R.I.P. Lionel : The Harts without Max


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Click here to go to Lionel's Obituary
 

Lionel's final days

RJ summed up what Lionel brought to Hart to Hart when he said of Lionel , "oh he was wonderful. He polished our luster and made us look great." (Larry King Show transcripts at http://www.cnn.com/transcripts/0207/16/lkl.00.html)

Lionel Stander became a house-hold name on Hart to Hart at the age of 71. He died from inoperable lung cancer, at the age of 86 on November 30, 1994, two weeks after completing his role as Max in the Hart movie, Secrets of the Hart. He died at his Brentwood home. His wife Stephana wanted him to die peacefully, so she and their daughter Jennifer decided not to tell him how ill he was. His health deteriorated during the filming of the movie, and he became very ill after filming finished. After sometime in hospital, his family took him home. His wife said that he knew he was ill, but they decided not to tell him just how ill he was - so as not to worry him. She said that "Lionel was so happy to be home- he was in good spirits until death took him away."

Robert Wagner visited everyday, and he told Stephana that losing Lionel was like losing a father. He said that" Lionel is someone that I'll never be able to replace." [n.d.]

 Lionel as he appeared in his last role as Max, in the 1994 movie Secrets of the Hart.

  

The Harts without Max

Only death could take Max away from the Harts. They were distraught when he died in surgery, and the movie Harts in three quarter time opens with the reading of his will. It was obvious that the emotion on RJ and Stefanie's faces was real.

Max had thought of the Harts even when he wrote his will. He planned some special things for them after he died- possibly as a way for them to cope with his death, and a special way for them to remember him . He left them a cookoo clock which stopped at 845; the exact time they met or fell in love; he got them tickets to a musical that Jennifer loved (Row H), and at the concert the clock went off., and instead of the cookoo, Freeway JR could be heard barking! Then he gave them a cruise, and told them that when they got home he would be there to open the gate like always......

 

 The impact of Lionel's death on  future  Hart movies

Lionel Stander died on November 30, 1994 after just competing filming on Secrets of the Hart two weeks earlier. When asked how his death effected the Hart movies, Stefanie Powers explained that " we had an original commitment to do six for NBC. But when Lionel died, by mutual agreement, it seemed a bit pointless to do an additional one. So we thought we had closed the book on Hart to Hart. And then our old boss from ABC, Tony Thomopoulos, who is now with the Family Channel, offered a very interesting opportunity: to recapture the style of the old series, which we had lost in the NBC films, because they had wanted us to fit into a mystery format. It also afforded an opportunity for a postscript, a tribute, to the Max character. So we began again.." (Prodigy chat, November 20, 1995).

RJ &Stefanie's comments on The Harts without Max

In a Prodigy chat on November 20 1995, Robert Wagner said that the Harts without Lionel Stander "was very different, and at times very difficult. It brought back some very wonderful memories, but also brought up some difficult memories. He had a wonderful life, and all of us have great love for each other, on and off the screen. It was like losing a member of the family, truly."

Stefanie Powers said of Lionel Stander "we miss him. He was a wonderful foil; he was a wonderful person. He's always give a 1000 percent. He was an exceptional human being." (Sunday Telegraph TV Guide. Australia, May 25, 1998, p4)