"...their hobby was murder..."
For a while the intro to Hart to Hart featured aged houseboy and lovable frog-voiced Max speaking those words. Then one day it changed.
"...and when they met, it was murder..."
You see, Robert Wagner was married to Natalie Wood. It was the second time they had been married, having divorced in 1971 and remarried in 1972. On November 29, 1981, Natalie Wood died in a drowning accident that many considered to be suspicious in nature (and which also spawned the tasteless "What kind of wood doesn't float?" jokes). Around the same time, William Holden, who was living with Stefanie Powers passed on. He had been drinking and fell, hitting his head and suffering a fatal injury that many believe he would have survived if immediate medical attention had been sought. Thus, both of the stars of the show had their significant others pass on under suspicious circumstances. Soon after, the opening of the show they starred in together was changed and they were no longer promoting their hobby as murder. Their personal lives were beginning to strangely mirror the show.
In August of 1979, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers began a six year run on the popular series Hart to Hart. They played Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy couple who lived in a world where friends and associates were being killed. As with Murder, She Wrote there seemed to be an endless supply of devious plots, killers and victims. However, the Harts travelled extensively and Jonathan Hart owned quite the worldwide corporation, so their murders often ran the gamut of the wealthy and powerful.
The show was the brainchild of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, who during the late seventies and early eighties ruled over the world of one hour television "dramas." The concept was developed and created by Sidney Sheldon, who was well known for his work writing and creating other successful television shows and who was in the midst of becoming one of the best selling novelists of all times. Lurid tales of deception, murder and passion set against a backdrop of wealth and priviledge were his forte.
The self-made millionare Jonathan Hart and his freelance journalist wife Jennifer solve crimes in their spare time, both seeking out these mysteries as well as having them fall into their lap. Max, played by Lionel Stander, is really more than just a dottering old houseboy. He is a jack of all trades who has a mysterious background with underworld connections and mastered the art of making the perfect martini. Along with their dog, Freeway, they made the show a success, which was loosely based on the old "Thin Man" films.
After the show was cancelled in May of 1984, the series refused to die completely, and a total of eight "reunion" movies were made in the years to follow. The show was the kind of light escapism and fun (after all what is more fun that watching well groomed people with thick wallets solving murders?) that once dominated the television landscape. It never really asked you to think seriously about topics, even though the shows alluded to real life issues from time to time. No one could hate Jonathan Hart unless they didn't know him and considered him the faceless drone behind the big Hart Industries conglomerate (and any of those people would usually enjoy a martini with the Harts before it was over). Some might even go so far as to say that Hart to Hart was a product of the American propaganda machine, openly promoting capitalism with a human face. "See, look at Jonathan Hart! What a nice man. Corporations are good as long as someone handsome and nice like him are involved!"
Painstakingly researched with little success
at numerous television websites
with the "Hart to Hart" fan site at:
being the most helpful.
Much thanks to factgirl for being the one to finally fill me in on the William Holden connection.