Stefanie Powers became an overnight Cinderella story when she landed the role of Jennifer Hart in Hart to Hart, 1979–1984.
Now, at 80 years old, she looks just as stunning as ever.
Stefanie Powers, born Stefania Zofia Federkiewicz, was born Nov 2, 1942 in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of Polish parents who divorced when she was only seven years old.
The ballet dancer
Powers remained close with her mother. Her soon-to-be stepfather, Jack Robinson, bred and raised racehorses, which would later have a huge impact on Stefanie’s life.
Her love for horses would eventually manifest itself in a great interest in polo … and also lead to a friendship with Prince Charles of Wales.
As a child, Powers got a firsthand view of exactly what the show business was all about.
“Everybody knew somebody in the movie business, whether a cameraman, an editor or a writer. People’s paths were constantly criss-crossing, especially people who were in front of the camera,” she said.
At the time, Powers’s interest in music and dancing was growing at a steady pace. Her mother was in love with ballet and always had classical music on at home. Powers danced around the house, and, before long, her mother had taken her to ballet class.
She started dancing at the Michele Panieff Ballet Company. Famed Broadway director and dancer Jerome Robbins was the choreographer there, and in class Powers danced alongside future Hollywood stars Natalie Wood and Jill St. John.
Stefanie Powers – career
At 15, Powers began to have a hard time with ballet. She was growing and “these things popped out of my chest,” as she recalled. Instead, her interest soon shifted from dancing into movies and acting.
Powers auditioned for the role of Velma in West Wide Story, but since she was only 15 years old, she couldn’t get the job. She was a minor, which meant that, according to law, she was only allowed to work a certain amount of hours each day.
So, she didn’t get the West Side Story gig, but big things were about to happen.
A director at the American School of Dance – were Stefanie did the auditions for West Side Story – had spoken to her mother, saying he was doing a movie. Powers got a script and went to the audition.
“I was so nervous, I didn’t know what to do and I walked into his office and burst into tears – ‘I’m a dancer, I’m not an actress, what do you want from me?’ And he said, ‘That’ll do,'” Powers recalls.
Soon, she was headed straight for the movie business. Powers attended several classes at 20th Century Fox, MGM Studios and Columbia, and soon she landed a contract with Columbia Pictures.
She starred in a movie with Glenn Ford called Experiment in Terror (1962) and from their her career took of.
“That was the beginning of my contract with Columbia Pictures. I was tied for seven years; in those days if you signed a motion picture contract you were not allowed to do television,” Powers says.
Still a teenager, Powers landed parts in several movies, including The Interns (1962), If a Man Answers (1962), Palm Spring Weekend (1963), and the John Wayne production McClintock (1963).
She continued: “So I did three pictures a year for five years and then they sold me to MGM to do a television series called The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”
MGM Television soon bought her contract from Columbia, which led to her big breakthrough. She starred in the TV series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E in 1966 – a short-lived 1966 spinoff of the popular The Man from U.N.C.L.E – as agent April Dancer of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.
As mentioned, it was short-lived, but it was extremely popular and paved the way for Powers to land a huge role years later.
Powers moved on to be a big TV star, credited with over 200 guest appearances, 18 mini-series and 2 more weekly series, The Feather and Father Gang (1976), according to IDMB.
Then, in 1979, Powers got a part in the series Hart to Hart.
Stefanie Powers – Hart to Hart
Playing freelance journalist Jennifer, Powers starred along with Robert Wagner’s Jonathan Hart, CEO of Hart Industries, in what would become a huge success.
The couple were amateur detectives in cases involving theft, espionage and theft. Do you remember the dialogue for the opening of the first season?
“This is my boss – Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire. He’s quite a guy.
This is Mrs. H – she’s gorgeous. What a terrific lady. By the way, my name is Max. I take care of them – which ain’t easy; ’cause their hobby is – murder.”
Hart to Hart aired on ABC on Aug 25, 1979. In the beginning, like any other show, they didn’t know if it would be a success.
“You don’t want to hope too much for something to click,” Powers told TV Insider in 2019.
“Yes, we were picked up. But the feeling of how much do people love those characters? We didn’t feel that until we went out into the world.
“‘Do you remember, Stef? We did about six shows, and I walked into your dressing room and you had tears in your eyes and said, “Do you think it’s going to be good? What are we doing?” We loved doing it but were very anxious,” Robert Wagner added.
Hart to Hart was the start of a lifelong friendship between Powers and Wagner. He was married to Natalie Wood – the girl Powers went to dancing school with – from 1972 until her passing in 1981, but during the time they filmed the TV series, rumors surrounded them concerned alleged infidelity.
Hart to Hart – Robert Wagner
On screen, they looked like the happiest married couple in the world. As such, fans wondered if they weren’t a couple in real life as well. That wasn’t the case.
The chemistry was obviously something special between the two, a factor which made the show even better.
“What you saw was strictly for the roles we played,” Robert told Closer in 2019. “The reason we had this great relationship was because we’d worked together on It Takes a Thief (1970). We always had a joyous time.”
Still to this day, Robert and Stefanie meet. She revealed that they even send each other dirty jokes to this day.
“We adore each other,” she said. “Robert and I live in separate parts of the world, but he’ll visit for dinner at times.”
Hart to Hart would go on to win four awards – one Golden Globe Award and one People’s Choice Awards among other – receiving an additional 22 nominations. In total, the glamorous TV classic aired for 111 episodes over five seasons before ending in 1984. According to MeTV, Powers earned $50,000 per episode, a huge step upward compared to her paycheck from her Girl from U.N.C.L.E. days.
During the height of her career, in the 80s, some media outlets started positioning her as one of the most exciting women in the world.
She was fluent in many different languages and traveled the world. A lot of people looked up to the charismatic and straight-talking female.
”Some people have a great misconception of me, that I’m somehow unique,” Powers told The Sentinel in 1985 and added:
”But I am not in any way exceptional. I am not an extraordinary person. What I do have is an extraordinary curiosity. I was born with it. From the first, I have wanted to know the world. I want to live in it, be of it, see and experience it, and grow.”
Following its cancelation, nine Hart to Hart television movies aired in the ’90s.
So what about Stefanie Powers’s own love life?
In the 1960’s, while filming The Girl from U.N.C.L.E, she met actor Gary Lockwood at a party. They quickly grew fond of each other, and following a weekend trip together, decided to get married in 1966. Sadly, they would divorce in 1972.
Shortly afterwards, Stefanie would get involved in a relationship with William Holden.
She had met the Academy Award-winning actor twice before. But when meeting the third time – at a party at the La Costa Spa – they quickly established a connection.
Stefanie Powers – William Holden
Stefanie recalls that day in her biography One from the Hart.
“I don’t know why Bill decided to attend, as he was normally a loner, but happily he did. We met again, and by now, while he might very well not have remembered our previous meetings, he had seen some of my work, so he did not regard me as a stranger. As the cocktail hour was coming to an end but our conversation was not, he asked me to join him for dinner, and I accepted,” she wrote.
“Having filed for divorce, I was a free agent, so there was no reason not to be seen out with someone, even this someone. Ever discreet, Bill chose a quiet local restaurant. Our attraction was undeniable, but Bill was from the old school and maintained a certain formality.”
“Bill” and Stefanie grew fond of each other and ended up involved in a loving relationship. When Powers started filming Hart on Hart, the two were a couple. But in 1981, both her and her friend and colleague Robert Wagner would be involved in a huge tragedy.
Nathalie Wood – the wife of Wagner – died during a weekend sailing trip. William Holden, meanwhile, passed away in his home in Santa Monica, California. Assistant coroner Richard Wilson said that Holden was ”very intoxicated” when he passed, age 63.
Powers doesn’t have any children. Speaking to the Daily Mail, she reveals that she and William had plans to become parents.
“I would have had a child with Bill, had he been able to,” she said. “I just wanted to have a little more of him. But he had a very unfortunate infection due to a botched-up vasectomy which could not be reversed.”
Stefanie Powers – cancer
In April, 1993, Powers married Patrick Houitte de la Chesnais in France, but the couple divorced in 1999. The following year, Powers began a relationship with auditor Tom Carroll. That lasted until he passed away in August, 2014.
Powers has also gone through battles of her own. Following a heavy smoking habit, she was diagnosed with a type of lung cancer, alveolar carcinoma, in 2008. She recovered, both mentally and physically, and now, she wants to inspire others.
“I also wanted to be a poster child for survivors or people who are in the process of surviving cancer, as I am. I wanted to show that it is possible to resume all of your activities after beating cancer,” she told Wales Online in 2012.
She’s had to do things the hard way for most of her career, and now Stefanie’s troubled about in which path Hollywood’s heading.
She was a contestant in the 2011 edition of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! However, she states that reality stars today have become famous based on no particular talent and no particular accomplishments.
Reality TV criticism
“When I see something like the Kardashians who are very attractive girls promoted by their mother into a multi-million business and I think about Kim Kardashian being paid $15m so that they could photograph her wedding, and then I contrast that with raising money for breast cancer or research for deadly diseases, if you tried to raise $15m for research into deadly diseases it would take you quite a lot of time to do that,” she says.
“So I think by comparison the amount of money that is generated by this cult of celebrity over nothing whatsoever is almost an obscenity. When compared to worthwhile and terribly important causes and tragedies the world is experiencing, I find it not only frivolous but tragic. It’s so out of proportion with anything meaningful.”
Stefanie Powers always had an interest in animal rights and conservation. Years before, her partner William Holden was the co-creator of Mount Kenya Game Ranch, where several East African species had managed to escape extinction by way of being given a spot at the wildlife sanctuary.
Wildlife and conservation
Following his passing, Stefanie decided to continue his work. In 1982, she founded the The William Holden Wildlife Foundation, an animal rights and wildlife conservation group. Later she also became the director of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch and Wildlife Conservancy.
Speaking with Metro UK in 2019, Powers expressed her great love and admiration for animals. As of now, regarding pets, she has 23 horses, three alpacas, six llamas, a parrot, nine rescue dogs and “an amazing” cat.
“Growing up, my best friend was a large goat — one I used to pal around with until he ate my grandmother’s rose garden, she said. “Both of us were banished. Everything that fell out of a tree or got hit by a car ended up getting brought to our house. We had a potpourri of animals, pets and critters.”
The William Holden Wildlife Foundation also has an education center on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. There, youngsters from all over the country can come to learn more about nature, far away from the stress of the cities.
Stefanie Powers – awards
It serves more than 11,000 students per year, according to its website.
“We do not allow boom boxes. We do not allow portable telephones. That all is left at the door,” Powers said in 2009. “This is a natural experience. It is for students to come and understand nature, and to do so, you cannot have headphones on.”
Following her inspiring work, Stefanie Powers received several awards for conservation and her work in helping animals. She’s a faculty member of the Oxford Literary Festival at Christ Church College in Oxford. She’s also been on the boards of four zoos in North America.
Following her success in Hart to Hart, Stefanie Powers landed several parts in the movie business. She, of course, played Jennifer Hart in the Hart and Hart TV movies in the 1990s, but in later days, she’s gone into theatre.
Over the course of her career, the actress has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992.
Believe it or not, Powers has also actually dropped an album, On the Same Page, in 2003.
Stefanie Powers – today
She was also in the Broadway-bound musical Half Time, formerly known as Gotta Dance. She spends her time between homes in the UK, US and Kenya, but according to Powers herself, she doesn’t really have a home.
Like a true traveller, she speaks French, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Spanish and Swahili, as well as having a pilot’s license.
“I don’t live anywhere; I travel between houses and residences. At this stage in my life and career I look for roles that are going to be challenging,” she says. “I didn’t become an actor to be myself, I became an actor to be somebody else and so, to the extent that I can, that’s what I look for.”
We absolutely love Stefanie Powers, what an incredible woman! We wish her all the best in the future.
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