Vaughn's impressive career stretches back to the late '50s when he came to prominence with a role in The Young Philadelphians, for which he received the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, and an Oscar nomination in the same category. Following this critical acclaim, Vaughn joined the eponymous ensemble of The Magnificent Seven - an ensemble that has no surviving members now that Vaughn has passed away, he was the last sadly. It was hard to grab much spotlight in a cast full of the likes of Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, James Coburn and Charles Bronson, but Vaughn's depiction of Lee - an in demand bounty hunter losing his nerve - was a fine one and always attracts my attention. Indeed, I often used to say if I could pick which one of the Seven I'd choose to be, I'd go for Lee - he was truly interesting, and he had the best clothes!
Vaughn achieved TV success with the lead role of Napoleon Solo in campy spy classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E from 1964 to 1968 alongside David McCallum. This is the role Vaughn is perhaps best known for, spawning spin offs both on the big and small screen, merchandise and an international audience for years to come. When the series ended, Vaughn reunited with his Magnificent Seven co-star Steve McQueen to play the shady Californian politician, Chalmers, in the hip crime thriller Bullitt for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor and played a Nazi in 1969's war drama The Bride at Remagen
At the start of the 1970s, Vaughn was UK bound to star in two series of Gerry Anderson's live action series The Protectors, whilst in his native America he had guest roles in high profile, popular series like Columbo. Prominent big screen projects in that decade included roles in The Towering Inferno and Battle Beyond the Stars, essentially updating his Lee character from The Magnificent Seven for a sci fi and family audience, which he would later return to with 1983's Superman III in which he played villainous multi-millionaire Ross Webster.
In the autumn of his years, Vaughn's career received a new lease of life thanks to the BBC's enjoyably light drama series Hustle which ran from 2004 to 2012. The series, about a team of stylish and intelligent confidence tricksters who relieved the rich and nasty of their money, often delivering it to the poor and needy, was a huge hit and Vaughn starred as the granddaddy of the group, legendary American grifter Albert Stroller across all eight series. He last appeared on UK TV screens with a short stint on, of all things, Coronation Street, in 2012!
Vaughn's original career plan was journalism before he developed the acting bug and gained a masters in theatre. An intelligent and politically attuned man, Vaughn continued his education alongside his showbusiness career, gaining a PHD in communication and publishing his dissertation, Only Victims: A Study In Showbusiness Blacklisting, in 1972. Vaughn was a long-time member of the Democratic Party and was an active campaigner in the 1960s and the first popular US actor to take a public stand against the Vietnam War, founding Dissenting Democrats alongside Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner in protest at the war.