Robert Francis Vaughn, PhD, is an American actor noted for stage, film and television work. He is perhaps best known as suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s series The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
Vaughn was born in New York City to showbiz parents Marcella Frances, a stage actress, and Gerald Walter Vaughn, a radio actor. He was raised in an Irish Catholic family, living with his grandparents in while his mother traveled. He attended North High School and later enrolled in the University of Minnesota as a journalism major. He quit after a year and moved to with his mother. He enrolled in Los Angeles City College, then transferred to Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, where he earned a Master's degree in theater. Continuing his higher education even through his successful acting career, Vaughn earned a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Southern California, in 1970. In 1972, he published his dissertation as the book Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting.
Vaughn made his television debut on the November 21, 1955 "Black Friday" episode of the American TV series Medic, the first of more than two hundred episodic roles by mid-2000. He appeared with Virginia Christine in the episode "The Twisted Road", the story of a troubled brother-sister relationship which results in the murder of a young woman, of the western syndicated series, Frontier Doctor, starring Rex Allen in the title role.
His first film appearance was as an uncredited extra in The Ten Commandments, playing a golden calf idolater and also visible in a scene in a chariot behind that of Yul Brynner. Vaughn's first credited movie role came the following year in the Western Hell's Crossroads, in which he played the real-life Bob Ford, the killer of outlaw Jesse James. After being seen by Burt Lancaster in Calder Willingham's play End as a Man, Vaughn was signed to a contract with Lancaster's film company and was to have played the Steve Dallas role in The Sweet Smell of Success but was drafted into the Army before he could begin the film.