The Happy Years – 1950
On July 7, 1950, Happy Years, a comedy full of the charm and innocence of a lost era, was released. In an uncredited role, Robert Wagner made his film debut. During the turn of the century, a young American boy gets sent to a posh prep school to, hopefully, reform the troublemaker into a responsible young man. In his book Pieces of My Heart, Robert said his father knew the director, William Wellman, who put him in the movie, and he earned, “precisely $37.50 for the part. Also appearing in this movie were Dean Stockwell (H2H Hart’s Desire and Quantum Leap) Leo G. Carroll (The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) Dwayne Hickman (also uncredited, Dobie Gillis), Scotty Beckett (Our Gang) and Leon Ames (one of the 19 actors who established the Screen Actors Guild.
Halls of Montezuma – 1951
On January 4, 1951, Robert Wagner appeared as Private Coffman in his first credited screen role, Halls of Montezuma. A Marine battalion prepares to land on a large Japanese-held island in the Pacific, and the men are ordered to take prisoners in order to gain information about the Japanese fortifications. The movie follows them from the beach, to a Japanese rocket site, and through an enemy-infested jungle as their ex-school teacher leader is transformed into a battle veteran, and his squad becomes a tight fighting unit. Also appearing in this movie were Richard Boone (Sail a Crooked Ship), Richard Widmark (Broken Lance, The Frogman), Jack Palance, Jack Webb, Martin Milner, and Marion Marshall as an uncredited nurse (future wife and ITAT – Thief Glass Riddle).
The Frogmen – 1951
On June 29, 1951, The Frogman was released. Based on a true story, after their former leader is killed in action, a strict-disciplinarian takes charge of an elite team of Navy divers who distrust him. While on the submarine, he sends out a group on a dangerous mission and deals with a Japanese torpedo threatening the boat. Robert Wagner played Lieutenant Franklin. The movie also starred Richard Widmark (Broken Lance) and Jeffrey Hunter (A Kiss Before Dying, In Love and War, The True Story of Jesse James, and White Feather.)
Let’s Make It Legal – 1951
On October 31, 1951, the film Let’s Make it Legal premiered. Based on the book by Mortimer Braus, My Mother-in-law, Miriam, a gorgeous grandmother (Claudette Colbert) tires of her husband, Hugh’s (Macdonald Carey) gambling habit and divorces him in this comic gem. The nearly-final divorce suddenly gets complicated when Miriam’s old flame (Zachary Scott) comes to town. Their daughter (Barbara Bates) and son-in-law (Robert Wagner) try to get the couple back together as Hugh wages a wild battle to win back his wife. Macdonald Carey (Tom Horton – Days of Our Lives.) and Marilyn Monroe.
With a Song in My Heart – 1952
On July 16, 1953, the movie With a Song in My Heart premiered. Based on a true story, aspiring actress Jane Froman lands a job in radio with the help of pianist Don Ross, whom she later marries. Jane’s popularity soars, and she leaves on a European tour, but she suffers serious leg injuries when her plane crashes near Lisbon. Unable to walk without crutches, Jane, nevertheless, goes on to entertain the Allied Troops in World War II. Robert Wagner has a brief and touching part as a shell-shocked veteran. The real Jane Froman dubbed all the songs. Susan Hayward starred as Jane Froman and was discussed in Robert Wagner’s book. Also starring in this movie were Thelma Ritter (Titanic and uncredited in Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood) Rory Calhoun (H2H Harts at High Noon) David Wayne (Switch – Dancer) and Helen Westcott (Switch – The Four Horsemen.)
What Price Glory – 1952
On July 25, 1952, the film What Price Glory premiered. Directed by John Ford, this was originally intended as a musical, but was later filmed as a comedy-drama. Against the backdrop of the WWI battlefield, a group of Marines deal with personal and romantic issues. Robert Wagner plays Private Lewisohn and sings a romantic duet with Marisa Pavan (Pier Angeli’s twin sister.) The star-studded cast included James Cagney, William Demarest (My Three Sons and The Mountain) Henry Morgan (uncredited, Mash) and Dan Daily.
Stars and Stripes Forever – 1952
On December 22, 1952, Stars and Stripes Forever aired. Set in the 1890s, this movie details how Stars and Stripes Forever, a rousing patriotic march, was written and how the writer, John Philip Sousa, became world-renowned. Eager to impress his boss, musician Private Willie Little (Robert Wagner) presents Marine Corps Band composer John Philip Sousa (Clifton Webb – Titanic) with a reconfigured instrument he has dubbed the “sousaphone.” When the composer leaves the Corps, Little joins Sousa’s new band. Also appearing in the movie were Debra Paget (White Feather and Prince Valiant) and Ruth Hussey.
The Silver Whip – 1953
On August 28, 1953, The Silver Whip was released. Young Jess Harker (Robert Wagner) plans to leave town, but sympathetic stagecoach armed guard Race Crim (Dale Robertson) persuades his boss to give Jess a job as the stage driver. While he is transporting a shipment of gold, the stagecoach is robbed by six armed robbers, and Jess is injured. Three of the robbers are killed, however, three others escape with the gold. One is later killed and another is caught. Jess gets fired as the driver but is appointed as a deputy as he tries to capture the final robber who escaped. Rory Calhoun played the sheriff (H2H Harts in High Noon) Chuck Connors also appeared in an uncredited role.
Titanic – 1953
On April 11, 1953, the movie Titanic was released. An unhappily married couple struggles to deal with their problems while on board the ill-fated luxury liner. In his book, Pieces of My Heart, Robert Wagner discusses this movie and some of the co-stars. Also starring in this movie were Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb (Stars and Stripes Forever), Brian Ahern (Prince Valiant), and Thelma Ritter (With a Song in my Heart and her first movie appearance in an uncredited role with a young Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street.)
Beneath the 12-Mile Reef – 1953
On December 2, 1953, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef was released. Just off the coast of Florida, two fishing operations have become spiteful business rivals. On one side is Mike Petrakis (Gilbert Roland – H2H The Raid), while on the other is Thomas Rhys (Richard Boone – Halls of Montezuma.) Mounting tension over territory in the Gulf Coast soon leads to violence. However, when the dashing young Tony Petrakis (Robert Wagner) meets the lovely Gwyneth Rhys (Terry Moore – Between Heaven and Hell), the young lovers quickly forget their fathers’ bloody feud and begin a dangerous romance on the high seas. Also starring in this movie was Peter Graves.
Prince Valiant – 1954
On April 5, 1954, Prince Valiant premiered. Young Prince Valiant (Robert Wagner) vows to become a member of the Knights of the Round Table in order to return his father to the throne and restore the Christian faith to their homeland. During his knight training, he falls for a princess and unmasks the Black Knight. The movie also starred Janet Leigh (Harper) and Debra Paget (White Feather, Stars and Stripes Forever, and Broken Arrow.)
Broken Lance – 1954
On September 24, 1954, the Western film Broken Lance was released. Cattle baron Matt Devereaux (Spencer Tracy) raids a copper smelter that is polluting his water then divides his property amongst his sons. Son Joe (Robert Wagner) takes responsibility for the raid and gets three years in prison. His three half-brothers despise him which leads to extreme family conflict. Spencer Tracey also starred with Robert Wagner in The Mountain. Also starring in this movie were E.G. Marshall (The Mountain), Richard Widmark (The Frogman), Hugh O’Brian, and Jean Peters. Screenwriter Philip Yordan won an Academy Award for this movie and Katy Jurado (who played Wagner’s mother) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
White Feather – 1955
On February 16,1955, White Feather was released. Robert Wagner led an all-star cast in a very thought-provoking movie. In an effort to peacefully coexist with white settlers, a Cheyenne tribe agrees to resettle and sacrifice valuable Wyoming hunting grounds to make way for gold prospecting. Also appearing in the movie were Debra Paget (Prince Valiant & Stars and Stripes Forever), Hugh O’Brian (Broken Lance), and Jeffrey Hunter (A Kiss Before Dying & In Love and War.)
A Kiss Before Dying – 1956
On June 12, 1956, the film A Kiss Before Dying was released. Based on Ira Levin’s novel of the same name, Bud Corliss (played by Robert Wagner) pursues heiress Dorothy Kingship in order to obtain her family mining fortune. Fearing her father will disinherit her when she becomes pregnant, Bud murders his fiancée and makes it look like a suicide. Unaware of his relationship with Dorothy, Bud later begins dating her grieving sister, Ellen who begins to question his intentions. The movie also starred Jeffrey Hunter (The Frogman, In Love and War, White Feather, and The True Story of Jesse James), Joanne Woodward as Dorothy (Winning), and Virginia Leith as Ellen (White Feather.)
Between Heaven and Hell – 1956
On October 11, 1956, the film Between Heaven & Hell premiered. Robert Wagner plays Sam Francis Gifford, a wealthy plantation owner who joins the military when WW2 strikes. He is demoted to the rank of Private after hitting an officer and finds life different as he becomes friends with men he previously would never have associated with. The horrors of war and camaraderie with fellow soldiers affect him, and Gifford’s attitude begins to shift toward egalitarianism. This movie also starred Terry Moore(Beneath the 12-Mile Reef), Broderick Crawford(ITAT-Fortune City episode with Stefanie Powers) and Buddy Ebsen.
The Mountain – 1956
On November 14, 1956, the film The Mountain premiered in theaters. When a plane crashes near the top of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, Christopher Teller (Robert Wagner) concocts a plan to rob the dead, however, he has no hope of getting to the crash site without the aid of his older brother, Zachary, a skilled mountain climber who wants to leave the dead in peace. Chris pesters Zachary until he finally gives in. When they reach the crash site, they find a badly-injured survivor. Chris wants to leave her there to die, but Zachary insists on bringing her down the mountain. Filmed in France, the movie is filled with spectacular mountain scenery and was nominated for BAFTA film award. Spencer Tracey (Broken Lance) starred as Zachary. Also appearing in the movie were EG Marshall (Broken Lance), Claire Trevor, and William Demarest.
The True Story of Jesse James – 1957
On this day March 22, 1957, The True Story of Jesse James premiered. Having fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War, Jesse James (Robert Wagner) and his brother Frank dream of a farm life in Missouri. They assemble a gang of outlaws, robbing trains and becoming folk heroes in the process. Also starring Jeffrey Hunter (White Feather, A Kiss Before Dying, and In Love and War), Hope Lange (I am the Cheese), and John Carradine (Around the World in 80 Days).
Stopover Tokyo – 1957
On December 26, 1957, the movie Stop Over Tokyo aired. United States counterintelligence agent, Mark Fannon (Robert Wagner) is sent to Tokyo to foil a Soviet’s Spy’s (Edmond O’Brien: ITAT – Rock-Bye, Bye, Baby) plot to blow up the U.S. ambassador to Japan at a peace rally. Also appearing in this move are Joan Collins (H2H movie: Two Harts in ¾ Time, Switch – Stung from Beyond) and Larry Keating. The soundtrack was written by John Philip Sousa. Mr. Wagner discussed Ms. Collins in his book.
The Hunters – 1958
On August 26, 1958, the film The Hunters premiered. Directed by Dick Powell, The Hunters is a romantic melodrama with an aviation angle based on the novel of the same name. Robert Mitchum (Midway) plays Air Force pilot Major Cleve Saville, who was in charge of a group of young flyboys in 1952 Korea. Among the men under Saville’s command are cocksure Lt. Ed Peil (Robert Wagner.) Saville and Peil are sent out to rescue a downed pilot who happens to be married to the woman Saville loves.
In Love and War – 1958
On October 31, 1958, the film In Love and War was released. The film traces the progress of three Marines on shore leave in San Francisco before they are shipped out to the Pacific during World War II. Rattled by the uncertainty of their futures, each responds differently to being reunited with loved ones. Robert Wagner plays Frankie O’Neill, who copes by hitting the bottle. This film also stars Jeffrey Hunter (White Feather, A Kiss Before Dying, The Longest Day, The True Story of Jesse James, and The Frogman), and Hope Lange (I am the Cheese and The True Story of Jesse James)
Say One for Me – 1959
On June 19, 1959, the movie Say One For Me was released. When Holly LeMaise’s father falls ill, she takes a job working as a showgirl in a nightclub to pay his medical bills. The featured entertainer at the club, Tony Vincent (played by Robert Wagner) is known as a playboy, and they eventually fall in love. Tony must choose between Holly and singing on a nationally televised program. The film also starred Bing Crosby (featured in Wagner’s book), Debbie Reynolds (discussed at length in his book), and Stella Steven in her movie debut (H2H pilot.)
All the Fine Young Cannibals – 1960
On September 22, 1960, the movie All the Fine Young Cannibals was released. Two young couples cope with the fact that one member of each partnership had a premarital affair which produced a baby. The film was the first Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood (H2H pilot, two episodes of Switch: The Cage and The Cruise Ship Murders, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Affair) made as husband and wife. The movie also starred George Hamilton (H2H movie: Till Death Us Do Hart.)
Sail a Crooked Ship – 1961
On December 1, 1961, the movie Sail a Crooked Ship debuted. Bugsy G. Foglemeyer (Ernie Kovacs) decides to steal a ship in New York City and use it to rob a bank in Boston. The only problem? Neither he nor any of his gang knows how to sail. To remedy this, they kidnap ex-Naval officer Gilbert Barrows (Rober Wagner) and his girlfriend, Elinor (Dolores Hart,) and force him to said the ship. Under Gilbert’s unwilling command, the gang of thieves works together to try to keep the barely seaworthy vessel afloat. Also starring in this movie was Frankie Avalon.
The Longest Day – 1962
On October 4, 1962, the film The Longest Day premiered. Based on the factual book with the same name written by Cornelius Ryan and directed by the famed Darryl Zanuck, this star studded film tells the story of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day from the Allied and German points of view. Robert Wagner plays a US Army Ranger. Cast includes: Jeffrey Hunter (White Feather, A Kiss Before Dying, In Love and War, and The Frogman), Eddie Albert (Airport 79, Switch), Robert Mitchum (Midway, The Hunters), Roddy McDowell (H2H – the pilot episode, ITAT – Boom at the Top) Henry Fonda (Midway), John Wayne, Sal Munro, Paul Anka, Peter Lawford and Sean Connery.
The War Lover – 1962
On October 25, 1962, the movie The War Lover was released. Steve McQueen (Towering Inferno) stars as Capt. Buzz Rickson, a hot-shot American Bomber pilot in WW2, stationed in England with his 1st Lt. Ed Boland (Robert Wagner). Both pilots fall for the same girl, and their friendship and comradery begin to fall apart. Boland starts to question Rickson’s judgement after he takes unnecessary risks on their assignments.
The Condemned of Altona – 1964
On October 30, 1963, the film I sequestrati di Altona, also known as The Condemned of Altona, was released. This is a darkly disturbing film about the von Gerlach family. When the patriarch of the family discovers he is dying, he contacts his youngest son, Werner (Robert Wagner) to take over his business. The family deals with unsettling memories and guilt over the help they were forced to give during the war. Meanwhile, another son still wearing his German army uniform, is hidden in his father’s house and believes that World War II is still going on. Based on a play written by Jean-Paul Satre, it is called Loser Wins in Great Britain. Also starring Sophia Loren, Maximilian Schell, and Fredric March.
The Pink Panther – 1963
On March 20, 1964, The Pink Panther premiered. Directed by Blake Edwards, the movie follows a bumbling Inspector Clouseau as he travels to Rome to catch the Phantom, a notorious jewel thief before he conducts his most daring heist yet: a princess’s priceless diamond with a slight imperfection, a flaw in the center which resembles a pink panther. Robert Wagner starred in the hilarious role of George Lytton. Also starred Peter Sellers , David Niven, and Capucine (H2H Hart of Diamonds).
Harper – 1966
On February 23, 1966 the movie Harper, was released. Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband. This star studded movie starred Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Janet Leigh, and Shelly Winters.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation – 1967
On January 7, 1967, How I Spent My Summer Vacation aired as one of the first made-for-television movies. Jack Washington (Robert Wagner) compiles a dossier on a mysterious billionaire, who also happens to be the father of an ex-girlfriend. Aboard her family’s yacht, he begins to get the feeling that he is the victim of a conspiracy. Also appearing in this movie were Jill St John (his wife, Northpole, Around the World in 80 Days, Something to Believe In, The Calling, Banning, and H2H – pilot), Michael Ansara (ITAT – Guess Who’s Coming to Rio), Lola Albright (Switch – Who Killed Lila Craig?), Peter Lawford, and Walter Pidgeon.
The Biggest Bundle of Them All – 1968
On January 17, 1968, the oddball comedy, Biggest Bundle of Them All was released. A retired mobster turns the tables on his would-be kidnappers by persuading them to join him in a multi-million dollar robbery of platinum ingots from a train. Robert Wagner plays the lead kidnapper, Harry Price. Also appearing in this movie were Racquel Welch (Date My Dad), Vittorio DeSica (actor/director who directed The Condemned of Altona) and Edward G. Robinson.
Don’t Just Stand There! – 1968
On September 4, 1968, the comedy Don’t Just Stand There was released. Young writer Kendall Flanagin (Barbara Rhoades) is sent to Europe to complete a sex novel by the famous authoress, Sabine Manning (Glynis Johns), who has decided to stop writing. Lawrence Colby (Robert Wagner) is sent by Manning’s publisher, Marine Randall (Mary Tyler Moore) to rescue her, but he finds in a case of mistaken identity that Flanagin has been kidnapped by French gangsters. This movie also starred Harvey Korman (Curse of the Pink Panther), Stuart Margolin (three episodes of ITAT: Sagalis in The Great Chess Gambit, Dimitri Stauro in The Land of the Land, and a prison chaplain in A Thief is a Thief),
Barbara Rhoades (Switch, ITAT – Hilda in A Spot of Trouble), Joseph Bernard (Death at Love House, ITAT – Boris in Locked in the Cradle of the Key), Ken Howard (H2H Returns) and Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins.)
Winning – 1969
On May 22, 1969, the movie Winning aired. A rising star on the race circuit dreams of winning the Indianapolis 500, but in order to achieve that dream, he risks losing his wife to his rival (played by Robert Wagner.) This movie also starred Paul Newman (Towering Inferno, Harper), Joanne Woodward (A Kiss Before Dying), and Richard Thomas (of The Walton’s fame.)