11 Notable Film Roles from Robert Vaughn

Robert Vaughn, actor, died today at the age of 83, just 11 days short of his birthday.

Robert Vaughn, of course, was most widely known for his recurring role as Napoleon Solo on the long-running and ultra-successful spy TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Solo was a casual American spy who was paired up with a tightly-wound Russian agent to undo the malfeasance of bad guys who were even worse than either government. The series ran for 105 episodes, and, flaunting a privilege rarely granted to long-running TV shows, was often repackaged as theatrical features, re-editing two-part episodes to play like movies. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Hit theaters in the form of To Trap a Spy, The Spy with My Face, One Spy Too Many, One of Our Spies is Missing, The Spy in the Green Hat, The Karate Killers, The Helicopter Spies, and How to Steal the World. These films were all released from 1966 to 1968.

Vaughn’s dashing demeanor, boyish good looks, and ease in front of the camera made him a notable presence, however, in whatever films he appeared in. In a career that spans prestige pictures, Shakespeare, blockbusters, comedies, and outright schlock, Vaughn was always a welcome, authoritative presence, charming audiences with his velvety voice, playful smirk, and quick glances. He was a capable performer with the magnetic presence of a game show host. It’s no wonder that, late in his career, he often found himself playing high-powered executives and the like. Merely standing in a room allowed Vaughn to fill it.

Vaughn famously appeared in the deconstructionist western The Magnificent Seven, recently remade. One of his scarier roles was that of the vicious, cold, reproduction-obsessed sentient computer in the 1977 thriller Demon Seed.

Vaughn earned an Academy Award nomination for the 1959 studio picture The Young Philadelphians, in which he co-starred with Paul Newman. This was only two years after cutting his teeth on the Roger Corman cheapie Teenage Caveman. Vaughn seemed to be undiscriminating when it came to his acting choices, happily and professionally straddling giant blockbusters like Superman III with more actorly pieces like Julius Caesar. His natural affability also made him a good fit for sillier comedies, and in 1996, he appeared as a cross-dressing executive in the MTV debut film Joe’s Apartment about a young man who moves into a New York tenement with millions of talking, singing cockroaches. And how can anyone forgot his game appearance in the notorious – yet oddly underrated – comedy Pootie Tang?

Robert Vaughn’s appearance in a film was enough to make anyone’s eyes light up. He will be missed.

Slideshow: 11 Notable Film Roles from Robert Vaughn

Top Image: MGM

Witney Seibold is a longtime contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.