Robert John Wagner Jr. is a distinguished and multifaceted American actor whose career spans more than six decades. This veteran actor is best recognized for his lead roles in the television series ‘Switch,’ ‘Hart to Hart,’ and ‘It Takes a Thief.’ His most notable role was as ‘Number Two’ in the ‘Austin Powers espionage action-comedy film series. Wagner developed a passion for acting at an early age, and a talent scout quickly discovered him. In 1950, he made his film debut with ‘The Happy Years’ before signing a contract with ’20th Century Fox.’ With films such as the ‘Austin Powers trilogy, ‘The Towering Inferno,’ ‘Harper,’ ‘The Pink Panther,’ and ‘A Kiss Before Dying,’ he has engraved his name in the history of cinema. His notable television ventures include ‘Switch’ and ‘Hart to Hart,’ the miniseries ‘Windmills of the Gods,’ and ‘Love Among Thieves for television.
Youth and Early Life
Robert was born in Detroit, Michigan, on 10 February 1930 to Robert John Wagner Sr. and Hazel Alvera (née Boe). His father was a traveling salesman for Ford Motor Company, and his mother was a telephone operator. His sister’s name is Mary.
In 1937, his family relocated to Bel Air, California, and settled near the ‘Bel Air Country Club,’ where Wagner worked as a caddy for notable club members including Alan Ladd and Fred Astaire. He graduated from ‘Saint Monica Catholic High School’ in 1949. Early on, he developed an interest in acting. His initial endeavors included a failed screen test for the American drama ‘Teresa’ directed by Fred Zinnemann. (1951).
Robert Wagner’s Career
In the 1950 film ‘The Happy Years,’ he made his acting debut in the minor role of ‘Adams.’ Eventually, he was obtained by ’20th Century Fox’ after signing a contract with Hollywood talent agent Henry Willson.
Wagner’s first film with 20th Century Fox and first credited screen role was 1951’s “Halls of Montezuma.”
In the 1952 biographical film ‘With a Song in My Heart,’ in which he portrayed a U.S. Army paratrooper, he garnered widespread acclaim. The film ultimately won an “Academy Award” and two “Golden Globe Awards.” In the 1952 Technicolor biographical film ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ he landed the starring role of Willie Little. In 1953’s “Technicolor” adventure film “Beneath the 12-Mile Reef,” he earned his first starring role as “Tony Petrakis.” The film was a commercial success.
This was followed by a number of leading characters in films such as “Titanic” (1953), “Prince Valiant” (1954), “Between Heaven and Hell” (1956), “The True Story of Jesse James” (1957), and “In Love and War” (1958). (1958).
In 1960, he signed a contract with ‘Columbia Pictures for three films, of which only two, ‘Sail a Crooked Ship’ (1961) and ‘The War Lover,’ were produced. (1962).
He moved to Europe, where he appeared in the 1962 war film ‘The Longest Day,’ for which he won an Oscar.
As ‘George Lytton’ in the critically and commercially successful American comedy ‘The Pink Panther,’ he rose to prominence. (1963). The American Film Institute ranked the film at number 20 on its list of “100 Years of Film Scores.” Wagner reprised the role in 1983’s “Curse of the Pink Panther” sequel.
After returning to Hollywood, he starred in another notable film, the 1966 ‘Technicolor’ film Harper, which became a smashing success. In the film, he portrayed ‘Allan Taggert,’ while Paul Newman played the title character. Wagner made his television début as ‘Alexander Mundy’ in the American action-adventure series ‘It Takes a Thief’ in 1966, continuing his big-screen endeavors, including signing with ‘Universal Studios’ The three-season series that broadcast on ABC from January 9, 1968, to March 24, 1970, earned him an Emmy nomination for ‘Best TV Actor.’
He co-produced the British thriller ‘Madame Sin,’ which was initially produced as a pilot for a weekly ‘ABC’ series but was subsequently broadcast on January 15, 1972, in the United States and released as a feature film in other markets.
From October 19, 1972, to April 1, 1974, he portrayed ‘Flight Lieutenant Phil Carrington’ on the ‘BBC1’ series ‘Colditz,’ which ran for two seasons. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen starred in the critically and commercially successful disaster film The Towering Inferno, in which he appeared. The film was released on December 14, 1974, and became the year’s highest-grossing film, in addition to winning three ‘Academy Awards.’
As partial compensation for starring in the producers’ TV movie ‘The Affair,’ Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg offered Wagner and Natalie Wood a portion of the three television series they planned to develop for ABC. (1973). Only ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was produced and subsequently became quite popular among the three series. However, Wagner had to engage in a lengthy legal dispute with the two producers over their definition of profit.
Wagner re-signed a contract with ‘Universal Studios’ in 1974 and won the role of ‘Peterson T “Pete” Ryan’ in the American action-adventure detective series ‘Switch’ alongside Eddie Albert. Three seasons of the series broadcast on CBS from September 9, 1975, to August 20, 1978.
Wagner enhanced his television career by starring as ‘Jonathan Hart opposite Stefanie Powers in the American mystery television series ‘Hart to Hart’ ABC broadcast the series for five seasons, from August 25, 1979, to May 5, 1984. He co-starred with Audrey Hepburn as ‘Mike Chambers in the made-for-television film ‘Love Among Thieves,’ which broadcast on ABC on February 23, 1987.
In the two-part ‘CBS’ miniseries ‘Windmills of the Gods that aired on February 7 and 9, 1988, he portrayed ‘Mike Slade.’ In his later career, he gained popularity as ‘Dr. Evil’s henchman, ‘Number Two,’ in the ‘Austin Powers film series, which included three blockbuster hits: ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’ in 1997, ‘Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me’ in 1999, and ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002.
Other notable Wagner films include ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’ (1993) and ‘A Dennis the Menace Christmas’ (2001). (2007). Similarly, he appeared in 10 episodes of the 2010 television series ‘NCIS’. He has co-authored three books with Scott Eyman: “Pieces of My Heart: A Life” (2008), “You Must Remember This: The Life and Style of Hollywood’s Golden Age” (2014), and “I Loved Her in the Movies: Memories of Hollywood’s Legendary Actresses.” (2016).
Robert’s Personal Life
From December 1957 until April 1962, he was wed to actress Natalie Wood. From July 1963 until October 1971, he was married to actress Marion Marshall. On May 11, 1964, their daughter, Katie Wagner, was born. He was previously engaged to Tina Sinatra, an actress, performer, author, and producer, before remarrying Natalie on July 16, 1972. On March 9, 1974, the couple welcomed their daughter, Courtney Wagner.
Natalie drowned while on a weekend excursion to Santa Catalina Island on November 29, 1981, near their yacht, ‘Splendour.’ Wagner, actor Christopher Walken, and captain Dennis Davern were aboard the yacht at the moment.
On May 26, 1990, he wed Jill St. John, an actress.
Due to the controversies surrounding Natalie’s death, the ‘Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’ (LASD) reopened the investigation into her death in November 2011, and after nine months they determined that she died from “drowning and other undetermined factors.” Wagner was deemed a “person of interest” in her death by the ‘LASD’ on February 1, 2018.
Estimated Net Worth
American actor Robert Wagner has a net worth of $20 million. Together with his wife of several decades, actress Jill St. John, he has a combined net worth of $1 billion. Wagner has primarily recognized for his roles in the television series “It Takes a Thief,” “Switch,” and “Hart to Hart.”