Breaking news: Actor Robert Vaughn passed away today after a battle with leukemia. Vaughn made his start in the world of B movies in the 1950s, but quickly rose to stardom through a number of key film and television roles. In 1960 he portrayed a sensitive, shell-shocked gunfighter alongside the biggest leading men of the era in The Magnificent Seven. His characterization touched me deeply as a child and I never shook that feeling of empathy he invoked. More importantly, I saw the role as an almost political statement, as I began to form my own sense of what it means to be a man. Because of Vaughn and his role, I understood the fallacy of gender stereotypes. I never saw the role as a broken man, as some others may have done. I loved that a cool action movie from Hollywood could remind a kid that all people can be fragile and have conscience, regardless of gender. Robert Vaughn got his big break when he was cast as Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at the dawn of the great Spy Boom in 1964. For kids around the world, he quickly became the coolest guy on the planet. In fact, Vaughn was a tremendous role model in many ways! Concerned for integrity and basic human rights, he became highly outspoken in the media as a supporter for Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. He vigorously opposed the war in Vietnam, most famously in a televised debate against William F. Buckley Jr. on Firing Line. Vaughn used his celebrity as a platform to champion noble causes and he fought for change, even when he faced great opposition. The New York Times quoted his sentiments at the time: “In our fervor to halt the potential spread of totalitarianism, what incredible precedent are we setting in Vietnam?” he asked in an impassioned speech. “By marching our legions through the countryside of foreign continents, burning homes, laying waste to the land and indiscriminately killing friend and foe alike?” He even earned a Phd and published his thesis about the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy era (Only Victims/1972). Vaughn's acting career marched on through the decades, but Spy Vibers will remember him best for his additional roles in Bullitt (1968) and in Gerry Anderson crime-adventure series, The Protectors. Vaughn was most recently seen in Coronation Street, Hustle, and Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit. When Vaughn was asked what he wanted to be remembered for in a 2013 Express interview, he said, "My opposition to the Vietnam War. It lasted almost 20 years and I naively thought more people in the industry would come out against it." Robert Vaughn chronicled his life and concerns in an excellent autobiography A Fortunate Life in 2009. He died in his home in Connecticut, surrounded by his family. He was 83. Vaughn's U.N.C.L.E. co-star and friend released this statement today: "I just heard the news and I’m utterly devastated. Robert and I worked together for many years and losing him is like losing a part of me. My deepest sympathies go out to Linda and the Vaughn family.” Closing Channel D. He will be greatly missed. Related posts: Vaughn 2014 Birthday Tribute, Shakespeare Spies, UNCLE Fashions, Man From UNCLE School, Manga, German UNCLE, UNCLE UK Comics, Der Mann Von UNCLE, David McCallum Novel, David McCallum Music.
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