Robert Vaughn, suave ‘Man from UN­CLE’ star, dies at 83

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Fra­zier Moore AP Tele­vi­sion Writer

NEW YORK >> 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.

Robert Vaughn

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