Robert Vaughn, 83, 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.
, died Friday 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, books, and even songs inspired by James Bond films.
Mr. 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.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was also a big hit abroad. The show aired until early 1968. Mr. Vaughn and McCallum reunited in 1983 for a TV movie, The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.
In recent years, Mr. Vaughn starred for eight seasons on the British crime-caper series Hustle, which also aired in the U.S.
Before U.N.C.L.E. Mr. Vaughn made his mark in movies, earning an Oscar nomination in 1959 for his supporting role in The Young Philadelphians.
A liberal Democrat, Mr. Vaughn became passionately opposed to the Vietnam War and delivered antiwar speeches at colleges and other venues. He became a friend of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and campaigned for him during his 1968 run for president. When Kennedy was assassinated that year, Mr. Vaughn was so upset that he moved to England for five years.
Returning to the U.S., he decided to resume his education. He had already earned a bachelor's in theater arts and a master's degree. He returned to the University of Southern California, where he earned a doctorate. His dissertation was an overview of the House Un-American Activities Committee's effect on American theater. It resulted in a well-received book, Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting.