Charming, handsome, suave, and witty, a 20-year old son of a Detroit steel worker was groomed in Hollywood to become a “Cary Grant” type of star. When 20th Century Fox signed Robert Wagner, the studio’s moguls were confident that their new contract player would draw the young ladies of America to the theaters in droves. But Fox got more than a teenage heartthrob; Wagner proved to be a talented actor as well, moving swiftly out of bit parts and into meaty roles, holding his own with the likes of Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark, and James Cagney, and soon getting the attention of legendary actor Spencer Tracy who hand-picked him for not one film, but two—back-to-back!
From this point on there was no looking back for Robert Wagner. His face would appear on magazine covers by the score, as the performer would wed Hollywood goddess Natalie Wood, carry film after film, land three hit television series, become a producer, and make Hollywood history.
His life, obviously, has been anything but dull. Wagner has worked for some of the top directors in the movie industry, including Edward Dmytryck, Blake Edwards, and John Ford, and opposite such greats as Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Fonda, and Sir Lawrence Olivier. And, in a feat not many actors can claim, Robert Wagner has made the transition between films and television—and effortlessly—over and over again.
Amongst the actor’s amassed laurels that include starring roles in TV’s long running series It Takes a Thief with Fred Astaire (in which Wagner was nominated for an Emmy for his role as Alexander Munday) and Hart to Hart with Stephanie Powers, and strong performances in 1954’s Prince Valiant (in the title role), 1962’s World War II epic The Longest Day, Irwin Allen’s 1974 blockbuster disaster film The Towering Inferno, 1976’s star-studded Midway, and the more recent “Austin Powers” smash hit film series immortalizing pirate eye-patched secret agent “Number 2”, Robert Wagner contends that one of his favorite roles is the good son Devereaux of the 1954 classic Western, Broken Lance.
Multitudes of adoring fans already know Robert Wagner as the screen idol, the loving husband to beautiful actress Jill St. John, the devoted father to his three daughters (Katie, Natasha and Courtney), the avid golfer and skier, and the humanitarian dedicated to raising funds for the sick and needy. But most are probably not aware that he is also is a true cowboy.
Recently, Mr. Wagner graciously invited the staff at WW to his beautiful California ranch house. He wore his cowboy boots as we sat on a cracked leather couch in his living room that was equipped with an authentic saloon bar and adorned with Western furnishings from the floor to the rafters. (The ceiling light constructed of genuine antlers was a real eye opener.) After the interview, Mr. Wagner gave us a grand tour of the grounds and introduced us to his favorite horses. With his true love for the West, it’s a doggone shame he didn’t make more Oaters. Even so, his percentage of success with the genre is quite high, with one of the best performances of his career being Broken Lance, and the film itself standing today as a cult classic Western…………………