NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Vaughn, the debonair, Oscar-nominated actor whose many film roles were eclipsed by his hugely popular turn in television's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," has died. He was 83.
Vaughn died Friday morning after a brief battle with acute leukemia, according to his manager, Matthew Sullivan.
"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was an immediate hit, particularly with young people, when it debuted on NBC 1964. It was part of an avalanche of secret agent shows ("I Spy," ''Mission: Impossible," ''Secret Agent"), spoofs ("Get Smart"), books ("The Spy Who Came in From the Cold") and even songs ("Secret Agent Man") inspired by the James Bond films.
Vaughn's urbane superspy Napoleon Solo teamed with Scottish actor David McCallum's Illya Kuryakin, a soft-spoken, Russian-born agent.
The pair, who had put aside Cold War differences for a greater good, worked together each week for the mysterious U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) in combatting the international crime syndicate THRUSH.
"Girls age 9 to 12 liked David McCallum because he was so sweet," Vaughn remarked in a 2005 interview in England. "But the old ladies and the 13- to 16-year-olds liked me because I was so detached."
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." was also a big hit abroad, particularly in McCallum's native Great Britain.
The show aired until early 1968, when sagging ratings brought it to an end. In his "The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book," Jon Heitland blamed its demise on a shift from straight adventure to more comic plots in the show's third season that turned off many viewers, as well as time slot changes.
Vaughn and McCallum reunited in 1983 for a TV movie, "The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E." in which the super spies were lured out of retirement to save the world once more. (McCallum has found stardom anew in his 14th season playing Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard on the hit CBS drama "NCIS".)
In recent years, Vaughn had starred for eight seasons on the British crime-caper series "Hustle," playing Albert Stroller, the lone Yank in a band of London-based con artists. "Hustle" also aired in the U.S.