1965: Time predicts big things for Robert Vaughn

In early 1965, Time magazine was expecting big things for Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a series that had been pitched to NBC executives as “James Bond for television.”

Bond is not hard to copy, however, and—given the mass audience of television—the actor who plays Solo may soon be even more celebrated than Sean Connery, who plays Bond in the movies. The U.N.C.L.E. man’s real name is Robert Vaughn. He is 32, and he is on his way to his first million. Impoverished a couple of years ago, he now has increasing herds of livestock and several gas wells.

Looking back, the statement seems more than a bit startling. But it shows how Connery was viewed at that point as a one-trick pony and not as an acclaimed actor he’d be viewed as later. It’s also a reminder that, at one time, U.N.C.L.E. was big. When this story was published by Time, ratings were starting to climb. The series had narrowly avoided being canceled in its initial season. It was moved from Tuesday to Monday nights in January 1965, a move that boosted viewership. The show was also helped by Bond’s growing popularity as Goldfinger became the first 007 mega-hit.

The Time piece made some other observations about actor Vaughn:

Off the screen, he is a swinging bachelor who drives around in a Lincoln Continental convertible, which he insists is not maroon in color but “black cherry.” The car has a telephone and a monaural tape machine; it will soon have two telephones, a TV set, a stereo tape recorder, an icemaking midget refrigerator and a walnut-paneled bar. He is a wine lover and a gourmet too.

But Robert Vaughn is different. He is well on his way toward his doctorate, in a remarkable department at the University of Southern California that bridges the fields of journalism, political science, drama, cinema, radio and television.

What did the actor say about the role he played, Napoleon Solo, and the series itself? Here’s what he told Time:

He makes no apologies for his now fatted life. “I don’t feel guilty,” he says. “I’ve knocked around for a lot of years, collected a lot of unemployment checks, and I worked very hard. I feel I have earned whatever I got.” The show? “I have nothing against it. In fact, it’s a rather good charade, and nobody is pretending that it is more than that. The show is all right, if you realize it is a massive put-on.”

Also, at this point, Time didn’t have much to say about David McCallum, whose portryal of Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin would generate popularity to rival Vaughn’s own. Here’s how Time described The Fiddlesticks Affair, the second episode to air in the Monday time slot:

And only last week, when Solo and his assistant Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were invading an underground vault, Solo was confronted with the need to avoid electrocution while crossing the “electroporous grating” of an “electrostatic floor.” Solo reached into his apparently bottomless pockets and came up with a self-inflating, full-sized rubber landing craft, which hissed and swelled into the perfect vessel on which to sail across the electroconvulsive sea.

To read the entire article, just CLICK HERE.