Beloved actor of television and silver screen, Robert Vaughn passed away Friday, days before his eighty fourth birthday. His long and successful career generated legions of admirers. He worked with almost every Hollywood legend, and rightfully deserves the title himself.
The actor, known best for his starring role in the 1960’s television show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, died in Ridgefield Connecticut after a long fight with acute leukemia.
Robert Vaughn was born in New York City as the son of professional actors. His mother and father divorced when he was young and he spent much of his youth living with his grandparents in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while his mother was on tour.
He studied journalism for a year at the University of Minnesota before dropping out and moving to California to live with his mother. Soon, he enrolled in classes at Los Angeles State and graduated with a master’s degree in theatre.
His television debut was in 1955 in a small role on the show “Medic.” Vaughn would go on to appear in more than 2000 roles for television over his career.
His first film roles were in “The Ten Commandments” and “Hell’s Crossroad.” after being seen in a stage production of “End As A Man,” by legend Burt Lancaster, Vaughn signed with Lancaster’s production company.
Before they could capitalize on this however, Vaughn was drafted into the Army and spent two years as a drill instructor.
Returning to acting when his service was concluded, he began making impressive performances almost immediately. In 1959, Vaughn received an Academy Award nomination and won a Golden Globe for his supporting role in “The Young Philadelphians.” the next year, He starred in “The Magnificent Seven” and became a bona fide movie star.
In the mid 1960’s he was cast in the lead role for the television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” His character from that show, Napoleon Solo, became the defining role of his career. The espionage themed series ran 5 seasons, but Robert Vaughn continued to work in film at the same time. When the show ended in 1968, Vaughn landed a large role playing Chalmers, an ambitious California politician in the film Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. He was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role.
He continued to work in film and television for the rest of his life. Although he had many great successes, Vaughn was not afraid to be critical of himself, calling some of what he did “junk.” But he was also self-contained; He could play the silliest stuff without it leaving a mark on him. His performance took the edge off the bad writing and filled up the good. It was never less than a pleasure to see and hear him.
He always considered himself politically active and identified himself as a “liberal Democrat.” Although he never ran for public office the way fellow actors Ronald Reagan, Martin Sheen, and Clint Eastwood did, he may have entertained the thought once or twice earlier in his life.
He was married to fellow actress Linda Staab, and together they adopted two daughters, Cassidy and Caitlyn.
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