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A Fortunate Life Hardcover – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“Robert Vaughn is a gifted storyteller. He writes breathtakingly well, capturing English prose-poetry with all the joy of an eminent Casanova. Here in this Fortunate Life you will find elegant bawdiness, ribald tales, plus a rowdy, outrageous recounting of the doings of the famous and the infamous in the worlds of theater, politics, and business. You will read about hair-raising escapes from the Soviet invasion and from an extortionate situation in South America. Vaughn is modest on his success and hilarious on the subject of his failures. There is an astonishing revelation on the subject of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. A Fortunate Life is no mere ‘then I…’ book stuffed with fluff. It has life, love, laughter, tragedy, but above it all hilarity and is indeed inspiring.” ---Malachy McCourt,, author of A Monk Swimming

About the Author

Robert Vaughn has appeared in more than a hundred motion pictures, including The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt (for which he won a British Oscar nomination), and The Young Philadelphians, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. His work in television has earned him an Emmy among other honors, and his role as Napoleon Solo on the hit television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has earned him lasting fame. The series won the Hollywood Foreign Press Golden Globe as the best television show in the world in 1965. Vaughn received the Photoplay Gold Medal award as the most popular actor in America, presented to him by the previous year’s winner, John Wayne. Vaughn is also a serious student of politics and world affairs.  He played a leading role in the antiwar movement of the 1960s.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1970, and his book on the Hollywood blacklist, Only Victims, was published in 1972. Vaughn has most recently starred in the BBC/AMC Original Series Hustle. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Linda, and is the father of a son, Cassidy, and a daughter, Caitlin.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312371128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312371128
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,204,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ian Payn on January 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Actors of a certain age seem to have rushed into print in the last year. Moore, Borgnine, Plummer, Wagner, Curtis...on and on the list goes. A Fortunate Life, by Robert Vaughn (with no "co-writer") is by far and away one of the most interesting and best-written of the bunch. Although the focus is on Vaughn's life as an actor (of course) there is much on his commitment to politics, and a brief sidetrack into philosophy, which, because of the way it's done, isn't tiresome in the least. Stories of the stars abound, of course -that's what sells, but there's much more besides. I'd always assumed that the author came from affluent, or at least comfortable stock. This isn't the case at all, he came from a more-or-less itinerant theatrical background. He rose through the ranks in Hollywood until becoming the hottest property in the world sometime around the mid-sixties. That his star has inevitably waned somewhat since then hasn't affected his love of work and dedication to his craft. A charming journey with a charming man. And there's an index - take note, Christopher Plummer!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robert Vaughn made television history with David McCallum in THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, created by James Bond novelist Ian Fleming during a brief New York visit in the early 60s. Vaughn's million dollar success is something he treats naturally. gracefully, in this new memoir, explaining it as a fluke that could have happened to anyone. I like hearing about Leo G Carroll, a former neighbor of mine; Vaughn provides several new anecdotes I had never heard about LGC, the man whom Hitchcock prized above all other actors. He was such a gentleman and played the part of Mr. Waverly to a T.

The show turned into a camp spectacle once William Dozier's "BATMAN" series became a hit, and U.N.C.L.E producers thought they could freshen up flagging ratings with silly stunts for Solo and Kuriyakin to perform. Vaughn was a serious actor trained at Los Angeles City College and he could see the writing on the wall. When the show was cancelled he jumped right into political activism and minor parts in hit movies like BULLITT and THE TOWERING INFERNO. Along the way he tried to be a good son to an actress mother who sounds like a very dear charmer, but it does seem weird that he had to live in the same one bedroom with his mother from the ages of 17 through 23. What was that like?

Couldn't have been stranger than making a film in France with Maria Schneider and halfway through, she committed herself into an insane asylum and demanded that Vaughn direct her from there, like Marat/Sade! The best parts of Vaughn's book are his relationship with his mom, his observations on the now forgotten Joyce Jameson and Joan O'Brien, his sex romp with Steve McQueen and a flotilla of seven hired Mexican hookers to celebrate the completion of The Magnificent Seven, and meeting Lady Bird Johnson.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By EddieLove on March 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps because he seems so intense and humorless onscreen, it's surprising how enormously appealing Robert Vaughn's memoir is. It's a very entertaining read, which offers studied ruminations on acting, Hamlet, politics and philosophy but is still unpretentious fun.

What other 60's TV star was getting a PhD at the height of their fame while still delighting in the randy exploits TV stardom allowed? He doesn't have any illusions about his own talents and we don't get any griping about TV fame short-changing other opportunities, probably because he cares about things other than show business. His unheralded early opposition to the Vietnam War at the height of his fame was pretty remarkable. He was so well versed on the topic that he would debate William F. Buckley on TV for hours. All told, he comes off as a thoroughly admirable person.

There are some problems with the editing here, though. Both Nancy Reagan and Zev Buffman are introduced twice. Also, John Sturges didn't direct Somebody Up There Likes Me (Robert Wise did) and the actor Simon Russell Beale is referred to as George Russell Meade (?!?)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Neil Cotiaux on March 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If Louis Malle ever wanted to reshoot "My Dinner With Andre," his cinematic conversation in which one world-weary friend recounts numerous exploits while the other listens with rapt attention, he would have to look no further than Robert Vaughn.

In that hushed, almost conspiratorial voice used to such great effect in "Bullitt" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," one can almost hear actor-author Vaughn take us into his confidence as he ushers us along the winding highway of his life.

In an odd, parallel universe to his on-camera role as Napoleon Solo, Vaughn actually became witness to, or embroiled in, a series of offscreen global intrigues including: an extortion demand below a decaying drive-in in Venezuela; the sudden disappearance of a freedom fighter as Soviet tanks rolled into Prague; bodyguards in the Andes; and the disclosure by a New York socialite of a purported confession by one of the world's richest men that he bankrolled the assassination of one of America's most charismatic politicians.

If that's not enough drama, Vaughn - one of the first actors in Hollywood to publicly oppose the Vietnam War - chronicles his academic absorption of that country's tribulations, culminating in a very respectable in-studio debate with William F. Buckley, Jr. He also recounts his glamorous and not-so-glamorous work on behalf of JFK, RFK and the late Allard Lowenstein, one of the gurus of mid-century liberal activism. Vaughn is an extremely literate and thoughtful individual who wore his anti-war passions on his sleeve, and his fervor for politics as an instrument for social good is on abundant display here.
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