Sunday News, Jan. 30, 1977


By Bruce Chadwick

"David McCallum walked up the stairs of the rehearsal studio looking like thousands of other New Yorkers battling the chilly January morning. His face was red, his blond hair windblown and his green jacket a buffer against the elements. He looked more like someone searching for an address than the dangerous Illya Kuryakin, sidekick to Robert Vaughn in the popular '60s TV series The Man From UNCLE.

McCallum who is 46 and does not look a day over 30, is starring in Agatha Christie's mystery "The Mousetrap"
at the PaperMill Playhouse in Millburn. He's also directing the show. Actually, direction is the avenue he would like to follow now, but he can't shake that UNCLE image.

"The series was very popular, so everyone associates me with it. That doesn't bother me; I'm proud to be associated with it. I made certain I was not typecast after that show, and I'm pleased with the turns my career has taken since then," said McCallum.

Likes Different Things

The actor, born in Glasgow, Scotland, lives in New York. He co-starred in the UNCLE series for three years at a time When the James Bond boom and the spy genre was at its peak. "I quit television entirely in 1967 when UNCLE went off the air. I needed time to do other things, to reorganize. Since then, I've starred in a number of plays and films quite different from UNCLE. I like doing a lot of different things," said McCallum.

Some of his stage roles have included "The Flip Side," "The Mousetrap", "Alfie," "Signpost to Murder" and ""Crown Matrimonial." His films have numbered, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," "The Great Escape," Freud, "Billy Budd," "The Diamond Hunters," "King Solomon's Treasure," and the recently completed "Swaziland."

He likes "The Mousetrap", and is as amazed as everyone else:that it has run for 24 years in London, making it the longest continually running play.

Broad-Based Appeal

"Everybody likes comedies and mysteries, me included. Mousetrap is a good solid mystery. Good plot. Good characters. It has very broad-based appeal," said the actor.

He said that perhaps the most important reason for "Mousetrap's" London success is a clause in the production contract that forbids another version of it in any other American city. This prevents the great army of theater parties on chartered planes to Britain from first seeing it in the U.S.

"A very large percentage of the play's England audience is touring Americans. Without them, year after year, I don't think the mystery would have lasted this long." said McCallum.

He Was Accepted

His most. ambitious project has the direction of an episode in the Ten Who Dared series of explorer epics now being aired on WPIX-TV. His segment is on Charles Doughty, an explorer who lived with marauding Arabs in North Africa for two years.

"I knew absolutely nothing about him when I got the assignment. I read everything I could about him. He was a fascinating man. Other men had lived with Arabs for a few weeks or months, but few for more than a year. All others adapted the Moslem faith in order to roam with the Arabs. Doughty kept his Christianity, however, and was accepted by them," he said.

Doughty returned to England around 1904 and spent 10 years trying to get his desert memoirs published. No one was interested. Finally met someone who was intrigued by his story. That man helped him get a publisher and read the book several times, constantly picking Doughty's brain about the Arabs and the desert.

The book was published in 1916, the same year that Doughty's new friend left England for World War I fighting in the Mid-East. His name?--T.E. Lawrence, who became a 20th century legend as Lawrence of Arabia.

"I guess Lawrence remembered everything he read in Doughty's book," joked McCallum.

Television still mystifies the actor. His successful BBC-TV series, Colditz, has been unable to attract any American interest. His last TV series, "The Invisible Man", was a flop that was canceled after 13 weeks.

He never liked the series. "The idea of reviving the old invisible man theme seemed senseless. We did a pilot that was pretty good and then got the series. They threw the pilot out the window and produced a ridiculous TV series. It deserved to fail," he said.

He has no immediate future plans. "I am not completely soured on TV. I would take another series if it had a chance," he said.