Date of birth: 10 February 1930
Born in Detriot, Michigan, Robert Wagner was the son of a Detroit steel executive. When his family moved to Los Angeles, Wagner's original intention of becoming a businessman took second place to his fascination with the film industry. Thanks to his dad's connections, he was able to make regular visits to the big studios.
Soon, a talent scout took notice of Wagner's boyish good looks, impressive physique and easygoing charm. After making his unbilled screen debut in The Happy Years (1950), Wagner was signed by 20th Century-Fox. Fox quickly set him up with actress, Debbie Reynolds. From this, he and Debbie would become good friends. In the latter part of 1956, Robert, then 26 would find the love of his life, legendary actress, Natalie Wood. They married in December of 1957 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hollywood trumpeted their marriage as the most "glittering union of the 20th century."
During his union with Natalie he would play a variety of roles including a shell-shocked war veteran in With a Song in My Heart (1952) the title roles in Prince Valiant (1954) and The True Story of Jesse James (1956), and effectively portrayed a cold-blooded murderer in A Kiss Before Dying (1955).
In the early 1960s, however, Wagner suffered a series of personal and professional reverses. Because of financial difficulties, his "ideal" marriage to actress Natalie Wood had dissolved, and his film career skidded to a stop after The Pink Panther (1964). New lead actors like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman overshadowed Wagner, making it difficult to find work.
Two years of unemployment followed before Wagner made a respectable comeback as star of the lighthearted TV espionage series It Takes a Thief (1968-70). For the rest of his career, Wagner would enjoy his greatest success on TV, first in the mid-1970s series Switch, then opposite Stefanie Powers in the internationally popular Hart to Hart, which ran from 1979 through 1983 and has since been sporadically revived in TV-movie form.
On the domestic front, Wagner was briefly wed to actress Marion Marshall before remarrying Natalie Wood in 1972. Natalie drowned in 1981 when they were spending a weekend on a yacht. The investigation into her death was reopened in 2011, following statements by the captain of the yacht, Dennis Davern, who said during an interview on the Today show that he believes Wagner is responsible for her death.
Following her drowning, Wagner stated, "When Natalie died, I was embittered. I still get angry about it and I wonder why it had to happen. I have all those feelings of grief and anger that people who've lost someone they love always have. I had lived a charmed life, and then I lost a beautiful woman I loved with all my heart." Wagner found lasting happiness with his third wife, Jill St. John, a longtime friend and coworker. He has three daughters, two from Natalie and one from Marion.