This Tuesday, April 21 the hard working film and television actor Robert Wagner will be at the South Pasadena library to discuss his latest book, Pieces of My Heart. If you consider yourself a fan of actors and actresses from Hollywood's past then you must get your hands on a copy of this book. Wagner, who grew up in the posh neighborhood of Bel Air, became a teen heart throb for Fox studios, and later became a television legend gives readers an entertaining and revealing insider's look of the Hollywood world. I'm very excited to hear in person more about some of the fascinating stories from Wagner's book. What kinds of stories?
Well, during the filming of one of Wagner's early films, What Price Glory, starring James Cagney, the legendary director John Ford would only call Wagner by the name of "Boob." During the filming of one of Wagner's scene's Ford yelled, "Cut" and then walked across the set. "You know, Boob, if you can't see the camera, the camera can't see you. You be clear to the camera." Then Ford pushed Wagner hard to the ground. Cagney, who was standing next to Wagner said, "Don't worry, kid. He does that. You'll be all right. Just remember your lines, that's all you have to do."
Later, while filming another scene Ford picked up a rock and started to throw it at Wagner. Basically, according to Wagner, the director was trying to destabilize him, which he did.
On another film with actor Spencer Tracy, who Wagner had become close friends with, Wagner got to learn the dark side of Tracy's alcoholism. While filming The Mountain on location in the French Alps, Tracy one day got completely smashed in the hotel bar. By the time Wagner had finished filming his scenes for the day and found Tracy in the bar, Tracy was throwing a glass at the bartender who he believed made some remark. Wagner reached out to stop the glass but it shattered in his hand giving him some bad cuts. The next day Tracy had no memory of the event.
A lot of the book focuses on Wagner's many relationships with women. His love affair with the much older actress Barbara Stanwyck and most famously his on and off again relationship with actress Natalie Wood up until her death. Throw in some other interesting loves and you got some juicy stories.
Speaking of Natalie Wood, when Wagner was first married to the actress, the two went together to New York City to see the stage show of Gypsy. Jack Warner, the head of Warner Bros, had bought the rights to Gypsy as a potential movie project for Wood. After seeing the show, Wood did a press conference with Warner announcing their plans for the film and then posed for photos. Meanwhile, Wagner joined Warner in his Fifth Avenue office.
"Would you like a drink?" Jack asked. Warner poured Jack Daniel's for both of them and then started to discuss the film project for Wood. Warner, who had been congenial up to this point asked Wagner, "Who do you think should play the mother?" Wagner said, "Well, Jack, in my estimation there's only one person in the world who can play the part - Judy Garland."
Now, after hearing that name Warner was no longer Mr. Nice. Warner responded, "That fucking cunt will never work in my studio again! Fuck her! She's a pain in the ass, a no-talent cunt." Warner continued on with this rant. Apparently, when Garland worked for Warner Bros. on the film A Star is Born, he noticed at the premiere party which was held at Judy's house, that her home was filled with all the furniture used for the sets from the film. Garland had stolen furniture from Jack Warner and he never forgave her for it.
My favorite story is one that involves Wagner's friend, actor David Niven. Wagner went to visit Niven at Cortina d'Ampezzo in Europe to take a break from things. One day Niven and Wagner were riding a chairlift that went up a tall mountain, where at the top there was a nice restaurant. The two men had dressed casually but the weather had changed drastically and became very cold. After lunch, when Niven and Wagner got back in the chairlift to ride down the mountain, Niven casually said, "My cock is frozen. I have a frozen cock. Frozen solid."
When the two got to the bottom where there hotel was Niven asked Wagner's friend and future 2nd wife, Marion Marshall to sit on his lap to warm up a "very valuable part of David's life." Niven then ordered a Brandy and asked Wagner to follow him to the bathroom where he then unzipped his pants and dropped his penis into the brandy snifter to keep from getting frostbite.
Next the bathroom door swung open and a man dressed in a military uniform walked in. Seeing Niven with his cock in the glass and Wagner staring at it the man stood shocked. Without skipping a beat, Niven looked up and said, "I always give it a little drink from time to time."
These are just some of the many entertaining stories that you will discover if you read Wagner's book, Pieces of My Heart. I mentioned some of the humorous stories but not all the book is funny. It is also filled with heartbreaking stories of divorce, death, and complicated relationships. Wagner has a fascinating story to tell and you will enjoy reading it. And if you have the chance you may want to visit the South Pasadena public library this Tuesday, to talk more about his new book.
Location: South Pasadena Library, 1100 Oxley Street, South Pasadena, CA
When: April 21 at 7pm