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DAVID McCALLUM (1933-2023)

DAVID McCALLUM (1933-2023)

David McCallum, who starred as Illya Kuryakin alongside Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in the 1960s hit spy drama “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and had a supporting role as pathologist Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on the top-rated series “NCIS” decades later, died Monday of natural causes in New York City. He was 90.

His son Peter said, “After returning from the hospital to their apartment, I asked my mother if she was OK before she went to sleep. Her answer was simply, “Yes. But I do wish we had had a chance to grow old together.” She is 79, and dad just turned 90. The honesty in that emotion shows how vibrant their beautiful relationship and daily lives were, and that somehow, even at 90, Daddy never grew old.”

David Keith McCallum was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to a father who was first violinist for the London Philharmonic and a mother who was a cellist. Thus he originally pursued a career in music, training on the oboe and studying for a time at the Royal Academy of Music, though he soon left and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After RADA he started performing with repertory theater companies.

But he had actually begun his professional acting career when he was 12, in 1946, performing for the BBC radio repertory company.

The young actor appeared in the big screen crime dramas “The Secret Place,” “Hell Drivers” and “Violent Playground” in the late ’50s along with the Australian Western “Robbery Under Arms,” starring Peter Finch.

In 1963 McCallum had the good fortune to be cast in the high-profile, monumentally successful American-made film “The Great Escape,” starring Steve McQueen and a host of others. McCallum was a key supporting player as a member of the team nicknamed “Dispersal,” and though his performance is not the first thing one remembers from the film, it allowed him to break through. In George Stevens’ 1964 Christ epic “The Greatest Story Every Told,” starring Max Von Sydow, McCallum played Judas, further boosting his profile — the New York Times said, “David McCallum’s Judas Iscariot oozes a chilling treachery.”

McCallum starred in a critically hailed miniseries adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” for Britain’s ITV, and starred opposite Joanna Lumley in the ITV sci-fi series “Sapphire & Steele,” which ran for six seasons beginning in 1979.

McCallum was twice married, the first time to actress Jill Ireland.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Katherine McCallum, his sons Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum and Peter McCallum, his daughter Sophie McCallum and his eight grandchildren: Julia McCallum, Luca de Sanctis, Iain de Sanctis, Stella McCallum, Gavin McCallum, George McCallum, Alessandro de Sanctis and Whit McCallum.

Donations may be made to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation -


David McCallum Violent Playground Kidnapped Hell Drivers