Robert Vaughn Obituary from November 11th
Robert Vaughn, the cleft-chinned actor who reached the peak of his fame in the 1960s playing Napoleon Solo, the debonair international agent tasked with saving the world each week on the hit television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” died on Friday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83.
His manager, Matthew Sullivan, said that the cause was acute leukemia, for which Mr. Vaughn had been under treatment in Manhattan and Connecticut.
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.
At the height of the show’s popularity, Mr. Vaughn said he was receiving 70,000 fan letters a month.
The show was a self-aware parody of Ian Fleming’s creation James Bond, who had been played by Sean Connery in two hit movies by the time “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” made its debut. (Fleming served as an adviser to the show, and is widely credited with coining the name Napoleon Solo.)
“The whole show is a joke. It’s an extension of the Bond joke into a gigantic cartoon in prime time,” Mr. Vaughn told The Saturday Evening Post in an 1965 interview, to which, the magazine noted, he arrived wearing a custom-tailored Italian suit and a black silk tie.
Despite his acclaim, Mr. Vaughn could be a little disdainful about his vocation. “Acting has always been very boring to me,” he told The Post. “Anyone not in television to become a millionaire is a simpleton.”
He befriended a young James Coburn and took credit for getting him a role in “The Magnificent Seven.”
After that, his life was a series of increasingly high-profile parts, and then he landed “U.N.C.L.E.” The show was such a success at first that he expected it to last for many years, but the ratings dropped, and it was canceled halfway through its fourth season.
He kept busy afterward, appearing on numerous TV shows and in movies like “Bullitt” (1968) and “The Towering Inferno” (1974).