Meet Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, two men from U.N.C.L.E.
From Television Stars, published by Purnell in 1966
Come with me to the headquarters of a secret organisation known as U.N.C.L.E., short for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Provided our credentials are found to be in order we are allowed to pass through an innocent-looking tailor’s shop in a New York street.
We find ourselves now in the midst of one of the world’s most powerful and well-organised forces, used in the fight against injustice done to individuals or countries.
The main force of evil opposed to U.N.C.L.E. is the crime syndicate called thrush whose aims stretch to world domination.
In the world of U.N.C.L.E. we find ourselves in a complex, computerised, well-guarded society headed by a friendly Englishman called Mr Waverly who is responsible for the movements of his various agents’ missions against thrush. Looking like an amiable uncle himself, Mr Waverly has at his disposal the most scientific weapons ever invented and a well-drilled team of international agents, who are called upon to infiltrate every country in the world in pursuit of justice and to protect the interests of the free world.
Two of his most respected agents are Napoleon Solo and Iliya Kuryakin.
Solo is a dashing, sophisticated figure, with an easy-going charm that hides a ruthless dedication to U.N.C.L.E. He lives in a small apartment in a new luxury building in New York—a bachelor apartment which reflects a nautical flavour, its decor stemming from Solo’s love of the sea and from his service days in the Royal Canadian Navy.
He tends to view all men as equals, unless their behaviour proves them otherwise. He is attracted to beautiful women, and this he finds to his advantage, particularly when they are agents of thrush. Solo is more than capable of taking care of himself. He is calm, quick-thinking, ingenious, coldly calculating even when the odds are heavily against him.
Olya Kuryakin, of Russian descent, is clever, physically adept, a good man to rely on. He is a lone wolf, introverted, not at all gregarious. Like other U.N.C.L.E. agents, he has worked behind the Iron Curtain, sometimes with and sometimes without the knowledge and consent of the authorities. Iliya lives in the same apartment block as Solo, and, like Solo, can be cold andcalculating in a nasty situation which may become a matter of life and death.
The world of U.N.C.L.E. is fictitious, although it may have some counterpart in real-life secret organisations. It was created for a TV series and it has proved tremendously popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
Say its makers: “It is designed for those who want to take off for sixty minutes of unadulterated adventure.”
It is a series designed to follow the trend of today, a trend sparked off by the success of the James Bond films.
In the key roles of Solo and Kuryakin, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum have stepped into parts which have made them two of the most exciting personalities on television.
First, take a closer look at Robert Vaughn, the invincible Napoleon Solo, who says, “In some ways Solo is very much like myself, except that I’m no hero. I sometimes think he is just out to get himself killed. Not me! I have too much to live for. But like Solo I enjoy the good things of life—good clothes, fast cars, gourmet cooking, and wines.”
Before U.N.C.L.E. came into his life, Robert Vaughn had already proved himself a first-rate actor and had once been nominated for an Academy Award.
He was born in New York into a show-business family. His mother, Marcella Gaudel, was an established star on Broadway; Walter Vaughn, his father, was a prominent radio actor.
Raised in Minneapolis by his grandparents, Robert at first did not want to follow in his parents’ footsteps by entering show-business himself. Instead, he enrolled with the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism. But it soon became evident that he was, after all, going to be a “chip off the old block” when he became more
interested in the university’s drama department. Acting took a hold on him and he starred in productions of “Hamlet”, “Death Takes a Holiday” and “Knickerbocker Holiday”, among others. Any thoughts of a career in journalism were finally forgotten when he was awarded a prize in a radio acting contest in 1951. The following year he entered the Los Angeles City College as a drama student and starred in “Mister Roberts”. During his summer holidays he worked as a resident director and leading actor with a theatre company in Albuquerque.
After graduating, in 1956, with a B.A. in drama, he became a professional actor and appeared in a production of “End As a Man” in Los Angeles. Soon after, he was signed to a film contract, which unfortunately proved short-lived. Then he went into the Army. After his military service was completed he returned to his acting career by signing with Columbia Pictures and appearing in No Time to be Young, followed by an important part in The Young Philadelphians for Warner.
His performance in this gained him his Oscar nomination. His career then started to go up in leaps and bounds as offer followed offer. He made countless TV appearances in dramas and did several films, including The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, a film which first brought him fan mail from England.
It was as Napoleon Solo that he hit the popularity jackpot.
Off the screen he leads a life comparatively quiet for a star in his position. He expresses a keen interest in the American political scene and once said that he would love to take an active part in it.
About his role of Solo he says, “I enjoy being U.N.C.L.E.’s agent number one. It’s a fine series to work on, but pretty strenuous. Those guys who write the scripts certainly make us work for our money by getting us into all kinds of bizarre situations. I’m playing Solo with tongue in cheek. The situations might seem madcap and dangerous at times—perhaps even outlandish—but it’s all quite plausible. We use normal persons in the stories, so that the average fan can imagine himself being caught up in international intrigue.”
The success of David McCallum in the part of Iliya Kuryakin has been quite phenomenal. His weekly fan mail, which arrives at the M.G.M. studios in Hollywood, bears this out. It comes in lorry-loads.
He was born in Glasgow, September 19, 1934, the son of a leading violinist, David McCallum. His mother Dorothy was a concert cellist. His parents had expressed a wish that he would take up the oboe, but David sought a career in the theatre and went about it by getting a job when he was 14 as an electrician’s assistant in a theatre.
He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art between 1949 and 1951, and after leaving he found himself with the job of property-master with the Glyndebourne Opera Company. Then he was called up for National Service and served in Ghana for ten months as a lieutenant. In 1953 he resumed his theatrical career by acting with various repertory companies. In 1956 he was placed under contract to the Rank Organisation and appeared in such films as The Secret Place, and A Night To Remember. In Robbery Under Arms he found himself working with actress Jill Ireland, a young actress he had wanted to meet since seeing her picture in the paper.
She became his wife soon after they first met.
After making several other British films, he finally went to Hollywood to appear in the role of Judas in The Greatest Story Ever Told. While he was in the States he received several TV offers and made appearances on “Perry Mason” and “The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters”. Then along came “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” offer.
It was some weeks before the show really caught on with American viewers, but since then it has become one of the top attractions on TV.
Away from the cameras, David spends all his free time with his wife and three sons, Paul, Jason and Valentine, in a house built into the side of a hill with a magnificent view of the valley and the sea.
There appears to be no professional rivalry between David and Robert when they are working on the set together.
“I’ve never seen two guys so dedicated,” commented one of the technicians.
“It’s a happy show,” said another. “If it were otherwise it would not be successful.”
That just about completes our dossier on two U.N.C.L.E. agents. Let’s hope too much has not been revealed to any thrush agent who may be reading this.