McCallum to become a minister!

Writer: Gene Cameron

Source: Movie Life, February 1967.

Subtitle: A detective stakes out the mysterious other man from U.N.C.L.E.
and makes an amazing discovery.

Main text:

I couldn't believe my eyes as the sun, bright and golden, picked up the blond highlights of his hair. And underneath his coat, a black bib and a white turned up collar. Was this the wily Illya Kuryakin? Was this David McCallum? What was he doing walking into a seminary in Southern California? 

I waited for two hours. Finally the door was worked open and I saw him again. He still looked grim, but more resolute now than when I saw him go in. He shook hands with a man in black robes then slipped into his convertible and drove down the steep winding road. 

Later I tried to call David at home. But the voice on the other end said coldly, "Mr. McCallum has gone out for the evening. No, I have no idea when he will return. He cannot be reached."

I cruised down Hollywood Boulevard and pondered the situation. Had appearances deceived me or was David McCallum looking more pious and serious of late? Was it possible that he was actually thinking of becoming a minister as these trips indicated?

I reviewed the situation as I knew it from my various investigations of McCallum over the past few months. He had been living in a valley of despair and such men frequently make radical, life-changing decisions. So many things had happened to him at once, almost as if a conspiracy was at work.

Most important, of course, was the disintegration of his marriage to Jill Ireland. They had tried for such a long time to make it work for the sake of the children. But it was no go. Jill and David had simply grown apart. He said time and time again, "I love Jill... I love my sons. Maybe we can find a way to recapture the good things we had and to begin again and build on them." It didn't work. 

The allocation of blame had bothered David almost as much as the failure of the marriage itself. He adored Jill still, blamed himself for not trying hard enough. Nonetheless, people insisted on forming their own conclusions about how and why the marriage was destroyed.  

He told a reporter I had once worked with: "People have read publicity about my wife and another man. This has brought me a lot of sympathetic notes. But please make people understand that when it comes to the causes of a rift in a relationship such as ours, you can never put any degree of blame in words. The blame is just not divisible."

For months now - since I'd been first assigned to David - I watched the habits of a desperate and unhappy man. I followed him downtown, when, unable to sleep, he walked among the lost ones on skid row. He said he liked to watch the world come alive at night. But in the parts of town he sought out, there were only death and night.

I noticed that he was beginning to smoke more and drink more, that the spring in his step had disappeared, that he derived almost no satisfaction at all from the work he was doing. His success had failed him miserably. "I've gotten more than I've bargained for," he told a friend. "It's forcing me to always be 'on.' From the moment I leave my house, I'm giving a performance.... I'm never just me."

I hadn't quite decided about his so called romance with Kathy Carpenter, the New York fashion model whom he met while doing an U.N.C.L.E. layout for Glamour magazine. Kathy seemed much more sure of the seriousness of that than David. 

David was always - had always been - according to the countless people I spoke with, a very serious, philosophical, complex guy. A religious man really. The more I thought of it, there more likely it seemed that he would really consider entering the ministry in a time of crisis. 

Immediately after the separation was announced, he was reported to have gone into seclusion in Rome. The place he checked into, according to my Italian sources, was an inn near Florence where people go to commune with their soul. It was formerly a monastery and is now considered a religious retreat for celebrities.

He was seen frequently walking through the woods alone, head bowed solemnly and obviously turned completely within himself. Perhaps David had found something more comforting than his skid row retreat. He once said, "I go to negative places for therapy." The inn, the woods - these were hardly negative places. 

No person in the world knows David as well as Jill Ireland. They had virtually grown up together in their ten-year marriage. She saw him through the early dreams, the hungry times, and his encounter with enormous commercial success. Jill never changed her opinion of David as a "romantic idealist." On so many occasions, they had spent the whole night just talking. Jill said it was mostly about "basic things, belief, the  subjective approach to religion which we consider so healthy."

I couldn't go to Jill now. I couldn't upset her any more. But I suspect that she would not be too surprised if David were considering a life of meditation, prayer, and communion. Nor would any of the people who succeed in getting close to this man, this sex symbol who'd never quite succeeded in shedding his "Calvinist" skin.

So involved was I in my own thoughts that I almost jumped a light. While I waited for it to turn, I picked up a familiar figure in my rear view mirror. It was McCallum getting out of his car, probably on his way to see his manager, whose offices were in this vicinity. This time, I could take a better, a bolder look at the man whose life had been my business for the past six months. I realized now that the bib-like shirt under his  jacket was a vest and that under it he wore a white turtle neck. It hadn't been a clerical collar after all. McCallum might have gone to seek solace at the mission, but it was unlikely that he was thinking of a change in vocation.

I was relieved. Way down deep, despite the work I do, I am a fan and very definitely a David McCallum fan. I would have hated to lose him, even to God.