A FORTUNATE LIFE by Robert Vaughn


A Memoir
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Television’s superspy had more fun than you ever will.

Immortalized as James Bond manqué Napoleon Solo, Vaughn gives a spirited account of his life and career as a man-about-Hollywood in the swinging ’60s and beyond. A self-acknowledged egotist, the actor relishes juicy anecdotes featuring himself—a felicitous quality in a memoirist—and recounts his adventures with entertaining verve. He conveys with infectious glee the heady thrill of dating beauties like Natalie Wood and palling around with rough-and-tumble glamour boy Steve McQueen. Vaughn is a good sport about the ups and downs of his mercurial career, which included an Oscar nomination for The Young Philadelphians and signature roles in The Magnificent Seven and Bullitt. His hit series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., went from international phenomenon to cancellation in a remarkably short span of time—due to indifferent writing and poor guidance from the producers, according to the author—but he seems to have fully enjoyed the perks at the crest of his massive fame and navigated the troughs with philosophical good humor. Vaughn expresses concern at one point that his breezy optimism might signal some sort of psychological deficiency, but the lack of navel-gazing is positively refreshing in the realm of celebrity autobiography. The book does have more serious passages dealing with Vaughn’s passionate involvement in the antiwar movement. Copiously detailed, well-reasoned arguments against the U.S. policy in Vietnam, while displaying an impressive commitment to the subject, do seem at odds with the jaunty tone of the showbiz tales. Also in this vein are a nightmarish description of smoking marijuana, which sounds like something out of Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States, and a strange conspiracy theory linking the assassination of Robert Kennedy to Aristotle Onassis. Happily, the actor devotes much more space to rip-snorting tales of getting hammered with Richard Harris, escaping Venezuelan house arrest disguised as a native, contemplating Oliver Reed’s tattooed member and other good times.

Fast-paced, witty, gossipy, old-school Hollywood fun.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-37112-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2008