Robert Vaughn, 83, suave star of ‘The Man from UNCLE’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Fra­zier Moore The late AP writer Bob Thomas con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Robert Vaughn, the debonair, Os­car-nom­i­nated ac­tor whose many film roles were eclipsed by his hugely pop­u­lar turn in television’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” has died. He was 83.

Vaughn died Fri­day morn­ing af­ter a brief bat­tle with acute leukemia, said his man­ager, Matthew Sul­li­van.

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was an im­me­di­ate hit, par­tic­u­larly with young peo­ple, when it de­buted on NBC in 1964. It was part of an avalanche of se­cret agent shows (“I Spy,” “Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble,” “Se­cret Agent”), spoofs (“Get Smart”), books (“The Spy Who Came in From the Cold”) and even songs (“Se­cret Agent Man”) in­spired by the James Bond films.

Vaughn’s ur­bane su­per­spy Napoleon Solo teamed with Scot­tish ac­tor David McCal­lum’s Illya Kuryakin, a soft-spo­ken, Rus­sian-born agent.

The pair, who had put aside Cold War dif­fer­ences for a greater good, worked to­gether each week for the mys­te­ri­ous U.N.C.L.E. (United Net­work Com­mand for Law and En­force­ment) in com­bat­ting the in­ter­na­tional crime syn­di­cate THRUSH.

“Girls age 9 to 12 liked David McCal­lum be­cause he was so sweet,” Vaughn said in a 2005 in­ter­view in Eng­land. “But the old ladies and the 13- to 16-year-olds liked me be­cause I was so de­tached.”

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” also was a big hit abroad, par­tic­u­larly in McCal­lum’s na­tive Great Bri­tain.

The show aired un­til early 1968, when sag­ging rat­ings brought it to an end. In his “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book,” Jon Heit­land blamed its demise on a shift from straight ad­ven­ture to more comic plots in the show’s third sea­son that turned off many view­ers, as well as time slot changes.

Vaughn and McCal­lum re­united in 1983 for a TV movie, “The Re­turn of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in which the su­per spies were lured out of re­tire­ment to save the world once more.

McCal­lum has found star­dom anew in his 14th sea­son play­ing Dr. Don­ald “Ducky” Mal­lard on the hit CBS drama “NCIS”.

He said he was “ut­terly devastated” af­ter learn­ing of Vaughn’s death.

“Robert and I worked to­gether for many years and los­ing him is like los­ing a part of me,” McCal­lum said in a writ­ten state­ment.

In re­cent years, Vaughn had starred for eight sea­sons on the Bri­tish crime­ca­per se­ries “Hus­tle,” play­ing Al­bert Stroller, the lone Yank in a band of Lon­don­based con artists. “Hus­tle” also aired in the U.S.

“I imag­ined that Napoleon Solo had re­tired from U.N.C.L.E., what­ever U.N.C.L.E. was,” Vaughn re­called in 2006. “What could he do now to use his tal­ents and to sup­ple­ment his gov­ern­ment pen­sion? I imag­ined Stroller as Napoleon Solo, The Later Years.”

Be­fore “U.N.C.L.E.” Vaughn made his mark in movies, earn­ing an Os­car nom­i­na­tion in 1959 for his sup­port­ing role in “The Young Philadel­phi­ans,” in which he played a wounded war vet­eran ac­cused of mur­der.

The fol­low­ing year, he turned in a mem­o­rable per­for­mance as a gun­fighter who had lost his nerve in “The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven.”

Mak­ing that movie, Vaughn re­called in 2005, had pre­sented the cast with a vex­ing prob­lem: no script.

“We had to im­pro­vise ev­ery­thing,” he said. “I had to go to the cos­tume depart­ment my­self and choose the black vest and the black hat.”

A lib­eral Demo­crat, Vaughn be­came pas­sion­ately op­posed to the Viet­nam War while he was mak­ing “U.N.C.L.E.” and de­liv­ered anti-war speeches at col­leges and other venues around the country. He also de­bated the war with con­ser­va­tive Wil­liam F. Buck­ley on the lat­ter’s TV talk show, “Fir­ing Line.”

Vaughn be­came a friend of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and cam­paigned for him dur­ing his 1968 run for the pres­i­dency. When Kennedy was as­sas­si­nated that year, Vaughn was so up­set that he moved to Eng­land for five years.

Re­turn­ing to the U.S., the ac­tor de­cided to re­sume his ed­u­ca­tion. He had al­ready earned a bach­e­lor’s degree in the­ater arts from Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity, Los An­ge­les, in 1956, and a mas­ter’s degree from the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in 1960.

He re­turned to USC, where he earned a Ph.D. His doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion was an overview of the House Un-Amer­i­can Ac­tiv­i­ties Com­mis­sion’s ef­fect on Amer­i­can the­ater. It re­sulted in a well-re­ceived book “Only Vic­tims: A Study of Show Busi­ness Black­list­ing.”

Vaughn was drawn to pol­i­tics in sev­eral of the TV roles he chose. He por­trayed Harry S. Tru­man in “The Man from In­de­pen­dence,” Woodrow Wil­son in “Back­stairs at the White House” and a pres­i­den­tial aide in the 12-hour “Wash­ing­ton: Be­hind Closed Doors,” for which he won an Emmy.

He also toured in a one­man play “F.D.R.” about Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s bat­tles with po­lio.

Vaughn re­mained ac­tive in movies in later years, usu­ally in char­ac­ter roles. Among his films: “The Vene­tian Affair,” “The Bridge at Rema­gen,” “Julius Cae­sar” (the 1970 Bri­tish ver­sion star­ring Charlton He­ston), “The Tow­er­ing In­ferno,” “S.O.B.,” “Su­per­man III” and “Delta Force.”

Robert Fran­cis Vaughn was born into a the­atri­cal fam­ily Nov. 22, 1932, in New York City. His father was a ra­dio ac­tor, his mother per­formed on Broad­way and his grand­par­ents acted in the­ater.

His par­ents di­vorced when he was only 6 months old, how­ever, and he was sent to live with his grand­par­ents in Min­neapo­lis, where he said his child­hood was mis­er­able. “I cried all the time and I was al­ways get­ting beat up.”

Af­ter his grand­par­ents died, Vaughn moved to Los An­ge­les.

Spot­ted in a col­lege play, he was signed to a con­tract with Burt Lan­caster’s com­pany but was soon drafted into the Army. Af­ter his dis­charge in 1957, he made his first movie, “No Time to Be Young.”

Long among Hol­ly­wood’s most el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lors, Vaughn mar­ried ac­tress Linda Staab in 1974.

“The breaks all fell my way,” said Vaughn in 2006.

But was he re­ally as cool as he ap­peared to his ador­ing au­di­ence?

“Not ac­cord­ing to my wife,” Vaughn chuck­led. “She’s mar­ried to the guy who doesn’t take the garbage out on Tues­day evenings, the guy she bat­tles with to get me out of my jump­suit and run­ning shoes. She doesn’t al­low me in pub­lic un­less I wear a tie and a coat.”

Vaughn is sur­vived by his wife, Linda Staab Vaughn, their son Cas­sidy and daugh­ter Caitlin.

AP FILE PHOTO

In this un­dated photo, ac­tor Robert Vaughn is seen in Rome, Italy. Vaughn, the debonair crime-fighter of television’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the 1960s, died Fri­day af­ter a brief bat­tle with acute leukemia. He was 83.

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