David McCallum: Actor who starred in hit shows The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS dies age 90

David McCallum: Actor who starred in hit shows The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS dies age 90

Actor David McCallum, who became a teen heartthrob in the hit series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960s and starred in the popular NCIS 40 years later, has died aged 90.

McCallum died on Monday of natural causes surrounded by family at New York Presbyterian Hospital, CBS said in a statement.

“David was a gifted actor and author, and beloved by many around the world. He led an incredible life, and his legacy will forever live on through his family and the countless hours on film and television that will never go away,” said a statement from CBS.

Scottish-born McCallum had been doing well appearing in such films A Night to Remember (about the Titanic), The Great Escape and The Greatest Story Ever Told (as Judas). But it was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that made the blonde actor with the Beatlesque haircut a household name in the mid-60s.

The success of the James Bond books and films had set off a chain reaction, with secret agents proliferating on both large and small screens. Indeed, Bond creator Ian Fleming contributed some ideas as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was being developed, according to Jon Heitland’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book.

The show, which debuted in 1964, starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, an agent in a secretive, high-tech squad of crime fighters whose initials stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Despite the Cold War, the agency had an international staff, with McCallum as Illya Kuryakin, Solo’s Russian sidekick.

The series lasted until 1968. Vaughn and McCallum reunited in 1983 for a nostalgic TV movie, The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., in which the agents were lured out of retirement to save the world once more.

David McCallum pictured in 1975 (AP)
David McCallum pictured in 1975 (AP)

McCallum returned to television in 2003 in another series with an agency known by its initials - CBS’s NCIS. He played Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a bookish pathologist for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, an agency handling crimes involving the Navy or the Marines. Mark Harmon played the NCIS boss.

Co-star Lauren Holly took to X, formerly Twitter, to mourn: “You were the kindest man. Thank you for being you.”

McCallum’s work with U.N.C.L.E. brought him two Emmy nominations, and he got a third as an educator struggling with alcoholism in a 1969 Hallmark Hall of Fame drama called Teacher, Teacher.

In 1975, he had the title role in a short-lived science fiction series, The Invisible Man, and from 1979 to 1982 he played Steel in a British science fiction series, Sapphire and Steel. Over the years, he also appeared in guest shots in many TV shows, including Murder, She Wrote and Sex and the City.