is not a suspect in the case.

    Filmography

    Film

    Year Title Role Notes
    1951 The Frogmen Lt. (jg) Franklin
    1951 Halls of Montezuma Pvt. Coffman
    1951 Let's Make It Legal Jerry Denham
    1952 With a Song in My Heart GI Paratrooper
    1952 Stars and Stripes Forever Willie Little
    1952 What Price Glory? Private Lewisohn
    1953 Beneath the 12-Mile Reef Tony Petrakis
    1953 Titanic Gifford "Giff" Rogers
    1954 Broken Lance Joe Devereaux
    1954 Prince Valiant Prince Valiant
    1955 White Feather Josh Tanner
    1956 A Kiss Before Dying Bud Corliss
    1956 Between Heaven and Hell Sam Gifford
    1956 The Mountain Christopher Teller
    1957 The True Story of Jesse James Jesse James
    1957 Stopover Tokyo Mark Fannon
    1958 The Hunters Lt. Pell
    1958 In Love and War Frank "Frankie" O'Neill
    1958 Mardi Gras Cameo appearance
    1959 Say One for Me Tony Vincent
    1960 All the Fine Young Cannibals Chad Bixby (based on Chet Baker)
    1961 Sail a Crooked Ship Gilbert Barrows
    1962 The Longest Day US Army Ranger
    1962 The War Lover Lt Ed Boland
    1962 The Condemned of Altona Werner von Gerlach
    1963 The Pink Panther George Lytton
    1966 Harper Allan Taggert
    1967 Banning Mike Banning
    1968 The Biggest Bundle of Them All Harry Price
    1968 Lawrence Colby
    1969 Winning Luther Erding
    1972 Madame Sin Anthony Lawrence
    1974 The Towering Inferno Dan Bigelow
    1976 Laurence Olivier Presents: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Brick Pollitt
    1976 Midway Lieutenant Commander Ernest L. Blake
    1979 The Concorde ... Airport '79 Kevin Harrison
    1983 Curse of the Pink Panther George Lytton
    1983 I Am the Cheese Dr. Brint
    1987 Love Among Thieves Mike Chambers
    1991 Delirious Jack Gates (uncredited)
    1993 Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story Bill Krieger
    1997 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Number Two
    1998 Wild Things Tom Baxter
    1999 Crazy in Alabama Harry Hall
    1999 Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me Number Two Role reprisal from first film in series
    2000 Play It to the Bone Hank Goody
    2000 Becoming Dick Edward
    2001 Sol Goode Sol's Dad
    2002 Austin Powers in Goldmember Number Two Role reprisal from first two films in series
    2007 Netherbeast Incorporated President James Garfield
    2007 Man in the Chair Taylor Moss Wagner won, with other members in cast, the Method Fest "Best Ensemble Cast" award
    2007 A Dennis the Menace Christmas Mr. Wilson Direct-to-video release
    2009 The Wild Stallion Novak Direct-to-video
    2014 The Hungover Games Liam Direct-to-video

    Selected television appearances

    • 1953: Jukebox Jury as himself
    • 1963: The Eleventh Hour, episode: "And God Created Vanity" as Kenny Walsh
    • 1968–70: It Takes a Thief as Alexander Mundy
    • 1970–71: The Name of the Game as David Corey
    • 1971: City Beneath the Sea as Brett Matthews (made-for-TV movie)
    • 1972–74: Colditz as Flight Lieutenant Phil Carrington
    • 1975–78: Switch as Pete T. Ryan
    • 1979–84: Hart to Hart as Jonathan Hart
    • 1980: The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey narrator (2 episodes)
    • 1981: The Fall Guy as Himself (1 episode)
    • 1984: To Catch a King as Joe Jackson (TV miniseries)
    • 1984: There Must Be a Pony as Ben Nichols
    • 1985: Lime Street (as James Greyson Culver)
    • 1988: Windmills of the Gods as Mike Slade (TV miniseries)
    • 1994: Parallel Lives as the sheriff
    • 1997: Seinfeld, episode: "The Yada Yada" as Dr. Abbot
    • 1999: Fatal Error, as Albert Teal (movie)
    • 2003: Hope & Faith as Jack Fairfield (7 episodes)
    • 2005: The Simpsons, episode: "Goo Goo Gai Pan" as himself
    • 2006: Las Vegas, episode: "Cash Springs Eternal" as Alex Avery
    • 2006: Boston Legal as Barry Goal (2 episodes)
    • 2007: Hustle as Anthony Westley. Episode 1 of Season 4: "As One Flew Out, One Flew In"
    • 2007: Two and a Half Men as Teddy Leopold (5 episodes)
    • 2010–15: NCIS as Anthony DiNozzo Sr. (6 episodes)
    • 2012: The League as "Gumpa" Duke, episode: "Bro-Lo El Cordero"
    • 2013: Futurama as himself

    Books

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

    References

    External links

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