From 1964 to 1968, Mr. Vaughn was one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood, playing Napoleon Solo in the NBC spy spoof “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” The character was developed by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, as something of a small-screen Bond.
Darkly handsome, with a prominent chin and a distinctive, cultivated voice, Mr. Vaughn starred alongside David McCallum, playing the Russian spy Illya Kuryakin. Together, they were an international crime-fighting duo defying Cold War convention in a tongue-in-cheek series that was one of the most popular shows of its time.
Each week, the pair from the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, a private organization “involved in maintaining political and legal order anywhere in the world,” accepted a mission from their boss, played by Leo G. Carroll. With wit and panache, they overcame the deadly gadgets and thugs put in their way by their nemesis, THRUSH — while finding time to romance glamorous women.
“There was something cool about it,” Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media in New York, told the Los Angeles Times last year. “It created an emotional resonance for TV. It became the most popular show on campus in 1964, ’65 and ’66 — the first two seasons. It was a cultural phenomenon.”No matter how perilous their travails, they always managed to escape with their well-fitted suits, stylish hair and debonair manner intact.
Mr. Vaughn and McCallum had a genial screen chemistry, trading quips and maintaining a blithe sang-froid in the face of danger. They received thousands of letters a week from fans, and when the Beatles came to the United States in 1966, they asked to meet Mr. Vaughn.