Motion Picture Magazine, February issue. 1965?
"Television is ruining my marriage," moaned David McCallum as he slumped down in a chair in his small trailer dressing room on a back lot at MGM, trying to catch a few minutes of rest. He had just finished a grueling fight scene for MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and he was beat. "I leave the house at 6 in the morning and I'm lucky if I get home by 9 at night. What way is that to treat a wife?"
Worse, he has developed a severe case of insomnia within the last few months. "Lack of sleep is making me irritable with Jill," says television's newest and hottest sex symbol. "And she's getting restless."
As Jill Ireland, she was better known as an actress than he was as an actor. But her marriage in 1957 and her devotion to David sidetracked her career. Her restlessness of late has revved it up again. She she's back working as an actress.
"Maybe I can get a part on Man From U.N.C.L.E. and get to see David," she laughs. It's beginning to look like I'll never see him otherwise. He's never home. And when he does get time off, the studio or network wants him to go on the road and plug the show. And then I never see him because he is always mobbed by hordes of teenagers."
McCallum's rating with the teenagers is not his only ace-in-the-hole. A few nights ago the Scottish-born, British-trained David went to a sophisticated party at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. There were no teenagers present, only mature women who behaved like teenagers when McCallum and his wife entered the room.
A reporter, noting McCallum's appeal for older women, sought to find out why. "It's that hair," said one. "It's the length - not quite as long as The Beatles but cut in that same rebellious way. He's a couth Beatle." The older girls said that to a woman, McCallum's sex appeal is hairborne.
Jill seems subdued by it all. She admits that she's had a tough time getting used to all the adulation being heaped on her husband. Not long ago, in Dallas, about 50 teenagers surrounded the two. One turned to Mrs. McCallum and asked, "May I kiss him?"
"Yes, be my guest," she laughed. So the teenager kissed him smack on the lips and soon the whole assemblage swarmed on him and started planting kisses, shoving aside his gracious wife. David finally emerged, covered with lipstick. He admitted the experience, while wild, was a bit of all right too. Jill, a pert beauty in her own right, so far seems to be riding fairly well with her husband's emergence as a matinee idol on prime evening time.
But the long hours she doesn't see him are tough on her. "I exault in his fame and I share in his wealth, but I can't say honestly that it is an ideal life. A wife gets married to have a husband with her - not without her. But I know it's not David's doing and that's what keeps me going.
David and Jill are close in age. At 31, he is only a few years older than she. "I know we are unusual in Hollywood," says David, "where a ten-year age difference seems to be the absolute minimum. More often than not, married couples here are 25 to 35 years apart in age. "I think that Jill's nearness to my own age will permit her to weather this trying period in our lives. If I were 10 or 15 years older, I'm afraid I'd have a young wife who wouldn't put up with me or my schedule."
"It's been hard on the whole family," added David. "I never see my children - they're asleep when I get up and they're asleep when I come home. The only time we're together is on weekends.
"And weekends are the only time I can indulge my passion for gardening. I had never been much of a hobbyist until I came to California, where it seems you can make anything grow. I'm also a rabid baseball fan. I love the Dodgers and didn't miss a pitch of the World Series."
David is, in many ways, like his television counterpart, Illya Kuryakin. He's economical with words, especially in his private life. He refuses to allow pictures of his three children, Paul, 7, Jason, 3 and Valentine, 2, to be published. His home, a four-story, 11-room, Mediterranean-style house in the Hollywood hills, has become an almost monastic retreat where he can escape the screaming pursuit of wildly adoring teenagers.
"I retreat there," he says, "when I can - and it's damn seldom - so I can find out who I really am. I don't really know anymore. For instance, all this business about me being a sex symbol. Just what is a sex symbol? If I knew, then I might know who or what I really am."
One of the interesting factors about David's breakthrough as a sex symbol is that the show producers will introduce a female counterpart to McCallum and Vaughn shortly. They have signed Mary Ann Mobley for the role, and the episode in which she first appears will be the pilot film for a new show called The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. They hope she will become as big a female sex symbol as their red-hot male duo.
Some of the Hollywood wiseacres see McCallum's sex appeal as somewhat akin to that of the late James Dean - as at the beginning of the end of his marriage. Few Hollywood wives, as we have learned, have been able to live with Hollywood sex symbols. But David has this to say:
"I believe quite strongly in the sanctity of marriage. And as for my being something of a phenomenon - if that's what it is - you can quote me as saying I don't understand it."
David's Scottish heritage has made him an iceberg emotionally. "I'm a Presbyterian - and puritanically so." This Scottish trait has hurt him as an actor, he admits. "It's hard to be an extrovert with such an upbringing," he says. "Being an actor is giving. But being a sex symbol - is that giving?"
David is glad of one thing - that his children are too young to bear the brunt of the publicity that goes with his new status. Once, on a publicity tour of Louisiana, he and Jill were entertained by the Governor of the state. Suddenly, they heard excited shouts. A mob of teenagers had tried to break into the Governor's mansion to get a close-up of their idol.
Jill says that her husband, despite his untapped Scottish emotions, will sometimes break down and admit that he's beginning to like all the adulation. "After all, he is an actor," she says, "and I don't know any actor who doesn't enjoy being made a fuss over. As for myself, I suppose that as an actress, I get a vicarious thrill out of my husband's fabulous success. After all, these girls do have frightfully good taste. I love that haircut as much as his fans do, maybe even more."
David is aware of his "hairy" resemblance to The Beatles. "But don't say I have a Beatle haircut. Say they have a McCallum-cut, only they don't cut it as often as I."
The 5-foot 8-inch tall Scotsman believes his major contribution to the world has been as a father and husband first, and an actor second.
Although he hesitates to talk about it publicly, the next step for David may well be American citizenship. His commitments will keep him here for a long time - and so will his screaming fans.
"I believe that one should be a citizen where he earns his keep," he says. "Of course, the question is academic until I have been here five years and had time to take out my first papers."
He will be Grand Marshal for the "I Am An American Day" parade in Baltimore, honoring newly-naturalized citizens. And he has already been a guest of President Johnson's in the White House.
It looks as if the Britisher, who has been adopted by American fans, could well lose his heart to America. "The Americans have been very good to us Britishers," says David. "First the Burtons, then The Beatles, then James Bond, and now, of course, me. And if I am a sex symbol, as you gentlemen of the press are wont to say, then it has made me very much aware of American fans."
Susan Oliver did a highly romantic scene with David in one segment of U.N.C.L.E., but said it was the first time she ever had to film two versions of a tender love scene. This often happens with ultra-sexy or nudie scenes in films, but hardly ever with purely romantic ones.
"But we shot one very romantic version just the way it should have been played, and then we shot a cooler version in deference to the jealous nature of some of his fans. It was the cooler version that was finally used, and even then we were swamped with letters and wires, shrieking their protests because their sex symbol had had his first screen kiss.
"Is he a sex symbol? Yes, I would say so. It's that Beatle hairdo. I think the world is coming back to long hair for men."
- BY DIANE REDFIELD