Friday, November 11, 2016

The Last of the Seven

Robert Vaughn died today at age 83. As noted above, he was the last surviving title character from John Sturges' 1960 film The Magnificent Seven, a loose remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai that was itself loosely remade this year. Before that film Vaughn had played a range of troubled juveniles, from the baby-faced killer in the western Good Day For a Hanging to the title character of Teenage Caveman. With a high-profile role in the Sturges film following an Academy Award nomination for The Young Philadelphians Vaughn seemed on the path to movie stardom, but TV was still where the consistent money was for the young actor. He lasted a year on The Lieutenant before landing the gig he'll be remembered for as Napoleon Solo on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. That should have been a springboard to movie stardom but before long Vaughn was back on TV, this time in Great Britain as one of The Protectors. From there it was back and forth between TV, where his name still had some prestige, and increasingly schocky movies. He was stunt-cast as a judge in a Magnificent Seven TV series, and at a low ebb you could see him plugging local law firms on cable TV, but did his most substantial work during the 21st century back in Britain, as a mentor to con artists in the Hustle show. People who watched it tell me it was redemptive work for Vaughn, to an extent. He probably never got as far ahead in Hollywood as he hoped, but he did end up a sort of pop-culture icon.

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