Posted by: Gregoryno6 | December 4, 2012

The 80 Candles On The Cake Affair: Happy Birthday, Robert Vaughn.

I sure picked a great time to take an internet vacation. Quite apart from the Presidential election, I missed a date of true significance:

November 22, that special day of the year for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Uh-oh... I know what THAT look means.

Uh-oh… I know what THAT look means.

While I was away I had a chance to renew my acquaintance with the men and women of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. The series shows its age, but then, so do I. I haven’t seen an episode since I was eight or nine – I got a kick from having my memories of the show revived. Solo and Kuryakin, faking casual conversation in their hotel room while THRUSH agents listen in – and hey, what’s this? The old poisoned needle in the pillow trick!  And Elsa Lanchester as Doctor Da Bree, lunging short-sightedly at Napoleon Solo and taking a dive down an elevator shaft. Da Doc survived, and was last seen bandaged up better than an Egyptian pharaoh. Solo meanwhile enjoyed a dinner date with his damsel in distress.

Forgot your holster AGAIN, Mister Solo?

Forgot your holster AGAIN, Mister Solo?

Some actors might feel cursed that a role they played so long ago is still strong in the cultural memory. Robert Vaughn shows no sign of that. He recently endorsed Soloholics as his official fan site. Solo is not a four-letter word for RV.

Vaughn has continued to act, and in recent years he’s been a member of a gang of swindlers in the UK series Hustle. That’s one I’ll have to track down over Christmas. At one point they tried to sell the Sydney Opera House. Hmmm. They might have got a better price for Ayers Rock.

THRUSH will never find me in ancient Rome! RV as Servilius Casca in Julius Caesar.

THRUSH will never find me in ancient Rome! RV as Servilius Casca in Julius Caesar.

If Robert Vaughn the actor remains interesting after fifty-plus years, so too does Robert Vaughn the man. He calls himself  ‘lazy’ in this interview from 1982 but the record suggests otherwise. Before during and after TMFU RV continued his studies, and earnt his Master’s degree in 1970. His thesis was published as a book – Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting. With the behaviour of our Circus of Ineptitude to inspire him, Mr Vaughn could easily have enough material for a second volume. History repeats itself, only changing the roles from side to side occasionally in order to keep the antics fresh.

Vaughn was friends with the Kennedy brothers, and was the first actor in Hollywood to publicly oppose the Vietnam war. He’s a lifelong Democrat – but not a lockstep Democrat. In 2009, when the Republicans (along the rest of the entire world, pretty much) was afraid to say anything negative about the first President who was bee-ell-ay-see-kay, Robert Vaughn stood up and said that Obama was not up to the job. The entertainment industry is thick with publicised noisemakers who jump into our attention. With vomit-inducing regularity they come forth to remind us that they CARE. Robert Vaughn, by contrast, has worked quietly and away from the spotlight to support his causes.

In all the best senses of the word, Robert Vaughn has proven himself to be an aristocrat.

Belated birthday wishes, sir. May you put a few candles yet on that cake.

And for you, dear reader – two links:

Napoleon Solo hard at work

Solo A Go Go


  1. I probably got presents I liked more among the ones that were surprises (the figure-8 slot car electric racetrack comes to mind), but by far the coolest Christmas present that I asked for and got was some sort of “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” spy kit. I don’t remember what it had in it besides some sort of badge and maybe some secret code thing, but I was pretty thrilled. I don’t think the show would probably age much better than the corny old Batman serial, but it was my favorite of the 60s, well that and “Wild Wild West.”

    • I’ve seen some photos of those kits. Yours probably had the gun with all the add-on bits eg silencer and stock.
      There was one episode where Solo was just producing one piece after another, assembling the gun while he explained the situation to that week’s innocent bystander. I finally figured out how he did it: TARDIS pockets in his suit.

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