Museums & the Movies: Hart to Hart

June 7, 2013

Entertainment

For the latest edition of ‘Museums and the Movies’, I have to confess one of my guilty pleasures: my most favourite TV series ever is ‘Hart to Hart’! There, I’ve said it and I’m not ashamed. When I was younger, Jennifer Hart was my hero. Not only did we share a name, she was beautiful and smart and married to the love of her life. Well, I guess we have more in common than just our names ;) Anyway, it turns out that there is one episode of the series which features a museum in its main storyline, so of course I had to include it here.

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Hart to Hart: Murder Wrap – Season 2, Episode 6 (1981)

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of Hart to Hart (where were you all this time?), the series centres around the couple Jennifer and Jonathan Hart who are so much in love it can make you sick sometimes. Jonathan (played by Robert Wagner) is a self-made millionaire and CEO of Los Angeles based Hart Industries with its seemingly never ending branches of investment, and Jennifer (played by Stefanie Powers) is a successful journalist who appears to have studied a bit of just about everything as and when the various episodes require. Their butler, chauffeur, cook and best friend Max (played by the late Lionel Stander) is also part of the cast ensemble, as is their dog Freeway. The Harts keep getting into sticky situations and end up moonlighting as detectives. Being friends with them is not recommended, as everyone except Max seems to end up either dead or turns out to be a criminal.

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The plot of this particular episode is the opening of a new exhibition on Ancient Egypt at the LA Municipal Museum of Art. Archaeologist Dr Whittlock, who discovered the tomb that the ancient artefacts are from, is at loggerheads with curator Cole Morefield over the tacky fake tomb the latter has designed for the exhibition. To quote Whittlock, “For God’s sake, these are the roots of our civilisation and he’s turning it in to a circus!” I won’t be giving too much away by telling you that Whittlock, who is of course a friend of the Harts, predictably ends up dead. Also part of the plot is Mr Assad, from the Cairo Antiquities Service, who seems obsessed with the idea that the Egyptian prince, whose mummy has gone missing from the exhibition’s sarcophagus, is searching for his princess to join him in death and – surprise, surprise – she looks uncannily like Jennifer. Queue lots of drama.

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I don’t think you have to be working in a museum to spot several flaws in the way the museum and the exhibition are presented on screen. But this didn’t mar my enjoyment of re-watching it. On the contrary, I found it hilarious in a museum geek kind of way – perhaps it would be more appropriate to view it as a comedy than a crime drama?! Things to watch out for include:

  • The open display of not only the ancient Egyptian artefacts but also the mummy itself, which is to be revealed in a dramatic opening of the sarcophagus during the exhibition opening. While I’m all for more interactive museum experiences, the Municipal Museum of Art has obviously never heard of conservation or preservation before.
  • The fire lit torches in the exhibition!!
  • Dr Whittlock’s late night lone meanderings around the exhibition, caressing all the precious artefacts on display without a protective glove in sight.
  • The totally incompetent lieutenant from the LA police force who uses one of the ancient gold statuettes to rest his muddy boots on, causing Cole to exclaim “Would you mind? That’s 3000 years old!
  • The random storage space behind the fake tomb, where everything is just lying around unprotected and the security is obviously quite lax too as the Harts are allowed to just pop in and have a look around.

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Like I say, Hart to Hart is still my favourite TV programme after all these years, even more so for the comedy value. Another recurring theme in the episodes are Jonathan Hart’s double entendre comments, and he dosen’t disappoint in this episode either:

Jennifer: “Don’t you remember, I almost majored in archaeology with a minor in anthropology.”
Jonathan: “Anthropology? Oh yeah, that’s the study of man. As a member of the species, I have to tell you, you’ve been neglecting your studies lately.”

To add to the museum factor of this episode, Jennifer dresses up in Ancient Egyptian costume for the museum’s opening night, causing Jonathan to exclaim “Very Nefertiti!” (you can find out more about Nefertiti in my previous post about the Neues Museum). Why Jennifer seems to be the only one of the guests dressed up remains to be a mystery – perhaps the others didn’t get the note that it was meant to be a costume ball.

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Even if you’re not a fan of Hart to Hart, if you love museums you’re bound to get a kick out of this. Season 2 is available on DVD from Amazon, but you can also view it in several parts on YouTube, just search for the title of the episode. Here are a few more of my favourite quotes:

Cole: “People don’t go to a stuffy museum to see a lot of old relics under glass.”

Cole: “My dear doctor, if museums depended on people with brains for support we’d be stuck with your eminent self and six and a half others.”

Cole: “Front row at a tomb isn’t exactly the hottest ticket in town.”

(Note: most of the people I know would fight for a front row ticket at a tomb opening – he was obviously inviting the wrong audience)

Lieutenant: “What kind of monetary value is involved with this mummy?”
Cole: “To science, it’s priceless. I can’t imagine a mummy having any resale value.”

Lieutenant: “Are you sure he’ll take her to the museum?”
Jonathan: “Of course, he’s crazy!”

(Note: okay, so this one’s slightly out of context, but I think it’s funny)

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Image source: All images are screenshots from the episode, taken on my computer from the German edition Season 2 DVD box set by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Available at Amazon.de

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Welcome, new readers! / Willkommen, neue Leser! | Museum Diary - January 29, 2014

    […] Yes, it’s true, Hart to Hart is my favourite TV programme and I’m proud of it. Did you know there’s even an episode set in a museum? You can read about it here:  Museums and the Movies – Hart to Hart […]

  2. Museums & the Movies: The Mummy | Museum Diary - June 6, 2014

    […] hears in the gallery. What is it with Egyptian exhibitions and open flames in movies? (see also: Hart to Hart – Murder Wrap) I mean, I’ve never been to Egypt or an Egyptian museum, but do they really illuminate their […]

  3. 40 Things About Me | Museum Diary - April 9, 2015

    […] My favourite TV show of all time is Hart to Hart. Did you know one of the episodes is set in a museum? […]

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