To hear him tell it, Robert Vaughn has spent most of his acting career getting very well paid for being artistically frustrated. Born in Manhattan and raised in Minnesota, Vaughn went straight from college drama classes to his first film, the juvenile delinquent opus No Time to Be Young (1957). Ever on the search for "meaningful" roles, Vaughn signed to play a survivor of a nuclear apocalypse in what he assumed would be a serious, politically potent drama: the film was released as Teenage Caveman (1957). Though Oscar-nominated for his performance as a crippled, alcoholic war veteran in The Young Philadelphians (1959), Vaughn didn't rise to full stardom until 1964, where he was signed to play ultra-cool secret agent Napoleon Solo in the TV espionage series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968). He swore at that time that he'd never, ever subject himself to the rigors of another television series, but in 1972 he was back to the weekly grind in the British series The Protectors. In films, Vaughn has been most effective as an icy, corporate heavy, notably in Bullitt (1968) and Superman III (1982). On-stage, Vaughn has exhibited a special fondness for Shakespeare (Hamlet in particular); he was given an excellent opportunity to recite the Bard's prose on film when he played Casca in Julius Caesar (1970). A dyed-in-the-wool liberal activist, Vaughn worked on his Masters and Ph.D. in political science at L.A. City College during his U.N.C.L.E. years; his doctoral thesis was later expanded into the 1972 history of the HUAC, Only Victims. Robert Vaughn has been the host of many a late-night infomercial -- no doubt expressing frustration all the way to the payroll office.
photo credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images Entertainment/ImageDirect.
by Hal Erickson biography