Pieces of My Heart: A Life
By Robert J. Wagner and Scott Eyman,
It Books, 2009
Full disclosure: I wrote this in tribute to Robert Wagner several years ago, but the sentiment persists. Mr. Wagner was also a special guest on the TCM Classic Movie Cruise I went on with my sister a couple months ago, and thought, since he is a gracious, funny, lovely man, and the memory is fresh, I would run it again*.
Here we go:
Born on February 10, 1930, Robert Wagner is one of the few stars left who can claim a firm link to Hollywood's Golden Age. I first became aware of him in the mid 1970s as the ex-con-turned-P.I. in the series "Switch," with Eddie Albert and the lovely Sharon Gless, on whom I developed such an enduring attraction that I refuse to watch the show today in any available digital form, lest it ruin my memory forever.
In my late teens I saw Wagner in Titanic as the young college boy who develops a shipboard crush on Audrey Dalton, the daughter of Clifton Webb and my eternal mystery date, Barbara Stanwyck. He is dashing and sweet and believable and brave, and the film is better in many ways than its James Cameron mega-spectacularaganza remake whose only redeeming feature is Kate Winslet's fantastic (and rightly, effectively, and oft-highlighted) decolletage. Not only is the 1953 Titanic superior in storytelling and casting, it spawned a romance between Robert Wagner and Barbara Stanwyck that lasted several years until his marriage to Natalie Wood. And he had the class to wait 50 years to tell the tale.
The man has depth and humor and has carved out a long, profitable, and respectable career for himself and I salute him.
Observe his fine performance on "What's My Line" taped just a couple weeks after his 27th birthday on February 24, 1957. He does an admirable Clarke Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and James Cagney.
Happy Birthday, RJ.
* Originally ran February 11, 2011