After a single appearance on television in an episode of “Gunsmoke,” Lyle Waggoner made his feature film debut in the low-budget action film SWAMP COUNTRY. At a Georgia motel, “Mary Richmond” (Kiva Lawrence), a gangster's moll, is murdered. “Dave Wetzel” (David DaLie), a former big game hunter, is accused of the crime and flees the police. While the sheriff (Rex Allen) chases Wetzel through the Okefenokee Swamp, his deputy (Lyle Waggoner) warns “Nora Cox” (Carole Gilbert), her sister (Marian Patrick), and her mother (Sue Casey) of the danger.
Robert Patrick produced and directed this 1966 film, which was shot on location. Michael Terresco scored the film, and five songs were written and sung by Baker Knight, who also co-starred in the film as “Baker Knight.”
CATALINA CAPER combined the beach party and crime genres. The film found “Arthur Duval” (Del Moore) and his incompetent accomplice, “Larry Colvis” (Jim Begg), plotting to sell a fake Chinese scroll to a Greek millionaire (Lee Deane) who specializes in buying stolen art. Meanwhile, college pals “Don Pringle” (Tommy Kirk) and “Charlie Moss” (Brian Cutler) are spending their summer on Santa Catalina Island scuba diving and girl chasing. Everyone comes together in a party held on the Greek tycoon’s yacht. Lyle Waggoner plays “Angelo,” the main henchman for the greedy Greek tycoon.
Lee Sholem directed the film. Although shooting ended in September 1965, the film remained in limbo until April 1967, when it was released by Crown International Pictures. The film has an unreleased score by Jerry Long.
Gruff, hard-nosed new boss “Stanton” (Scott Brady) takes over a scientific research company upon the death of his benevolent father. Scientists “Dr. von Steiner” (Abraham Sofaer), “Mark Manning” (Anthony Eisley), and “Karen White” (Gigi Perreau), who are very close to a breakthrough in time travel, are told by Stanton they must have results in 24 hours or face a funding cut-off. Trying to push their equipment past its safe operating limit, they make a JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME, with Stanton along for the ride.
Lyle Waggoner appears as an alien in a sequence set in the year 6967. David L. Hewitt produced and directed this 1967 release, which had an uncredited score by Marlin Skiles.
Beginning in the Fall of 1967, Lyle Waggoner co-starred with Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, and Vicki Lawrence in the comedy/variety show “The Carol Burnett Show”. Waggoner had recently auditioned for the title role in the ABC series “Batman” but was passed over in favor of Adam West. Shortly after, Waggoner auditioned for the Burnett show and was immediately hired. He would sometimes play the handsome man for Burnett to fawn over. His participation on the series was somewhat modeled on Durward Kirby of “The Garry Moore Show” (on which Carol Burnett had been a featured player for 3 years), since Waggoner also functioned as the show's announcer in addition to playing in sketches.
The cast of “The Carol Burnett Show,” clockwise from top): Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, Carol Burnett, and Harvey Korman
Waggoner would be with the show for its first seven seasons. Waggoner and Vicki Lawrence were the hardest ones in the cast to break up in laughter. But Tim Conway, who during that time was a frequent guest star, tried his best. One notable sketch had Conway as a Nazi interrogator berating an American captive (Waggoner). Using a Hitler puppet and a pencil as a "club", Conway sang three verses of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" as Waggoner tried in vain to ignore him.
Prior to Season 8, Waggoner left the series to pursue other acting opportunities. That season, Waggoner's spot as a supporting regular remained vacant. Don Crichton, the lead male dancer on the show, began to inherit some of Waggoner's duties. Then in season nine, because of his many popular guest appearances on the series, Tim Conway was signed as a full-time regular, joining Korman and Lawrence.
Lyle Waggoner was the only regular cast member who did not receive a single Emmy or Emmy nomination for the show. Waggoner would return for some of the show's reunion specials.
The horror film LOVE ME DEADLY finds young socialite “Lindsay Finch” (Mary Wilcox) struggling to control her necrophiliac urges as she is torn between her affection for a kind art gallery owner (Lyle Waggoner) and the mortician who supplies her with bodies (Timothy Scott). The 1972 film was written and directed by Jacques LaCerte, his only feature film. He was later a high school drama and English instructor. Phil Moody scored the film.
Lyle Waggoner in LOVE ME DEADLY
A July 1972 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that regional distribution of the film had been set for New York, Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans. In June 1975, United Talent Productions sued distributor Cinema National Corp. for breach of contract. The suit, which asked for a financial accounting and an injunction against further release of the film, alleged that Cinema National had failed to properly promote and distribute the picture. The disposition of the lawsuit is not known, but Cinema National was the film’s distributor when it opened in Los Angeles in 1977.
The original Broadway production of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS opened at the Phoenix Theater on May 1, 1959, ran for 244 performances and was nominated for the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical. Star Carol Burnett was nominated as Best Actress in a Musical.
In 1972, a television production of the show was mounted. Carol Burnett and Jack Gilford reprised their stage roles, as "Princess Winifred the Woebegone" and "King Sextimus", respectively, while Ken Berry was cast as "Prince Dauntless". Lyle Waggoner was also in the cast, as “Sir Studley.” The show's song score has music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer. CBS broadcast the show on 12 December 1972.
In ZERO TO SIXTY, a divorced man (Darren McGavin) hooks up with a street-smart 16-year-old (Denise Nickerson) who makes her living by repossessing cars from their owners. Sylvia Miles plays “Flo Ames,” the leader of the repo crew. Lyle Wagonner had a small role as a gay bartender. Don Weis directed this 1978 action comedy, which had an unreleased score by John Beal. The film barely got a release, and grossed only $100,000 at the box office.
In March 1974, ABC aired the TV film WONDER WOMAN, produced by Warner Bros. and based on the character of the same name. It was directed by Vincent McEveety, starred Cathy Lee Crosby, and was intended as a pilot for a potential series. The Wonder Woman of the film had little resemblance to the traditional character in either costume or abilities, although she did resemble the comic book character's 1968-73 "I Ching" period. The film's ratings were described as "respectable but not exactly wondrous," and ABC did not pick up the pilot.
Warner Bros. and ABC did not give up on the idea, and instead developed another TV film pilot, THE NEW ORIGINAL WONDER WOMAN. After an intensive talent search, Lynda Carter, who had had a handful of minor acting roles and had been the 1972 Miss World USA and a Bob Hope USO cast member, was chosen for the lead role. For the role of “Steve Trevor,” the producers chose Lyle Waggoner, despite his dark brown, almost-black, hair not matching the comic's blond Trevor. Waggoner at the time was better known as a comedic actor after seven years co-starring in “The Carol Burnett Show.” He was also known as having been one of the leading candidates to play “Batman” a decade earlier, eventually losing to Adam West. Waggoner was also considered a sex symbol, having done a semi-nude pictorial in the first issue of Playgirl.
The second telefilm was directed by Leonard Horn, and its Wonder Woman more closely matched the original character created by William Moulton Marston, down to the World War II setting. (Crosby would later claim that she was offered the chance to reprise the role in that film.)
This second pilot aired on November 7, 1975, was a ratings success, and ABC quickly authorized the production of two one-hour “Wonder Woman” specials which aired in April 1976. These three productions would later be considered part of the show's first season The specials scored strong ratings, and ABC ordered an additional 11 episodes for the new 1976–77 TV season. The network began airing the episodes every few weeks at the beginning of the TV season in September 1976. After mid-December 1976, episodes aired on a weekly basis until mid-February 1977. This irregular schedule and constant time changing made it hard for the series to develop a following.
Beatrice Colen, Richard Eastham, Lynda Carter, and Lyle Waggoner in "Wonder Woman"
In the first season of the series, Lyle Waggoner continued to play “Colonel (later Major) Steve Trevor”. Trevor was one of the original characters created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter and first appeared in All-Star Comics #8. The details surrounding the death of Steve Trevor remain largely unknown. What is known is that Steve died some time prior to 1977. His son would also work with “Diana Prince/Wonder Woman”.
Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, and Hayden Rorke in “Wonder Woman”
ABC stalled on picking up the show for a second season. This was because “Wonder Woman” was a period piece, being set in the 1940s, which made the sets, clothing, automobiles, etc. more expensive to produce. While ABC had not yet committed, the show's production company Warner Bros. listened to an offer from rival network CBS. While ABC continued to make up its mind, CBS agreed to pick up the series on condition that the setting be changed from World War II (the 1940s) to the modern day (the 1970s). Changing the title to “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman”, the series was moved away from international intrigue to a more conventional police/detective action-type show that was more common in the 1970s. CBS programmed the series for Fridays at 8 PM, against ABC’s “Donny & Marie” and the NBC comedies “Sanford Arms” and “Chico and the Man.” None of the shows ran away with the time slot.
Lyle Waggoner and Lynda Carter
Strictly speaking, Lynda Carter was the only cast member whose character continued into the second and third seasons (aside from a brief cameo appearance of Major Trevor in Diana's flashback when she first encountered his son and a framed photograph of him seen on the younger Trevor's office credenza in season 3). The original Steve Trevor was revealed to have risen to the rank of major general and died in the 35-year interim between the first and second seasons. Lyle Waggoner remained with the series, however, portraying Trevor's son, Steve Jr.
In the second season, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman became an agent with the Inter-Agency Defense Command (IADC), a CIA / FBI-type organization fighting crime, espionage, and the occasional alien invasion. During the season, Steve Trevor was given a promotion, becoming IADC Director, and Diana's boss, in the process. This promotion for Steve Trevor meant that Lyle Waggoner was seen less in subsequent episodes for the remainder of the series' run.
This lessening of Waggoner’s role led to some tensions with series star Lynda Carter, and as the series went on the two stars appeared in fewer and fewer scenes together. So that Waggoner's character would have more activity on the show, producers brought in S. Pearl Sharp to play fellow IADC agent “Eve.”
With the beginning of the third season (1978-79), further changes were made to target the show at a teenage audience. The title theme was re-recorded again to give it a disco beat, the use of the robot 'Rover' was increased for comic effect, and episodes began to revolve around topical subjects like skateboarding, roller coasters, and the environment. Although the show held its own against the starting Fall competition, at mid-season, ABC and CBS moved some higher performing comedies in against “Wonder Woman.” ABC had “What’s Happening!!”, the #28-rated show for the season, and NBC brought in “Diff'rent Strokes” (#27). “Wonder Woman” ranked 60th out of 114 shows for the 1978-79 season and was canceled. A total of 59 episodes were produced.
For Waggoner, it was just as well, because he was to be completely written out of the show, since in the last episode of the series Diana is relocated to the Los Angeles bureau of IADC. Later, referring to the show’s initial concept, Waggoner was quoted as saying "If Wonder Woman had been allowed to keep fighting the Nazis, she would have been on for a very long time".
The title of the 1984 film SURF II was a gag, since there wasn’t any SURF I, and the film was advertised as “the end of the trilogy.” The film finds evil nerd “Menlo Schwatzer” (Eddie Deezen) wanting to get revenge on some surfers by selling a bad batch of soda called Buzzz Cola which turns people into mutant zombies. It's up to “Jocko” (Tom Villard), “Chuck” (Eric Stolz), “Bob” (Jeffrey Rogers) and their surfer buddies to save the day and fight back against the darkest night. Lyle Waggoner had a supporting role as “Chief Boyardie”
Randall Badat wrote and directed the film. Peter Bernstein provided the unreleased score.
After the end of “Wonder Woman” in 1979, Lyle Waggoner did guest shots on television, and some direct-to-video films, before retiring from the screen in 2005 at the age of 70. Long before, he had looked into business ventures and, in 1979, successfully started up "Star Waggons," the largest supplier of studio location rental trailers in the entertainment industry.
Waggoner was not available to have a cameo appearance in Gal Godot’s 2017 WONDER WOMAM feature because he was busy participating in television reunion conventions with Carol Burnett. He will be remembered for his good looks and the two television series that allowed him to display them.
with Lynda Carter in “Wonder Woman”
with Ron Ely (on right) in “Wonder Woman”
Jennifer Salt, Richard Kline, and Lyle Waggoner in “The Love Boat”