Robert Vaughn

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Robert Vaughn


American actor Robert Vaughn is best known for his 1960s role as Napoleon Solo on the hit TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.


Born in New York City on November 22, 1932, Robert Vaughn is the son of performers. He got his first break as a stage actor in Los Angeles, and scored small roles in several films. In 1960, he was nominated for an Academy Award for a supporting role in The Young Philadelphians. In the 1960s, he was cast in the career-defining role of Napoleon Solo on the hit TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Vaughn continued a long string of guest appearances on television and in films, often in the role of the heavy. On November 11, 2016 Vaughn died from acute leukemia at the age of 83.

Early Life

Born in New York City on November 22, 1932, Robert Francis Vaughn is the son of two show business parents. His father, Walter Vaughn, was a radio actor, and his mother, Marcella Gaudell Vaughn, was a stage actress. Vaughn was still a baby when his parents divorced, and afterward, he and his mother went to live with relatives in Minnesota. He was interested in acting at an early age, and a good student and athlete, he won a scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota. After living with his grandparents and attending school there for a year, he moved to Los Angeles to be with his mother, graduating from Los Angeles City College with a degree in theater in 1956.

Acting jobs came Vaughn's way soon after graduating from City College, including stage work and small roles in several films. As he was hitting his stride as a young actor, he was suddenly drafted and served in the U.S. Army as a drill instructor.

Acclaimed Acting Career

Following his stint in the military, Robert Vaughn continued his life as a working actor. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1960 for his supporting role as an alcoholic war veteran in The Young Philadelphians. That same year, he completed his master’s degree in performing arts. He also starred in the hit film The Magnificent Seven and made guest appearances on several television shows, including The Lieutenant, Follow the Sun and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

On the radar of industry writers and casting directors, Vaughn was cast in what would become a career-defining role, that of Napoleon Solo on the hit television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The role would make Vaughn a household name, opening the door for more TV and film work. While working on U.N.C.L.E., he attended night school and earned his Ph.D. in communications from the University of Southern California in 1972.

Vaughn's acting career has encompassed more than six decades, including appearances in films including The Towering Inferno, Superman III, The Delta Force and classics like The Ten Commandments and Bullitt, starring opposite Steve McQueen. In the early 1970s, he starred in the British series The Protectors, and a decade later played General Hunt Stockwell in the American TV hit The A-Team. He also guest starred on hit television programs, including Gunsmoke; Father Knows Best; Bonanza; Columbo; Murder, She Wrote; and Law & Order.

Vaughn won a BAFTA Award (best supporting actor) for his work in the 1968 film Bullitt. In 1977, he won an Emmy Award (outstanding continuing performance by a supporting actor in a drama series) for his performance on Washington: Behind Closed Doors.

In 1998, Vaughn received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he requested to be located near the corner of Hollywood and Cherokee, close to where he and his mother lived when they first came to Hollywood.

Personal Life

While in college, Vaughn became involved in Democratic politics on campus. He organized events and rallies, and networked with Democratic Party leaders at the state and national levels, becoming close friends with Robert F. Kennedy. At one point, the California Democratic Party talked to the actor about challenging Ronald Reagan in the race for the California governorship. Vaughn politely turned down the proposition.

Vaughn is of Welsh and Irish descent. He and his wife, actress Linda Staab, have two adopted children, son Cassidy, born in 1976, and daughter Caitlin, born in 1981.

On November 11, 2016, Vaughn died after battling acute leukemia at the age of 83. 

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