By Hedda Hopper
Released by Chicago Tribune—N.Y. News Syndicate, Inc., 1965
There are several methods of becoming a teenage idol and they usually have to do with music. From Rudy Vallee’s megaphone to Bing Crosby’s boo-boo-boo to Frank Sinatra’s boyish intimacy to Elvis Presley’s swivel hips and guitar right on down to the Beatles’ beat, it has always been singers who provoked the loudest screams and longest swoons.
Until Scotsman David McCallum came along.
He threw his oboe away at an early age to the horror of his musician parents (“Dad fiddles; Mother’s a cellist”) and set out to encompass all forms of the theatrical world. He lead a donkey in a Nativity play at age eight, worked as electrician, stage manager, director, actor. During two years with the British Army he put on plays and dances:
“I tried to join the Air Force but my flat feet took me to Africa, which is where they send people they don’t know what to do with.” He toured the English provinces with a stock company, got a contract with J. Arthur Rank, did “Freud” and “The Great Escape,” which led to his playing Judas Iscariot in “Greatest Story.”
About a year ago he went into an unlikely sounding TV show called The Man From UNCLE, playing a Russian, and traveled 50,000 miles on a mammoth safari to promote it.
Today when he makes a public appearance, he needs police protection from fans, and a staff of secretaries at Metro is required to answer 35,000 adoring letters he gets each moth. He drives a Jaguar, has his hair cut by a Japanese woman who snips it short but fashions it to look long.
He swears it’s not an imitation of the Beatles: “I have photographs of myself like this in 1956. It’s a very convenient haircut. When you’re poked in the face and go crashing to the floor, you can give your head a shake and it falls back where it should.”
“I suppose it also cushions your face.”
“When I fall,” laughed McCallum, “I always keep my face in the camera.”
He lives within spitting distance of Schwab’s drugstore with his wife, actress Jill Ireland, and their three sons—age 7, 3 and 2: “We all look alike—it’s very narcissistic.” Success has taken him away from his children, although they’re not aware he’s famous. He doesn’t permit them to be photographed, interviewed or even seen. And he plans to spend his next vacation from UNCLE being a father.
Hollywood is not anything like he imagined: “I thought the studies would be close to the beach, and above the studios a magnificent set of hills—Beverly Hills—where everyone lived, and beyond that the San Fernando Valley, full of steers. From my general indoctrination over the years, what I miss is glamour.” Determined to see same, he drove to San Simeon not long ago, and when asked what he thought of it, said “I want it. I want to go there and live.”
He’s permanently tense: “I have no way of unwinding except work. That’s my relaxation. I go home and get tense. I try to sleep but it won’t work.”
One of the first things he acquired in Hollywood was a business manager: “I’m a different kind of Scotsman. I lived on credit for years—was always in a financial jam. My manager is wonderful—he keeps me frugal.”
His father, a concert master and violinist with the London Philharmonic is coming to America with the Mantovani Orchestra and will be in New York when David goes back to do some TV shows and meet the press. He’s arranging time out to dine with his dad and chew the fat. His mother and mother-in-law are coming too, so they’ll all reunite in Manhattan.
His parents are delighted with his success. During his lean years he constantly reassured them that some day it would be worthwhile. They had their doubts. His dad relaxed when he saw his son’s name in lights in Leicester Square – starring in an English picture called “Robbery Under Arms.” It took his mother longer to adjust.
He always played assassins and she longed for the day when he’d be a nice guy. When he got the part of Judas, she was near tears. In Uncle, he’s a sort of non-hero, a lone wolf character, but likeable. At last his mother’s happy.
“What are you planning when the series ends?” I asked.
“I never make long range predictions. I would like to make two movies and do something on the stage—all at once. A musical comedy with Carol Channing (you’ll see him in her TV special in February), a dramatic film that takes me in another direction, and a very good comedy. I’d also like a western—if it was an original idea.”
“You’d sure be a different kind of cowboy.”
“I would, wouldn’t I?”