From 1979 to 1984, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Jennifer Hart on Hart to Hart, a light-hearted mystery show. Hart to Hart remains one of my all-time favorite TV programs. It was refreshing to see a married couple on TV that adored each other, remained committed and loyal to their vows, and generally appeared to have a fun time together. I read an interview recently with Robert Wagner where he noted that both he and Stefanie Powers wanted the Hart to Hart script to be devoid of any adulterous affairs. Mr. and Mrs. Hart loved each other: pure and simple. Add a little murder mystery involving close friend, associate, or perfect stranger, and for me, with apologies to the victim, it’s fun for the whole family!
The series was written by Sidney Sheldon but the concept was based on The Thin Man, a story written by another favorite author of mine, Dashiell Hammett (See my blog of May 2008 ). Most of Hammett’s novels are much darker and deeper; for a famous example, recall the Maltese Falcon with its much more intense and sinister tone – and a story that was made into the famous film starring Humphrey Bogart. In contrast, The Thin Man is, like Hart to Hart, about a fun, whimsical, and wealthy couple who stumble upon murders and have a lighthearted time solving them along the way. Myrna Loy and William Powell played the wonderful Nick and Nora Charles in the film adaptation of The Thin Man, which resulted in four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. They continued their couple’s role in additional Thin Man sequels including After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), and Song of the Thin Man (1947). Although as with most sequels, they don’t live up to the perfection of the first, but for Thin Man fans, they are still all very enjoyable and recommended!
Recently, both Wagner and Powers published independent autobiographies that played with their famous role in the title. Wagner’s Pieces of My Heart is an absorbing page-turner which reminds you of his outstanding, and varied, television and film career, as well as taking you on the journey of his life and loves. And yes, Wagner covers in full detail the tragic, heart-wrenching loss of Natalie Wood. His enduring love for her beats through the page and may make you teary, like it did me. One from the Hart by Stefanie Powers is a wonderful and fast autobiographical read. With tenderness and insight, you’ll learn of Stefanie’s struggles and triumphs, particularly the significant and continued impact of her nine-year relationship with actor William Holden, and their legacy of animal welfare in East Africa. Both are great reads that I highly recommend.
For a Hart to Hart treat, check out one of their special “movie” episodes that played in the 1990s. In Hart to Hart Returns, the first of these specials, Jonathan and Jennifer, aided of course by their loyal friend Max and their dog Freeway, find themselves caught up in a murder mystery involving corrupt government contractors that threaten their home and their lives.
In Home Is Where the Heart Is, the Harts return to the town where Jennifer first got her start as a journalist to attend the funeral of her mentor. Upon their arrival, they find much more than a stroll through memory lane and unravel a plot that has been threatening the livelihood of the town for many years.
Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library.