NOVEMBER 2018 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 13
STILL A HOLLYWOOD LEGEND
drama and the romances he shared. He
talks about his good fortune and the
mentors he had.
“When I was a kid I was crazy about
Clark Gable, whom he described as
‘the motion picture idol of that time,’”
he recalls. “ I worked at this golf course
and caddied for him. I told him I was
interested in going into the film biz and
being an actor. He helped me. Spencer
Tracy was wonderful to me. He put his
arm around me and said that I could be
Wagner also talks about his late wife
Natalie Wood and the mystery surrounding
her 1981 death off California’s
Santa Catalina Island. He writes about
the emotional experience he had writing
this book and how he almost didn’t
“There’s been many things written
about Natalie and me,” he says. “I just
wanted to put it down as honestly and
as truthfully as I remember it. We were
married twice; we had a tremendous
love affair. As most people know, she
died and our life went on.
“That is part of the book,” he continues.
“It went on with much help
because of my children and my present
wife and from my friends, who all
gathered around me and helped me
get back on my feet.”
At the Gold Coast Arts Center last
month, Regina Gil, founder and executive
director of the Gold Coast Arts
Center and its Gold Coast International
Film Festival, presented the award
“American culture owes a debt of
gratitude to the pioneers of the film and
television industry for creating out of
whole cloth a form of entertainment
that is accessible to the ordinary individual,
and that has had the potential
to educate and transform the thinking
of millions of people,” Gil said. “The
producers, directors, actors, and technicians
who dreamed worked, invented,
reinvented, and developed what we
know today as Hollywood were the
greats of this industry, upon whose
shoulders today’s stars stand. Robert
Wagner has a long view of this pond,
having served in film and television as
a leading man and talented actor.”
Congratulations on getting the
Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era
Award. Isn’t that a wonderful honor?
A lot of wonderful charities are going
You are from Detroit, Michigan
and grew up in Bel Air. Do you have
any connection here on Long Island?
I have spent time here on Long Island
over the years and always loved it.
Any favorite places you like to visit
when you are on Long Island? The
Gold Coast is a wonderful place. The
history is amazing, and all the people
of Hollywood who have lived here or
been here is quite extraordinary.
Would you say that the dashing
Jonathan Hart was one of your favorite
roles to play? One that you most
identified with? I loved doing Hart to
Hart and playing Jonathon Hart. I loved
the character. Stefanie Powers was
great. The chemistry was great. Lionel
Stander was great. I identified with the
role because you put a lot of yourself
in it when you are playing a part for so
long. It was a hit and wonderful to be
involved in something like that. The
audience picked up on it worldwide,
and it played it in 87 countries.
What are some of the projects you
are working on now? I have been
in NCIS. I enjoy it. I love that character.
There is quite a bit of me in that
character, too. I will be doing one of
those beginning the first of the year. I
have a couple of movies that they are
talking to me about doing.
When you played the son in the
movie Broken Lance with Spencer
Tracy early in your career, how
was that experience for you? That
picture changed my life. I met Edward
Dmytryk who was a wonderful director,
and of course, Spencer Tracy was
very generous to me. They went on to
make a picture called The Mountain in
Europe. I went to Europe with Spence
and Eddie Dymtryk; it was the first
time I was there. He gave me co-star
billing above the title, which changed
my whole career.
It must have been an exciting
time to be part of the Hollywood
landscape back in the day. How
would you compare it to today’s
landscape? In those days when I
started, if somebody said I am interested
in that, the response would be,
“Let’s go for it. Let’s try it.” I think
today corporate influence has taken
over many aspects of our industry.
It is very hard to keep the personal
involvement in a project because
it has to be discussed by so many
people who all have different ideas.
Many people have opinions before
something is made. Some are good,
some are not so good.
What advice can you give to those
starting out in the profession? You
have to have a lot of self-confidence
today in everything that you do. You
have to believe in your ideas and
your idealism, and I think you have to
maintain that. I think it is something
Can you tell us about some of your
mentors during those early years? I
was a tremendous fan of Clark Gable
and Cary Grant. As a kid I just looked
up at the silver screen and said, “Boy,
I’d like to do that.” I was just fortunate.
I started going out as a kid doing scenes
for people and auditioning and doing
anything to try to get in the business.
Finally, I met this wonderful dramatic
teacher at 20th Century Fox. She said I
think he’s got something. There I was
in the movies and I loved it. At 75 bucks
a week, taking home 55. And I loved it.
I was in the movies. Everybody was
really great to me.
If there was someone who could
play you in a movie, whom might that
be? Michael Weatherly, who played me
in a movie. I love Michael, and I don’t
think anybody can do it better.
Robert Wagner won the Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award at
the Gold Coast International Film Festival Gala. (Photo by Matthew Kropp)
Besides movies, Wagner also starred in Hart to Hart, a TV mystery
series in the 1980s.