Hart history - how it all began 

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I have pieced together the history of Hart to Hart from various sources, using direct quotes from interviews, books and the media.

 

[Sidney Sheldon, Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg and Tom Mankiewicz]

How it all began

 

Sidney Sheldon 

I created Hart to Hart at Columbia Pictures, and the networks passed on it. Two years later the network told Aaron that they wanted to do a show about a sophisticated couple, he remembered the script I had written and the network bought it." 1


Aaron Spelling

Hart to Hart was created by the popular novelist Sidney Sheldon. The show was originally written back in the 1960s when Leonard was president of Screen Gems, but it was never sold. Years later, we were pitching shows to ABC, and we wanted to do something about a married couple who solved crimes, sort of like a contemporary Thin Man.

Len [Goldberg]recalled the script that Sidney had written back in the 1960s called Double Twist, and the ABC executives we were meeting with, Steve Gentry, had been at CBS when it was originally presented. He remembered liking it. So we called Sidney, but he didn't remember anything about it. We had him put his secretary on the phone, and we had her find the script for him and send it over. It was very good, although a little dated. Sidney was now a bestseller novelist and didn't have time to work on it, so we got a writer Tom Mankewicz to polish Double and develop it into a television series. He did a great job, and we knew we had something special." 2

 

  Tom Mankiewicz

 I had just come back from England, I'd written Superman and Superman II, things were going great. Like that famous dog in the cartoon, what I really wanted to do was direct, and Leonard, who I knew called me up and he said, listen I have this script of Sidney Sheldon's that we can't sell, and its asically The Thin Man, Mr and Mrs North. If you rewrite it you can direct the two hour movie. And I said 'I'm in.' 3

Casting Jonathan: why only RJ would do. 

 Leonard Goldberg

" When Tom finished, "I realized that we were in a box. There is only one current actor capable of playing the suave, lifted-eyebrow sort of action humor- and his name is Robert Wagner. If I couldn't have him, I'd have to scrap the entire project."

   Once again, R/J. was very, very, hot. "He was doing Pearl, he'd done Switch, he'd done Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Laurence Oliver, he had the top role in the big movie Airport '79 Concorde. "I sent Tom Mankiewicz to see R.J, in Hawaii, when he was on location for Pearl. R.J. liked the pilot script and made several valuable suggestions for updating it. Then, when he returned to Los Angeles, we sat down to talk business. 4

 

Aaron Spelling

We knew immediately that we wanted Robert Wagner for the male lead. Bob started out in movies and was well known for his TV roles It takes a Thief, and Switch, two debonair leading men just like Jonathan Hart. Bob was the younger equivalent of Cary Grant. He came from a well-to-do family, looked great in a tuxedo, and could have played James Bond, had he wanted to. Bob was obviously the star we wanted. We were thrilled when he accepted. 5

 

 

  Tom Mankiewicz

We really wanted to have somebody who could have all the money in the world, but you'd love to have him for dinner. You wouldn't resent him a moment or a nickle's worth of it".  6

 

RJ
  • [RJ said that Jonathan was like him] "A lot. I'm not playing a part that calls on all my dramatic abilities." 7
  •  "The character is a man who has great flexibilty. He is a self-made man who is using his fortune to enjoy life with the girl he loves, while at the same time trying to hang onto his privacy." 8

 

 

How they envisioned Jennifer

 Leonard Goldberg

"We wanted someone with intelligence, style, class and a good sense of humour." 9


 
RJ
"With a great sense of humor, a sense of independence and vulnerability, and the right 
look. " 10
 

Stefanie
  • " I never thought that women had to assert themselves in order to be recognized.... I think that Jennifer is the sort of character that if Jonathan wasn't there she would try and defend herself, and maybe able to do that with karate or whatever. But I think that as long as he's there, its probably better to let him do it." 11
  • Jennifer Hart was the modern career woman who always put her husband first." 12

 
 

 Tayloring it exactly to fit RJ.
[Robert Wagner would only consider playing Jonathan Hart if certain conditions were met.]
 

 Leonard Goldberg
 
"First of all, he said that Stefanie Powers had worked well with him in It takes a thief, and that he wanted her to play opposite him if he should agree to do the series. Secondly, we had to come up with another additional 'page six provision' in the contract, only this time it would be two additional development projects for Natalie and RJ's production company, Rona II. I gulped but said "Okay". And that's how we and ABC acquired R.J. as a partner again and got him to play Jonathan Hart in Hart to Hart. " R.J, got 50 percent of the Hart to Hart series for Rona II as well, and eventually became the show's executive producer.  13

 

"Double Twist" becomes "Hart to Hart"
[RJ worked on the initial idea as he did not like the original script. He worked with writer Tom Mankiewicz and Jonathan and Jennifer Hart evolved. ]
 
RJ
  • "It was originally called Double Twist, and the couple's name was Twist. I wasn't crazy about it at all. They lived in one of those push-button apartments where the bed and TV set comes out of the ceiling. They were very up, very trendy people. 14
  • [Double Twist] was much different characters, and you know we wanted to do ones that were like the Thin Man, like those kind of relationships that's what we went for.15 

 

 The "Thin Man" connection

The association to The Thin Man was touched on in the episode Slow Boat to Murder when Jonathan and Jennifer watched one of the Thin Man movies as they snuggled in bed and ate a meal that Jennifer had "cooked". They ate chocolate chip cookies, fruit and boiled eggs and Jonathan teased her by saying that he did not marry her for her cooking.


RJ
  •  "I like the comparison [with the Thin Man]. Glamourous domesticity, and no doubt a good sex life". 16
  •  "Actually, Hart to Hart, is a high-style-comedy-love-story involving two people who get caught up in an adventure week after week. We never thought of the Thin Man series when we took on this show. Naturally, I'd be happy if we could provide the same joy that William Powell and Myrna Loy did in their series." (Note: Powell and Loy, did the movies. The series starred Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.) 17 

 

 Casting Jennifer
  Tom Mankiewicz

"RJ was a huge TV star at the time and the risk was potentially anybody we wanted and he came up with the idea of Stef who had done an episode of It Takes a Theif with him. The network we very cool on Stef. She had been in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which had lasted a year and something called "Feather and Father" which lasted a few epsiodes. She was more to their way of thinking a guest star for an episode rather than a star of a series.18

 

RJ
RJ did not agree with the studio's assemsent that Stefanie could not star in a series, and he fought for Stefanie to be cast as Jennifer Hart. Some of his reasons were :
 
 
  • "I said 'What are you talking about? Wait a minute- this girl is wonderful'. I mean she has, she speaks several different languages and she's been around the world, and she's very funny.And it went back and forth and back and forth. I mean I just thought that Stefanie was right from the very begining." 19
 
  •  "I knew that she had the style and class to carry a show that depends on personality and extravagant settings rather than story. I also knew she has that rare talent to play drama and comedy equally well. 20
  
  • I just felt that Stef has such a range of talent that had never been really tapped before and particularly the comedic stuff, great timing, wonderful sophistication about her. She's just, she's just one of joys of my professional life, I mean to be able to go to work with her has been great. 21
  • I don't know, I just had this instinct about, this fantastic instinct that we'd click it off. Another man that was very much involved with it, there were a lot of people who were involved, Tom Mankiewicz who wrote it, and named it, he thought and agreed with me."22
  • "I never thought of anyone to play my wife other than Stefanie Powers.  We worked together previously on  an episode of 'It Takes a Thief' and I liked her a lot.  Her style of acting  is perfect for me.  She's a terrific contributor and a total professional. I'm thoroughly comfortable working with her."23

Stefanie
"There was only one person in his [Tom Mankiewicz] mind who could be Jonathan Hart - R.J. Then sometime after getting his agreement to do the role, they started to look for the person to be his costar. The network didn't want me at all. RJ and Tom insisted and took a very firm stand. I'm sure if they hadn't I wouldn't have been on the show at all. "  24
 

 
 
Tom Mankiewicz
 
 
"At a certian point he [RJ] said to Tony Simkowitz (not sure of spelling?) on the phone, tell him, 'I approve Stefanie Powers.' There was a big silence and it came to pass." 25
 

 

Aaron Spelling

  • "Len and I were throwing out names for actresses and Bob suggested Stefanie Powers as Jennifer Hart. Stefanie had an interesting career. She as raised in Hollywood and had planned on a career in art. She tried out- and got- a small part in West Side Story film as one of the Jets, which led to a staring role in the film Among the Thorns and twelve others in the early 1960s, including Tammy tell me true, Stagecoach, and Experiment in Terror. She stared in the 1966 TV spin-off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E and had guest spots in such shows as Bonanza, and Marcus Welby, M.D.. before returning to the public eye in 1977's The Feather and the Feather Gang for ABC as a part of a father-and daughter con team." 26
  •  "Stefanie lived in Malibu and had visited our beach house a few times. We had also worked with her on a few TV movies, enjoyed her work, and decided to take Bob's suggestion." 27
  

 Why Stefanie decided to play Jennifer 

Stefanie
  • Stefanie had to decide whether to take the offer of playing Jennifer Hart or not as she had agreed to star in the play "Roxann"e on Broadway with Stacey Keach. She met with Aaron Spelling then Tom Mankiweiz, and said that she saw the choice as working with friends or staring on Broadway which was something that she had always wanted to do. Fate would have it that there was a newspaper strike in New York, so the play could not open, so Stefanie was free to film the Hart Pilot." 28

Stefanie was not sure she wanted the role to start with. " The thought of another TV series after the Girl From Uncle filled me with dread. I did 32 episodes a year and vowed that I would never do it again. I got so tired and bad tempered. I did not enjoy my food and I could fall asleep on the set when I was not supposed to. That means sleepless nights. It was hell. It was a disaster socially, I lost contact with so many of my friends because they got fed up with sending invitations I did nothing about." 29

Aaron Spelling

 Stefanie was William Holden's longtime companion and the two of them were working on building a big game reserve and study center in Kenya before he died in 1981. In 1979, when we were casting Hart, Stefanie said she was too busy with the centre to take on a series. But she fell in love with the script, and couldn't turn it down." 30

 

Why Natalie Wood was not cast as Jennifer Hart

"Natalie would have been perfect for Jennifer Hart," said Tommy Thomspson.  "In fact, her friend, Tom Mankiewicz, wrote the pilot script with  Nat in mind, but R.J. vetoed the idea.  He thought they should keep their  professional and private lives separate, and he was probably right.  Working under those pressured conditions, they would have been at each other's throats constantly." 31

Aaron Spelling

We dreamed of Natalie Wood costarring with Bob in Hart to Hart, but that was impossible as her feature career was thriving. 32

RJ
  • "Both of us couldn't work on a series at the same time,   we'd never have any home life.  Someone has to be home.  If she worked on my  series she'd have to get up at six every morning and wouldn't be finished until nine at night.  There wouldn't be anyone home with the kids for seven  or eight months.  A series is very demanding, tmost demanding work any  actor can undertake.  It's especially hard on a woman." [Thanks Deb]  33
 
  •  She's a friend and a real pro - very, very intelligent. She's very appealing, obviously, but we're talking working 14 to 18 hours a day, 10 months a year, doing an hour-long weekly series. I could not have done that with my wife; there would be no social life and home comes first. 34

 

 

 Casting Max - coming soon

 

 

 Success of the casting

Aaron Spelling

  "After we cast Stefanie, a few executives at ABC tried to fight it. They said she wasn't young and 'current' enough. After their taste of mega-success with Charlie's Angels, ABC executives were always pushing now for young, Farrah Fawcett types which was right for Angels, but very wrong for Hart to Hart. 'It will never work,' one of the executives said to us. 'You should have gone what a much younger married couple.'Who ever heard of a 21-year-old millionaire? Do you think the audience would have accepted that? With a 21-year old wife? And they would be bright enough and have lived long enough to help other people? Come on.The audience certainly took to Bob and Stefanie as the Harts. It became the roles of their careers, and to this day, they're still playing Jonathan and Jennifer in occasional Hart to Hart movies, which are produced by Bob's production company." 35
 

 
 
Tom Mankiewicz
 
  
"I remember the third or fourth day in when we were shooting the Pilot, they had a long scene in bed together - 5 pages- which I would have preffered to shoot at the end, towards the end of the shoot when everyone had been working together for a long time. But because of the schedule we had to do it then. I remember we were relighting at one point and Leonard Goldberg came on the set and said 'How's it going?' I said 'Leonard, God help me, they're married.' 36
 

RJ
  •   The Pilot was, a lot of people did not like the Pilot film so much, they did not think it was any good. But the thing that really made it happen, was the relationship between Stef and myself."  37
  • "The relationship that we (the Harts) have is one of great admiration, great care, and great love, and that's what we started off to do. That was the whole idea of the show- to do this kind of relationship." 38 
  •  "We went for the relationship. We went for the style... and I do think that people want romance and that they believe in a relationship that's good. You know, I never looked at another woman and Stef didn't get involved with another man." 39 

 

 

 The original graphic
(thanks Nancy)

 [Click on photos to see full size]