Photoplay, January 1966
by Marcia Borie
In the Hollywood alphabet there are three F's: First (as in billing), Fast (as in girl) and Feud (as in fight 'em cowboy.) Within recent years, the public has been told of a feud between Dick Chamberlain (Kildare) and Vince Edwards (Casey), and between Pernell (as in Roberts) and the other boys on the Ponderosa. The Casey-Kildare feud was pure hokum -- thought up by someone with a wild imagination. The Pernell vs. the Ponderosa was pure truth. Roberts has since ridden off Daddy Cartwright's big range for greener pastures. And now we have a brand new feud to investigate: the one aptly called McCallum vs. Vaughn.
Is this fight for real? Do they really hate one another? Are they angry rivals for a favored place in the eyes of the TV viewers? Is there really a macabre McCallum cult anxious for the chance to make Vaughn vanish? Are the workers on the "U.N.C.L.E." set forced to choose sides, to take a loyalty oath to one of the actors? There was only one way to get to the truth -- and that called for some pretty fast (as in foot) sleuthing (as in "U.N.C.L.E.").
The first trick was getting onto the heavily guarded "U.N.C.L.E." set. But that was really no problem. Just use an "U.N.C.L.E." trick: carry some soiled clothes and pretend you are going to the cleaners. Once inside, we found two oak-paneled objects sitting side by side. These trailer-type contraptions are dressing rooms. One is decorated with photos, travel posters, political campaign buttons and the portrait of Joyce Jameson. The other is empty except for scripts, clothes, two tins of tea and a few jars of theatrical preparations. The one with all the pictures belongs to Robert Vaughn. The other one, the uncluttered, bare room, belongs to David McCallum. Out came the two stars from their separate dressing rooms. If you had never seen them before, the two men would, upon first glance, impress you as being complete opposites -- physically and emotionally. Dark-haired, good-looking Robert Vaughn seems ultra-sophisticated, preoccupied, cool and aloof. Blond, blue-eyed David McCallum appears boyishly handsome, a trifle intense, yet apparently friendly as a puppy. This is all from a first-glance appraisal. But we wanted to get more than that.
The best place to get information is on the soundstage sidelines. One stands there quietly and waits. Eventually, they do a scene together. You begin your mental note-taking. Both know their lines perfectly. Each listens intently to the director. Occasionally, one or the other will make a comment, or suggestion, if it seems necessary. You observe a magnetic current of excitement which occurs between them and the camera. Before your eyes, Robert becomes Solo. David is Illya. Soon you, too, must be careful not to get caught up in the fiction versus reality. After maintaining your sideline vigil for an adequate period of time, you circulate and talk to members of the crew -- people who have worked with Robert and David every day for more than a year. They speak honestly. Most of the "U.N.C.L.E." crew are seasoned veterans. They've seen idiots come and go. They know more inside scoops on Hollywood stars than all the gossip columnists put together, and this crew openly admires Vaughn and McCallum. "They're pros, real pros. I've never seen two guys so dedicated," is the general consensus. McCallum and Vaughn do give the best. of themselves all the time. Each man subjects himself to grueling, physical feats -- work which is usually done by doubles and stuntmen. Each wants it that way.
When it comes to discussing them as actors, their co-workers can go on non-stop. When you ask personal questions, or seek more revealing data, crew members shake their heads. "They are both real quiet...keep to themselves pretty much. . .not nearly the horseplay we're used to." This reflects a major share of the comments. Between scenes, unless they have visitors. Vaughn and McCallum retire to their private dressing-rooms, shutting their doors behind them. However, during some part of the day, both doors are opened, meaning it's all right to come on in. This time is usually taken up signing autographs.
The more you watch and listen, the more fascinated you become. You make a discovery early in your search. It's importance astonishes and excites you. The men from U.N.C.L.E. are not what they seem to be. For instance, regarding Robert Vaughn: Forget the cool, aloof, sophisticated exterior. Certainly he's capable of being all three when the occasion demands it. More often, however he's boyish, very warm and has quite a few unsophisticated, naive attitudes and desires.
As for David-the so called "Blond beatle"-McCallum: The friendly puppy image is all wrong. Those blue eyes and that hair must be responsible for the deception. McCallum is the cool, detached sophisticated member of the team. Of course, when the occasion , or the people he is with, inspire it. But, for the most part, David McCallum acts the way Robert Vaughn looks. McCallum is definitely no puppy. He's more a strong, silent, tightly wound up tiger. Ready to spring or slink away, depending upon his mood.
Returning to the riddle of Robert: Although he behaves contrary to his image, mystery still surrounds him. Actually, he's as complex as David. After all, how simple can a man be when he has a Master's degree on his wall, a doctorate in his future and yet remains homespun and earthy? Vaughn, the cool cat on your tv screen, is a homebody at heart! A sentimentalist. A souvenir collector, who has saved every telegram every friend ever sent him, as well as each scrap or paper he could find connected with his childhood. Vaughn is so versatile he can be and do almost anything.
Their is another area of Robert's life which is very revealing. Whenever he can he returns to his home town to relax and go fishing with some boyhood buddies. They, in turn, are always welcome to visit him in Hollywood. They are remarkable set of young men - Bob's former high school and/or college friends with whom he has never lost contact. Within a group, Bob is the only actor, as well as the only bachelor. The others are all happily married and mainly professional men. Doctors, and lawyers. Those who know Bob best understand that he not only needs, but actively seeks, the companionship of these old friends with whom he feels extremely comfortable.
David McCallum has given his heart deeply to only a chosen few. He has made a few close friends in Hollywood; but mainly his world is populated by the woman and children he loves. His idea of a good time is staying home, being left quietly alone to think or to talk with his wife. His weekends are devoted to his children. David enjoys fun and games, but only within his own family.
How do they live? Vaughn's home is on top of a mountain. A low, rambling, one storey modern home with a magnificent view of the valley below. It sits high up protected from view by a narrow twisting driveway. The house is further cut off from the street by an electrically controlled gate. It is a forbidding site-as though the occupant behind the gate were saying: Keep Out.
David McCallum's home hugs a hillside. It stands several stories tall, rather than sprawling outward. It has a magnificent view of the city, the valley and the sea. It has no front gate. It seems inviting-stretching its white friendly exterior into the sky, as if to say: Welcome, come in.
Again, exteriors are deceptive. Once in side Robert Vaughn's iron gate, you usually find his front door wide open. Guest feel free to wander about. It's magnificent home, beautifully furnished, neatly kept and very open and warm and inviting. David's home set up is just the opposite. Few Hollywood people have been inside his house, the home without the gate. It is a very private place, set apart, where he and his family live away from he rest of the world. David needs no iron gate- he has put an iron curtain around his life which is far more difficult to penetrate.
Perhaps it is mere coincidence, yet each home somehow reflects the personality of its owner.
How about their backgrounds? On one hand, we have Robert Vaughn, born in New York, raised in Minneapolis, by grandparents after his Mother and Father split up when he was six months old. In his boyhood, he knew poverty and, from the time he was nine years old, anything he wanted had to be earned. He worked at a variety of jobs, no matter how long the hours, or how difficult the chores, and he made his own money. David McCallum was born in Scotland. His childhood was spent, for the most part as an evacuee during the World War II. Yet, despite this situation, David never knew poverty or privation. As a boy, he was not forced to work for his toys and clothes. Yet, David reached a point in his teens where, just like Robert, he faced the necessity of working for what he wanted.
There were other similarities. Both began their acting careers at the age of twelve, both were loners, yet both reached the point during their teens when it became a necessity to prove themselves to the very groups they'd avoided. David nearly got pneumonia, but he worked out with the swimming team night and day. Eventually, he won the most important race in school, out swimming his entire class. Robert was physically smaller than the older boys on his team, but he ran many a miles a day until he became an outstanding track star.
On a social level, Robert and David are not seen together in public. But does this mean that they're feuding" By trying another U.N.C.L.E. trick, we managed to be on the set when what might be called a crisis developed. When the Emmy awards candidates were announced. "The Man from Uncle" received five nominations. Although David is technically a supportive actor, he was singled out- and Robert did not receive a nomination. The morning the news broke, there was tension on the soundstage. How would Robert take it? After all, he was and is the star of the show. While some people crowded around David, offering congratulations, others nervously eyes the lightly-shut door of Roberts dressing room.
The afternoon passed. Robert came in and out of his dressing room whenever he was called before the cameras, and those who looked for it thought he needed to be usually preoccupied. Then a studio messenger arrived on set and handed David a yellow envelope. Inside was a telegram it read: "Congratulations, All the way with Illya K. Robert Vaughn." If he had been insincere, it would have been so easy for Robert to have made a grandstand gesture by publicly congratulating David, instead, he put his feelings on paper where they would not be seen only by David unless David cared to share them.
No matter what you have read, there is a good working relationship between these two men which cannot be disputed. It wasn't until after Robert sent the telegram of congratulations to David that the cast and crew noticed small signs of symbolic of a rapport so subtle it had obviously existed almost unnoticed.
Occasionally, Robert and David were seen talking quietly. Whispering. Sharing a laugh. Then, employing some more spy type tricks, we found out that, contrary to gossip, they did not always go their separate ways when they left the studio. The truth is, David and Jill McCallum have extended many a social invitations to Robert Vaughn. On several occasions, either by himself or with Joyce Jameson, Vaughn has been a guest at the McCallum home.
Not too long ago Robert was asked to pose in an Illya wig, he instantly replied, "I can't do a thing like that without asking David first. We always check each other out before doing anything which the other one of us might possibly object to."
We also found out that, a few months ago, when a magazine wanted informal pictures of David, they asked to film as his home. Politely, they were refused permission. But Robert, hearing about the situation, opened his home to the photographers! So it turned out that the pictures of David were taken in Roberts backyard. Two days ago, we electronically listened in on a conversation between them. It was all in fun, and the men said they didn't mind. So here's further proof that there's no feud too good to be true.
David was in Roberts dressing-room. He said: "I think I'll call my agent. Now that I'm such a big star, I've decided I want wall to wall carpeting in my portable dressing-room. Fur Carpeting."
Robert replied. "What kind of fur?"
After a slight pause, McCallum answered: "In deference to Illya, Russian sable."
Without, missing a beat, Robert countered: "David, you know what that means, I'll have to call my agent. If the studio gives you sable rugs. I'll demand wall to wall chinchilla!"
There you have it-the story of a feud! The story of a feud that is too good to be true at all. There is rivalry between Napoleon and Illya on the show for, after all, Illya is next in line for Napoleon's job. So if David and Robert pretend to let this feud spill over into their private lives, pretend because it adds to the show, adds to the fun. Adds to the glamour-who would ever know the difference? Who, but yours truly, private sleuth, and you, dear reader. And we won't tell a soul!