Friday, November 11, 2016

Obituary: Robert Vaughn

Actor Robert Vaughn, 83, has died. Vaughn, a fixture of television especially during its golden age, is best remembered for his role as debonair Napoleon Solo in NBC's The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

He died at his home in NYC after a long battle with leukemia.

Vaughn wasn't some good-looking, airhead actor. While he had good looks, he also had a brain. While he was doing his television gig, he was working on his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Southern California, earning his doctorate in 1970. His dissertation was later published as Only Victims, a work about the McCarthy era blacklist.

Vaughn was a longtime Democrat who was a supporter of Eugene McCarthy during the 1968 primaries. He was an opponent of the Vietnam War. He was close friends with RFK.


Mr. Vaughn had numerous roles in film and on television. He played an old boyfriend of Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) on an episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and a gunman in “The Magnificent Seven” (1960). He was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his role as a man accused of murder in “The Young Philadelphians” (1959) and won an Emmy in 1978 for his performance as a White House chief of staff in the mini-series “Washington: Behind Closed Doors.”

But no character he played was as popular as Napoleon Solo. From 1964 to 1968, in the thick of the Cold War, millions of Americas tuned in weekly to “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” to watch Mr. Vaughn, as a superagent from the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, battling T.H.R.U.S.H. (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity), a secret organization intent on achieving world domination through nefarious if far-fetched devices like mind-controlling gas.

In this clip from YouTube from the TV Legends oral histories series, he talks about the fans of his hit television series:

Robert Vaughn was right about how popular they were with young girls and women during that era, along the lines of rock stars. And he is also right about David McCallum. They were both exceptionally good-looking, but McCallum was cute as a bug's ear and would remain that way into his eighties, adorable like a little boy would be. Fortunately for him, he had been long "off the market" having married actress Jill Ireland some years before the series began. Unfortunately for him, he found himself on the market after actor Charles Bronson "stole" wife Ireland away from him (Ireland married Bronson and the pair were married for many years until she unfortunately died prematurely from breast cancer in 1990). Shortly afterward, McCallum went back off the market having married Katherine Carpenter in 1967 and stayed there for the rest of his life.

Vaughn married a bit late for the time, in his forties, in 1974 to Linda Staab and also stayed off the market for the rest of his life.

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