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I can remember that for a while the `must have' fashion accessory at my school was a triangular plastic Man from UNCLE badge, as worn by the heroes of the then popular US TV series of the same name. Some kids imagined they were Ilya Kuryakin, the Russian spy with the blonde Beatles haircut, who was played by David McCallum, but the others, including myself, pretended to be the suave Napoleon Solo, as played by Robert Vaughn.

Forty years on, Robert Vaughn is still starring on TV, this time in the popular British series, Hustle. In this series Vaughn plays a conman, not a spy, but they are basically the same cool & debonair character, the type that Vaughn as played in countless films & TV series since the early fifties.

Robert Vaughn has had a long & successful acting career then, but there is much more to him than that. When not in front of the camera Vaughn enjoys to study the art of acting and, having read many books on the subject, holds many opinions about it. He is also a very political animal. He was vehemently opposed to the United States conflict with Vietnam in the sixties and was a friend of Robert Kennedy, campaigning on his behalf during his bid to become the US President.

Whilst these interests may make Vaughn a more rounded individual that the average Hollywood star, unfortunately they also make Vaughn's autobiography 'A Fortunate Life' a dull book.

I read this book to learn about Robert Vaughn's acting career and his life. Instead too many pages are devoted to his politics and his theories on acting, which I found very heavy going. Whilst the chapters about his show biz childhood (his parents were both thespians) are excellent, much of his later career his only touched upon, or not mentioned at all. Likewise, whilst he has been married to his life Linda since 1974, she is only mentioned in passing and his adopted daughters, Cassidy & Caitlin get even less coverage.

Many of his anecdotes about his film appearances are excellent, if he would have included more of these at the expense of his political recollections this would have been a much more readable book.
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on 6 February 2011
This starts off quite well with Mr Vaughan's childhood and his life as a drama student and struggling young actor in the 1950s, but thereafter it becomes rather fragmented. Fans of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will find little of interest here unfortunately. The tone of the book made it seem like the text of a speech or public lecture, rather than a more personal engagement with the reader, with rather windy phrases about ' those of us who worship at the shrine of Thespis' (he means actors).
The anecdotes mainly seem to involve unfortunate incidents in restauraunts, boozing sessions with carousing actors and involvement with the political scene in the US in the sixties. The book's title seems to refer more to the circles he's moved in, as we get virtually nothing about his family life and not much cheer in the showbiz remembrances.
An American readership would presumambly find the long and frankly rather boring diversions into US politics in the 60s, the anti-war movement at the time of the Vietnam war and theories about how Aristotle Onassis had Robert Kennedy murdered more fascinating than I did. Mr Vaughan's political commitment is laudable, but takes up too much of this book.
When we finally seem to be getting back into a proper biography the book comes to a sudden halt with a pretentious 'epilogue' about advice on how to get into the profession of being an 'AC-tor' and the theory of acting.
I look forward hopefully to David McCallum writing his biography and yes, I did prefer Kuryakin to Solo back then!
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on 18 July 2013
As a child I loved the Man from Uncle, then the Magnificent Seven, then the Protectors and these days his role on the Hustle. Sadly you are halfway through the book before you reach the chapter on the Man from Uncle having read through accounts of Hollywood greats that you need to be over sixty years old to remember. Then his role in the Protectors and his recent role in the Hustle are both passed over in a couple of lines. He speaks about his political activities at length and some of the lesser known films that he has starred in and actors he has known but one chapter on the Man from Uncle was a disappointing return for me on this book. Certainly if you are thinking of buying this book because you enjoy him in the Hustle then save your money.
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on 1 February 2009
As a youngster, I always watched the TV series : The Man From UNCLE and became a fan of the programme.
This autobiography written by Robert Vaughn is compelling reading - well written and a revelation on the character and life of the author.
It is a book that once you start, you cannot put down.
Robert Vaughn must be an inspiration to all aspiring actors and actresses. Through sheer determination, hardwork and confidence he progressed in his career in theatre (Hamlet), film and TV.
In the present depressing times, this book makes exceedingly good reading.
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on 6 April 2009
If you remember those classic films, Magnificent Seven and Bullit and the the great TV series Man from Uncle you will love the memories of what made Robert Vaughan such a popular man and actor with fortune playing a major role in his life.
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on 29 August 2013
An interesting read, well written, combining American politics with an insight into the world of Hollywood in the golden era of the fifties and sixtes. Well worth the money for those with an interest in the the two dominant themes.
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on 12 October 2013
The Hollywood gossip is interesting although most of it was revealed in interviews promoting this book. Gets very political with his views on the Robert Kennedy assassination and the Johnson administration of the 60's
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on 15 May 2010
This was a disappointment. Compared to the Ernest Borgnine autobiography, which was splendid, this was really boring and I wouldn't recommend it. Shame really!
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on 22 March 2009
A highly interesting read with great insights into Robert Vaughn's life and his 50 years in showbuisness. This book is well worth a read for anyone who is a fan of Robert and his work.
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on 29 September 2010
As the subject says I feel fortunate to have read Mr Vaughan's book - his insights on the acting world, the political wrangles in the US in the 60's/70's and the life of a Hollywood star are all fascinating and well written. If you're looking for an "...and then I met this actress and bedded her" type of autobiography that's full of worthless tittle tattle then this is not the book for you. If you're looking for an intelligent read written by an intelligent person, then I urge you to buy this. As mentioned by previous reviewers the book does go into the theories of acting and Mr Vaughan's political interests - but then both subjects are obviously close to his heart and as much a part of his life as playing Napoleon Solo was, so why shouldn't they be included? Sure there are some wonderful anecdotes contained within the pages - particularly loved the Oliver Reed and Richard Harris ones.

There is not a great deal of mention of his private life i.e. his marriage etc - but then perhaps that's out of respect to his wife and her family - something to be respected in return surely?

All in all Mr Vaughan strikes me as a fascinating and intelligent person - but down to earth and grounded with it - there's no small part of self-deprecation in places and this is definitely not one of those autobiographies that are one big personal backslap for the author. Mr Vaughan strikes me as charming, intelligent and the kind of person I'd enjoy sharing a pint and a chat with - so Mr Vaughan should you happen to read this and ever fancy a beer or two please do drop me a line!!
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