Rest in Peace, Robert Vaughn

Robert Vaughn in a publicity still for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Robert Vaughn in a publicity still for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I don’t usually break out of my review-concept on the blog, but I just wanted to pay a brief homage to one of my great idols, Robert Vaughn, who passed away today. Best known for his work with David MacCallum in the superb spy series (often involving nifty sci-fi gadgets) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968), and films like The Magnificent Seven (1960), Bullitt (1968) and Julius Caesar (1970), Vaughn also appeared in a number of (mostly forgotten) science fiction films. Although in my opinion he did some of his best work in the British con-man series Hustle (2004-2012) as the veteran hustler Albert Stroller, father figure and mentor to Adrian Lester’s Mickey Bricks. With his intelligent charm, which he combined with a sort of rugged working-class likeability, he came off like an American Sean Connery in his early career. TV was always his home, and his A films were few and far between. Indeed, some of the movies he did after the sixties were quite honestly rather crappy. However, Vaughn always took on any project as if it were the most important film of his life, and he shines in almost all of them. Liked and respected by his colleagues, Vaughn was also a principled man, a staunchly liberal democrat, and an outspoken peace activist, who caused an uproar with his loud opposition to the Vietnam war. Later in life it turned out he was the son of a British aristocrat and the godson of King George VI. 

Of his science fiction movies, he is probably best known for playing one of the leads in the UFO drama Hangar 8 (1980) and as the bounty hunter Gelt in Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). However, he also had leading roles in Teenage Caveman (1958), The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970), Starship Invasions (1977), The Lucifer Complex (1978), and the TV movie Doctor Franken (1980). He also appeared in Demon Seed (1977), Virus (1980), Superman III (1983), C.H.U.D. II — Bud the Chud (1989), the TV film Escape to Witch Mountain (1985), Joe’s Apartment (1996), Menno’s Mind (1997), Visions (1998, also known as Blind Sight), the TV movie Host (1998), The Sender (1998) and a few sci-fi TV series.

Rest in Peace, Robert, you will be sorely missed.

Janne Wass

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