Magnificent Robert Vaughn spied wealth of acting opportunities

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Best known for playing heartthrob Napoleon Solo in the hit spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn was a star of both film and TV.

Vaughn was close friends with acting giant Steve McQueen and starred alongside him and Yul Brynner as a dandyish gunfighter who lost his bottle in classic western The Magnificent Seven.

But he was also a regular on British television, playing conman Albert Stroller in BBC show Hustle before heading to long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street where he starred for three weeks as wealthy American Milton Fanshaw who wooed cafe owner Roy Cropper's mother Sylvia Goodwin.

Actor Robert Vaughn rehearses on location for AMC's Hustle (Ric Francis/AP/Press Association Images)
Actor Robert Vaughn rehearses on location for AMC's Hustle (Ric Francis/AP/Press Association Images)

Robert Francis Vaughn was born on November 22 1932 to a showbusiness family in New York.

His mother was a stage actress and his father was a radio actor so Vaughn spent his childhood with his grandparents in Minneapolis where he went to school.

He wanted to be an actor from an early age and shot to fame for his Oscar-nominated role in The Young Philadelphians in 1959 in which he played an alcoholic socialite wrongly accused of murder. A year later he starred in The Magnificent Seven.

Actor Robert Vaughn is doing a remake movie ?The return of the man from U.N.C.L.E.? Nov. 23, 1982. (AP Photo/Drew)
Robert Vaughn starred in The Man From U.N.C.L.E (AP Photo/Drew)

Vaughn was then asked to star in The Man From U.N.C.L.E and filming began on his 31st birthday in 1963 - the same day President John F Kennedy was assassinated.

The hit series brought much needed tongue-in-cheek attitude to a world engrossed in the Cold War although Vaughn later said the series went too far with its comic approach.

"Unfortunately, everyone was excited about the Batman series and the Green Hornet and that comedic approach that they went too far in that direction. It got so lighthearted, it went off the air."

Actor Robert Vaughn
Actor Robert Vaughn (John Smock/AP)

In 1968 he was reunited with McQueen and Brynner for thriller Bullitt where he played an ambitious politician and his commitment to politics was said to be apparent off screen too. He was reportedly close friends with JFK's brother Senator Robert Kennedy.

Alongside his political activity and acting career, Vaughn found time to complete a PhD in 1970 with his dissertation on showbusiness blacklisting later released as a book.

Before Hustle and Coronation Street, Vaughn was already a familiar face on British television from his work on Gerry Anderson's 1970s hit series The Protectors.

Taping a scene for a new series, Robert Vaughn does his bit as Napoleon Solo, star of
Taping a scene for a new series, Robert Vaughn does his bit as Napoleon Solo, star of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (Anonymous/AP/Press Association Images)

Into his later years he continued to appear in films, including two released in 2016 - he played a silver-haired man in The American Side and a dying 90-year-old father in Gold Star.

Hustle co-star Gavin Free said Vaughn - who died just days before his 84th birthday - would perform his own stunts way into his 70s.

Vaughn is survived by his wife, Linda, whom he married in 1974, and their two children, Caitlin and Cassidy.