|Robert John Wagner Jr.
|February 10, 1930
|American Actor of Stage, Screen, and Television
Robert Wagner is an American actor famous for his professional career in the early 1950s. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Robert is a stage, screen, and television actor. And for the younger generation, he appeared as Teddy Leopold in the Two and a Half Men sitcom.
There are a number of iconic roles attached to his name. For example, he appeared in television shows like It Takes a Thief, Switch, and Hart to Hart. He was part of the Austin Powers trilogy, playing the character Number 2. As of August 2020, Robert Wagner’s fortune is over $15 million.
Career Ups and Downs
Born in 1930, Robert has a sister, Mary. He has European heritage. His father’s parents are from Germany. And his mother’s parents are from Norway.
He showed an interest in acting at a young age. In his 20s, he started applying for acting jobs. He went for a screen test directed by Fred Zinnemann for his movie Teresa. But he did not get the part. After that, he made his movie debut as an uncredited actor in The Happy Years. After that, he signed with agent Henry Wilson and a contract with 20th Century Fox. In his own words, “I was the boy next door”.
His first credit movie was Halls of Montezuma. He had a support role, and he then performed a similar function in another movie, The Frogmen.
In 1952, he got his first nationwide attention after a role in With a Song in My Heart. After that movie, 20th Century Fox started to give him better roles, mainly romantic male leads. His first starring role came in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef.
The movie company started lending him to other studios. For example, he played a part in The Mountain, a movie by Paramount Pictures. By the end of the 1950s, he appeared in a couple of war movies, his specialty. Some of them include The Hunters, a Korean War Movie, and In Love and War, a WW2 movie.
Robert wanted to kick-start his career and move it in an upward direction. So, he appeared with his then-wife Natalie Wood in All the Fine Young Cannibals for MGM. The movie was a flop, but Wagner then formed his own company Rona Productions. They signed a three-picture deal with Columbia Pictures.
Wagner’s and Wood’s marriage broke up, and after that, he relocated to Europe. There, he got one of his biggest hits, The Pink Panther. He played a support role in the massive hit.
After a couple of years in Europe, Wagner returned to America. When he returned, he played in the theatre. He played a lead role in Mister Roberts for the first time. In 1966, he signed a deal with Universal Pictures, starring opposite future wife, Jill St. John.
In 1967, Lew Wasserman convinced Robert to make his television debut. His first role came in the series It Takes a Thief on ABC. The success of Pink Panther, coupled with his two-and-a-half season on TV, put him on a nationwide stadium.
By the 1970s, he returned to what he did best, war movies. He appeared in the World War II drama Colditz. He then appeared in a movie alongside Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, The Towering Inferno. While the movie did excellent at the box office, his part was relatively small.
By the mid-1970s, his television career reached its peak. He got to play in the show Switch with other stars like Eddie Albert, Sharon Gless, and more. And then in 1974, he re-signed a deal with Universal Pictures.
In 1976, he got reunited for a movie with his former wife, Natalie Wood. They got a share in three TV series developed for ABC. Only one series reached the big screen, the massive hit Charlie’s Angels. The couple acted in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1976.
By the end of the 1970s, Wagner got another massively successful television series. The actor appeared in Hart to Hart from 1979 to 1984. He was the first and only choice for the part. During that period, he also reprised his role in Curse of the Pink Panther.
By the middle of the 1980s, he reflected on his career. He said that bad-guy roles work only if they are good parts. And they do not come along very often. Yes, he would love to do a Clint Eastwood type of role. But so far, bad guy roles worked perfectly for him.
In his later career, Wagner appeared mostly in small roles in successful and popular television series. For example, he appeared in Two and a Half Men, Hustle, and NCIS among others. His last successful project was the Austin Powers trilogy.
In his memoirs, Robert Wagner wrote he had affairs with Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Lori Nelson, Joan Collins, and more. He got married for the first time with Natalie Wood. He married for the second time to actress Marion Marshall. The two had a daughter together and then got a divorce in 1971. He even got engaged to Tina Sinatra from 1970 to January 1972.
In 1982, he started his relationship with another actress, Jill St. John. The two had a history of acting together and friendship since the late 1950s. Between 1967 and 2014 they appeared in six movies together, most of them low-budget movies.
Robert and Jill live in Aspen, Colorado. It is a vacation home they built-in 1995. And they also have a condo in Los Angeles.
Awards and Nominations
Robert Wagner’s career spans over a few decades. He had successful roles in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and even the 1980s. Over that period, he got a few award nominations and wins. Wagner earned six Golden Globe Nominations, four of them for Hart to Hart. He also earned a nomination for It Takes a Thief and Stars and Stripes Forever. He did not win any of them.
The famous actor earned a Primetime Emmy nomination in 1970 for It Takes a Thief.
Robert Wagner’s fortune is more than $15 million. Yes, his career spans over a few decades. But his movies were not box office hits. Many of his movies were low-budget films. His average for a box office movie is $105 million. And his most successful movie is The Towering Inferno. It earned $139 million at the box office. And 18 of his movies crossed the magical $100 million mark.
Robert Wagner’s career is almost 70 years old. Different generations remember him in different roles. But in any case, he can say he had a successful and long career. In total, he appeared in 147 movies or TV shows from 1950 to 2017. Five of his movies won at least one Academy Award in any category. Sadly, he didn’t win any.