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Screen Icon: Robert Vaughn




Robert Vaughn has become one of the few honorary American icons that have been fully embraced by the British public. He's established himself to legions of new fans after his starring role in eight seasons of UK drama, Hustle and next week sees him guest star in the country's most-love soap-opera, Coronation Street. These two roles are just the icing on top of the 79 year old New Yorker's unbelievable career and we've taken a look at some of his finest performances. It may shock you that Pootie Tang (Why, Robert? Why?) is not included.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Plot: Western in which an oppressed Mexican village hires seven gunfighters to help defend their homes from bandits.
Verdict: This remake of The Seven Samurai is regarded as one of the best classic westerns. Vaughn features in an unbelievable cast which includes Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner and James Coburn. Great fun that still holds up over fifty years later.
Success?: Financial success that lead to three sequels and a television series.
How's Robert? Robert manages to make an impression against several giants of the acting world as Lee, the suave fugitive.

The tightest trousers in the West

The Man From Uncle (1964-1968)
Plot: The two top agents of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement fight the enemies of peace, particularly the forces of THRUSH (I understand most people would normally just buy Canesten.)
Verdict: Outlandish and charming series, that has remained a cult favourite. Campness increased over the years, becoming more spoof and slapstick (yet still highly enjoyable - where else are you going to see Robert Vaughn dance with a man in a gorilla suit?)
Success?: Ratings success originally, leading to eight feature films and a short-lived Stefanie Powers lead spin-off The Girl From Uncle. However, popularity dwindled and the fourth season eventually saw the show cancelled.
How's Robert? Robert was the star of the show and delivers as the sophisticated, charming and intelligent Napoleon Solo.

Robert and David were trying to perfect their 'sleazy bachelor' poses.

Bullitt (1968)

Plot: A San Francisco cop hunts down the criminal kingpin that murdered a witness in his protection.  

Verdict: Slick and stylish direction from Peter Yates, paired with cool performances from McQueen and Vaughn make this one of the premier examples of the police drama.

Success?: Huge success, making $42m on a $5m budget

How's Robert? It's a tough job to steal scenes from Steve McQueen, but I believe Robert did just that as scheming politician, Chalmers.  

The staring contest sounded fun at first, but six hour later the fun began to dwindle.

The Towering Inferno
(1974)
Plot: A fire breaks out in a towering office building, trapping all those inside.
Verdict: Alongside Earthquake, this is one of the definitive all-star disaster films. No questions asked.
Success?: The Towering Inferno made a cheeky little $140m
How's Robert? Vaughn stars as a Senator visiting the tower and is a joy to watch.

The quiff was never Robert's best hair decision

The Lucifer Complex (1978)

Plot: An intelligence agent discovers a Nazi plot to revive the Third Reich by using clones. 

Verdict: Most of Robert's films up until this point have been rather excellent, so lets throw in some wonderfully bad ones. The Lucifer Complex  is a cheap, nonsensical piece of sci-fi but is perfectly awful. 

Success?: Little details available, but it looks cheap and it's reasonably unknown so I'm going to say Flopageddon.

How's Robert? Vaughn sleepwalks through this mess but it's entertaining to see him still manage shine in this steaming pile of turd.  


One of the first films to be made on a budget of 12 pence - and all of that was spent on Robert's lunchtime Chicken Nuggets.

Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)

PlotStar Wars/Seven Samurai inspired trash that follows seven futuristic mercenaries who are assembled to defend a helpless farm colony from an evil overlord. 

Verdict:  It's cheap but great fun with an entertaining cast and some charming dodgy effects.

Success?: Shockingly, it was actually successful - making $11m on a $2m budget

How's Robert?  He's essentially playing the same character from TMS but he's in space. He's fun to watch, although I'm sure he's a little bored of all the nonsense.


Robert wasn't happy about his decision to couple up with the white dwarf and creature from the black lagoon.

Superman III (1983) 
Plot: Superman is split in two forming essentially bad Superman and good Superman. Oooooh!
Verdict: Enjoyable, despite being a rehash of the previous two - the odd fresh element that it brings makes it worth the watch. Richard Pryor gets annoying fast. 
Success?: Critically violated (Oh that sounds nasty) but moderate financial success.
How's Robert? Gene who? Vaughn may be playing a similar character, but he's deliciously evil and its great fun to see him in the villain role.
"Do you think they'll notice I'm not Gene Hackman?"

Emerald Point NAS (1983-1984) 
Plot: Aaron Spelling soap opera set in a naval air station (NAS, get it now?)
Verdict: Enjoyable albeit slightly forgettable soap, that fuses traditional soap elements with a more military inspired scenarios. Enjoyable to fans of Spelling's work.
Success?: Ratings failure, but to be honest how could it succeed in a span of 22 short-lived episodes? Goes down with Models Inc and Titans as one of the great lost soaps. 
How's Robert? Vaughn is great value as Harlan Adams, a scheming industrialist and once again shines in a more villainous role.


Hustle (2004-2012) 
Plot: A team of London based grifters take part in series outlandish cons against some of society's most undeserving people.
Verdict: Hustle is great fun as well as unpredictable and intelligent. It's a fine example of British drama, where the quality has simple increased over it's eight year run. 
Success?: Ratings are continually increasing and the show is set to end on a high note later this year.
How's Robert? Vaughn is a firm audience favourite as kind-hearted crook Albert Stroller. He's a joy to watch and brings a nice sense of Hollywood charm.


And there you have it, a selection of the very best (and terribly enjoyable) of Robert Vaughn's work. You can watch him in Hustle on Fridays at 9pm on BBC One, and in Coronation Street from next week at 7.30pm on ITV1.
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