Skip to main content

Mendoza, Lynda



David Keith McCallum, Jr. was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 1933. He came from a musical family (his mother Dorothy Dorman was a cellist; his father, David, Sr. was the principal first violinist of the Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, and the Scottish National Orchestras), but, after initially considering to follow his parents as a musician, chose instead to pursue acting as a career. McCallum graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and in the 1950s began establishing his film career with small parts in such British films as Robbery Under Arms (1957), A Night To Remember (1958), and Violent Playground (1958).   McCallum's first role in an American-made film came in 1962, when he appeared alongside Montgomery Clift in John Huston's Freud: The Secret Passion. That same year he continued to appear alongside major established actors with a supporting role in Peter Ustinov's Billy Budd. The early and mid-1960s provided McCallum with roles in several prominent films, most notably as Lieutenant Eric Ashley-Pitt in The Great Escape (1963) and Judas Iscariot in George Stevens' epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). McCallum's film work has been steady ever since, with films that include Around The World Under The Sea (1966), Sol Madrid (1968), La Cattura (The Ravine, 1969), Mosquito Squadron (1969), The Watcher In The Woods (1980), and Hear My Song (1991).   In addition, McCallum has enjoyed a long and successful acting career on the stage, not only in his native Britain but in North America and Australia as well. His productions include Angel Street, California Suite, Communicating Doors, Equus, Ghosts, Julius Caesar, The Lion In Winter, The Philanthropist, Run For Your Wife, and the 1999-2000 Broadway revival of Amadeus.   However, McCallum's most iconic performances have been on television. He first established a strong genre presence with two appearances (1963-1964) in the science fiction anthology The Outer Limits. But McCallum's fame really ignited when he was hired to play Russian secret agent Illya Kuryakin in the spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which ran from 1964-1968. [See Historical Note below for more information on the creation and popular impact of the series.] McCallum's portrayal of the soulful, brooding Kuryakin (the counterpart to co-star Robert Vaughn's suave and debonair American spy Napoleon Solo) gained him instant celebrity. He became a major teen idol, and was not infrequently mobbed by adoring fans at public appearances. In addition, his performance was critically regarded highly enough that McCallum was nominated twice for Emmys during the course of the show. To this day, McCallum remains most identified with the role of Kuryakin and it is the basis of McCallum's lasting fame.   Following the cancellation of the series in 1968, McCallum pursued other television work through the next several decades; in addition to a number of TV-movies, he played the lead in several continuing series. These include Colditz (1972-1974), a series about Allied POWs during World War II; The Invisible Man (1975-1976), an updating of the seminal H.G. Wells tale in which McCallum played a scientist who accidentally becomes invisible and uses his newfound ability to fight crime and injustice; and the British-made Sapphire and Steel (1979-1982). The last was a cult science fiction series in which McCallum (Steel) was partnered with Joanna Lumley (Sapphire) as mysterious interdimensional agents charged with preserving the integrity of time and space in our universe. In recent years, McCallum has found renewed popularity on television with the hit CBS police procedural NCIS (began 2003), where he portrays Dr. Donald Ducky Mallard, the Chief Medical Examiner for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.   McCallum also branched out into the world of music. In the late 1960s, at the height of his acting fame, he recorded several albums of music for Capitol Records. These include: Music: A Part of Me (1966), Music: A Bit More of Me (1966), Music: It's Happening Now! (1967); and McCallum (1968). On all of these albums, McCallum's musical background served him well - he used multiple instruments, including French horn, oboe, strings, guitar and drums, which he blended together as new interpretations of various pop hits of the moment.   McCallum married actress Jill Ireland in 1957. The two (who acted together on several episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) had three children: Paul, Valentine, and an adopted son, Jason, who died in 1989. McCallum and Ireland divorced in 1967, and she went on to marry McCallum's Great Escape co-star Charles Bronson. That same year, McCallum married again, to Katherine Carpenter.   Lynda Mendoza is an independent contractor based in the Chicago area. She discovered McCallum at the age of 9, when she began watching The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Like so many fans, she became fascinated with McCallum and the character of Kuryakin; as Mendoza puts it, he was a young girl's first crush. She began following his career over the succeeding decades, watching him in movies and television shows, and attending plays in which he appeared. In 1985, she approached McCallum during the run of one of his plays on the East Coast, and asked him to authorize a publication by Mendoza on his acting career (more specifically, his ongoing career since the end of U.N.C.L.E., and which pointedly left his personal life alone) The McCallum Observer, which McCallum approved and which became his official fan club, began production that year.   The Observer, and Mendoza's fan activities, are marked by a fairly close relationship with their subject. Unfortunately, when McCallum's new series NCIS began becoming popular and garnering high ratings, Mendoza was asked to cease publication of the Observer due to various rules and regulations from Paramount Pictures.   Historical Note   American television in the mid-1960s, reflecting both the international tensions of the Cold War and the strong popularity of the James Bond film series, experienced a slew of shows related to the mysterious cloak-and-dagger work of spies. One of the earliest of these, and one of the most enduring, was The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. The show premiered on September 22, 1964, and over most of the next four seasons - through 105 episodes and 8 movies (mostly derived from existing episodes) - enjoyed immense popularity and a dedicated cadre of fans. The show continues to thrive as a cult classic, and has the reputation of being of one the more influential spy shows on television.   U.N.C.L.E. was the brainchild primarily of three men: Norman Felton, Ian Fleming, and Sam Rolfe. Television producer and director Norman Felton decided in 1962 to get away from the more traditional dramas with which he had been associated, and, as he put it travel a new road that would lead to a series of fun and adventure. Felton thought that perhaps a spy thriller series (in the spirit of John Buchan or Graham Greene) would be an exciting idea. He met with author Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond and himself a former intelligence operative) to consult on the potential project. Fleming created a general outline for the show, providing two main characters, spy Napoleon Solo and his 'secretary' April Dancer. In the end, Fleming had to pull out of the project (now called Solo) due to contractual obligations, and most of his creative contributions were dropped, save the names of his characters (which Felton confessed later to believing unusable and too exotic.)   Felton brought in fellow producer Sam Rolfe to help him develop the show, and the two men truly brought The Man From U.N.C.L.E. into being. Rolfe fleshed out the character of Solo, invented the concept of the U.N.C.L.E. organization and the fictional world surrounding it, and wrote the pilot episode, The Vulcan Affair. Although Rolfe left the show after the first season, his stamp on the show is clear.   The Man From U.N.C.L.E. chronicles the adventures of two secret agents - American Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). The two are operatives for U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement), a worldwide secret organization dedicated to peace and order. Rolfe specifically designed U.N.C.L.E. as an international body free of ties to any one government but instead devoted to the interests of all nations and all peoples - this was reflected in the show's partnering of an American and a Soviet citizen, who in the real world of the Cold War would be ideological opposites. Solo and Kuryakin travel the world in the course of their activities, though U.N.C.L.E. itself is headquartered in a secret fortress (hidden behind a series of brownstones) in New York City. The two men, along with all other U.N.C.L.E. agents, are supervised by agency head Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll).   [Despite the UN in the name, and its headquarters' proximity to the real-life United Nations, Rolfe was adamant that U.N.C.L.E. was not in any way connected to the United Nations. This did not stop rabid fans throughout the show's run from bombarding the UN with inquiries about joining U.N.C.L.E.]   In the course of the show, Solo, Kuryakin, and their colleagues face a number of adversaries. However, U.N.C.L.E.'s archenemy throughout the series is a group called Thrush. Thrush is an evil, shadowy organization devoted, unsurprisingly enough, to world domination.   The show debuted in 1964 and was almost immediately embraced by the general public. Audiences enjoyed the adventures, the tongue-in-cheek humor (which became much more prominent in seasons 2-4, to the point where it almost became a spoof of itself; this change in mood produced a backlash among many fans and resulted in the show's declining popularity by its fourth season), and the entertaining implausibility of it all. Many fans, particularly female fans, were drawn to the character of Illya Kuryakin. Kuryakin was exotic, enigmatic, and emotionally complex, a contrast to his more traditionally suave and urbane partner Napoleon Solo. Fans responded to the depth of Kuryakin's character, and their enthusiasm made McCallum into a major international celebrity.   The popularity of the show inspired a brief spinoff in 1966: The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., starring Stefanie Powers as American U.N.C.L.E. agent April Dancer. It was not well-received and was cancelled after one season. Both series inspired a flurry of associated merchandise, including novels, comic books, buttons, games, toy guns and pen radios, among many others. [Many of these items are represented in the collection.] This type of cross-merchandising, now common for hit or cult television shows, was fairly unusual for the time. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. predates by two years Star Trek as perhaps the first television show to develop a passionate, organized adult fan base.   The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ended its television run on January 15, 1968.

Author: Jeremy Brett, January 2011

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lynda Mendoza Collection of David McCallum Memorabilia

Identifier: MsC0895

Collection of materials related to the actor David McCallum, assembled by the president of his official fan club. Materials include books, posters, ephemera, photographs, audio and visual recordings, and other items.

Dates: 1952-2006