Actor and writer Robert Vaughn, forever in my heart The Man from U.N.C.L.E., died due to leukemia on November 11, 2016.
He was best known as an actor, of course. He played Lee in 1960’s The Magnificent Seven. (The film was remade in 2016, to tepid reviews.)
Napoleon Solo, his U.N.C.L.E. character, was originally intended as a TV version of James Bond. Thank heaven that Norman Felton brought Sam Rolfe onboard to develop the concept into the witty creature that the property became.
Vaughn was hired as the lead under its original title, Solo. When costar David McCallum rose in fan approbation to become a virtual co-lead -- as happened later with Spock in Star Trek -- Vaughn graciously shared the spotlight.
As narrated in Cynthia Walker’s boffo book, Work/Text: Investigating the Man from U.N.C.L.E., the NBC series was the first modern TV series to attract a cult fan following.
During the show’s run (1964-1968), I went from eight to twelve years old. And my tenth birthday fell on U.N.C.L.E.’s broadcast night, so I had an U.N.C.L.E. birthday party! At other times, when I played “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” with my best friend, he played Illya; I played Solo. (Tommy was blond, and I was a brunet, so this made perfect sense.)
Vaughn was a star or guest on many other TV projects such as Murder, She Wrote, Columbo, and Season Five of The A-Team (one episode, “The Say U.N.CL.E. Affair,” had McCallum as guest star in a wacky episode typical of the silliest of 1980s TV). From 1972-1974 he was star of the Brit TV The Protectors series. You can read his over 200 acting credits, from Teenage Caveman to Transylvania Twist, at IMDB.
Robert Vaughn wasn’t merely an actor. He cared passionately about many topics, and was an activist for his (defined as liberal) beliefs. Kudos to him for being actively involved in life beyond acting!
Vaughn’s master thesis (it was in Communication), about Hollywood’s blacklist era, was titled Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting, and was released in book form (Amazon listing).
His autobiography, A Fortunate Life, was released in 2009 (Amazon link).
In the 1990s a friend of mine attended a convention at which Vaughn guested, and was kind enough to secure an autographed photo for me. Thanks, Tamara!