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Robert Francis Vaughn, Ph.D. (born November 22, 1932) is an American actor noted for stage, film and television work. He is perhaps best known as suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. His most famous film role is likely that as one of the seven hired gunfighters in the Western classic The Magnificent Seven.

Early life

Vaughn was born in New York Citymarker to showbiz parents Marcella Frances (née Gaudel), a stage actress, and Gerald Walter Vaughn, a radio actor. He was raised in an Irish Catholic family. His parents separated when he was young, with Vaughn and his mother moving to Minneapolismarker, Minnesotamarker, where he attended North High Schoolmarker and later enrolled in the University of Minnesotamarker as a journalism major. He quit after a year and moved to Los Angeles, Californiamarker. He enrolled in Los Angeles City College, then transferred to Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciencesmarker, where he earned his Master's degree in theatre. Continuing his higher education even through his successful acting career, Vaughn earned a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Southern Californiamarker, in 1970, publishing his dissertation as the book Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting in 1972.


Vaughn made his television debut on the November 21, 1955 "Black Friday" episode of the American TV series Medic, the first of more than 200 episodic roles by mid-2000. His first movie appearance was as an uncredited extra in The Ten Commandments (1956), playing a golden calf idolater and also visible in a scene in a chariot behind that of Yul Brynner. Vaughn's first credited movie role came the following year in the Western Hell's Crossroads (1957), in which he played the real-life Bob Ford, the killer of outlaw Jesse James.

Vaughn's first notable appearance was in The Young Philadelphians (1959) for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture. Next he appeared as gunman Lee in The Magnificent Seven (1960), a role he essentially reprised 20 years later in Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), both films being adaptations of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese samurai epic, Seven Samurai. Vaughn played a different role, Judge Oren Travis, on the 1998-2000 syndicated TV series The Magnificent Seven. Vaughn is the only surviving member of the title cast of the original 1960 film (although Eli Wallach, who portrayed the villain Calvera, is still living).

In the 1963-1964 season, Vaughn appeared in The Lieutenant as Captain Raymond Rambridge alongside Gary Lockwood, the Marine second lieutenant at Camp Pendletonmarker. His dissatisfaction with that role led him to request a series of his own. Earlier, Vaughn had guest starred on Lockwood's ABC series Follow the Sun.

From 1964 to 1968, he starred as "Napoleon Solo" in the television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), with British co-star David McCallum playing his fellow agent Illya Kuryakin. This production spawned a spin-off show, large amounts of merchandising and overseas theatrical movies of re-edited episodes. In the year the series ended 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.

Vaughn continued to act, in television and in mostly B movies. He starred in two seasons of the Gerry Anderson detective series The Protectors in the early 1970s, and a decade later starred with friend George Peppard in the final season of The A-Team. According to Dirk Benedict, Vaughn was actually added to the cast of that show because of his friendship with Peppard. It was hoped Vaughn would help ease tensions between Mr. T and Peppard.

In 2004, after a string of guest roles on series such as Law & Order, in which he had a recurring role during season eight, Vaughn experienced a resurgence. He began co-starring in the British series Hustle, made for the channel BBC One, which was also broadcast in the United States on the cable network AMC. In the series, Vaughn plays elder-statesman con artist Albert Stroller, a father figure to a group of younger grifters. In September 2006, he guest-starred in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

In 2008, Vaughn became a spokesman in a set of generic advertisements for various personal injury law firms around the U.S.A. and Canada. The television commercial features Vaughn urging injured complainants to "...tell the insurance companies you mean business."

Vaughn also appeared as himself narrating and being a character in a radio play broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in 2007 about making the film The Bridge at Remagen in Praguemarker, Czechoslovakiamarker, during the Russian invasion of 1968. Frequent references are made to his playing Napoleon Solo and the character's great spying abilities.

Personal life

Vaughn is a well known member of the Democratic Party. Due to his tremendous popularity at the time, he was asked by the California Democratic Party to oppose fellow actor Ronald Reagan, who was the Republican Party nominee, in the 1966 Gubernatorial Election. The thinking being that the handsome and charismatic Vaughn, who was in the prime of his career at that point, would be able to counteract Reagan, who was also charismatic, but older and at the time not as popular an actor as Vaughn was. However, Vaughn refused, stating his support for Edmund G. Brown. Brown lost the election in a landslide to Reagan, and the victory helped catapult Reagan all the way to the Presidency.

Vaughn was active in the Vietnam War-era peace group, Another Mother For Peace.

Vaughn was a very close friend of Robert Kennedy, and supported his candidacy for President before his assassination.

Whilst he supported Barack Obama he described him as "not up to the job" in March 2009.

Vaughn mentioned in a television interview that his best friends in Hollywood included James Coburn who was his best friend, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and George Peppard.

In his memoir, A Fortunate Life, Vaughn recalls watching his good friend, and future Oscar winner Jack Nicholson stumble his way through a scene of Bus Stop in a mid-1950s acting class without the "confidence" to carry it off. "Nicholson declared, 'Vaughnie, I'm going to give myself two more years in this business. Then I'm going to look for another way to make a living.' 'Hang in there, Jack,' Vaughn told him. 'You're too young to quit.'"

Vaughn married actress Linda Staab in 1974. They appeared together in a 1973 episode of The Protectors, called "It Could Be Practically Anywhere on the Island", in which Staab guested as a dizzy American whose dog was stolen. Vaughn's character Harry Rule stepped in to find the dog. They have adopted two children, Cassidy (b. 1976) and Caitlin (b. 1981). They also have a Labrador Retriever mix named Sam (named after the beer, Sam Adams), which was adopted after the death of their previous dog, a Bichon Frisé named Peaches.






  1. Robert Vaughn Biography (1932-)
  3. BBC Radio 4 Programmes
  4. *[1] Zucker, George. "Mother of All Peace Protests," New Partisan May 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-11-15.
  5. Radio Five Live interview, March 30th 2009
  6. IMDb: Robert Vaughn's Awards

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