Actor Robert Vaughn, known for his roles in The Magnificent Seven and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., passed away Friday after fighting leukemia. His manager, Mark Sullivan, confirmed the news, noting that Vaughn’s family was with him.
Vaughn was nominated for an Academy Award after playing Paul Newman’s drinking buddy Chet in The Young Philadelphians, and he delivered memorable performances in such films as The Magnificent Seven, The Towering Inferno, and Bullitt. But it’s his role as suave superspy Napoleon Solo that will perhaps be his best remembered. Opposite David McCallum’s Ilya Kuryakin, the two set the stage for the popularity of the secret agent on television.
For genre fans, Vaughn will also be Ross the Boss from Superman III, the villain who exploited Richard Pryor’s Gus Gorman in an attempt to destroy Christopher Reeve’s Superman. He also had roles in Hangar 18 and Escape to Witch Mountain.
Prior to his days as a secret agent, however, he spent time playing a U.S. Marine captain in Gene Roddenberry’s short-lived drama The Lieutenant, opposite Gary Lockwood.
Vaughn’s career spanned decades of film, television and theatre. His guest roles included Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Father Knows Best, recurring roles on The A-Team (which had its own U.N.C.L.E.-themed episode) and Hunter, as well as roles in S.O.B., Hustle, and Coronation Street.
Born in 1932, Vaughn studied journalism at the University of Minnesota before moving to Los Angeles to pursue drama at Los Angeles City College in the early 1950s. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to Hollywood. After getting a Master’s degree in theater from the Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, he returned to academics with night classes at USC to earn a doctorate in communications.
Vaughn had been undergoing treatment for acute leukemia in New York and Connecticut. He is survived by his wife Linda, son Cassidy, and daughter Caitlin.