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David McCallum, Renowned Actor from ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘NCIS,’ Passes Away at 90

by Madison Thomas
10 comments
David McCallum Obituary

David McCallum, the iconic actor who gained fame as a teenage sensation in the 1960s TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and later captivated audiences as the peculiar forensic pathologist in the long-running show “NCIS,” has passed away at the age of 90.

CBS announced that McCallum succumbed to natural causes on Monday, in the presence of his family, at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.

“David was an exceptionally talented actor and writer, admired globally. His remarkable life has left an indelible legacy that will continue to be cherished through his family and his extensive body of work in film and television,” CBS stated.

Originally from Scotland, McCallum had already made an impression in films such as “A Night to Remember,” “The Great Escape,” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told” where he portrayed Judas. However, it was his role in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” that turned him into a household name during the 1960s.

The series emerged in the wake of the James Bond phenomenon and even saw input from Bond creator Ian Fleming. Premiering in 1964, the show featured Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, leading a covert international organization known by the acronym U.N.C.L.E. McCallum portrayed Illya Kuryakin, Solo’s Russian colleague.

Initially a minor role, McCallum noted in a 1998 interview that the term “sidekick” was new to him. However, the show gained traction, particularly among young female viewers enchanted by McCallum’s good looks and complex character. By 1965, Illya was promoted to equal standing with Vaughn’s character. The duo was even overwhelmed by fans during public events.

The series concluded its run in 1968 but saw a revival in a 1983 TV movie, “The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” where the agents were summoned from retirement for a new mission.

In 2003, McCallum resurfaced on television in CBS’ “NCIS,” portraying Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a scholarly medical examiner with the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. To prepare for the role, McCallum observed real-life autopsies at the Los Angeles coroner’s office.

Lauren Holly, his co-star, expressed her condolences via X, formerly known as Twitter, saying, “You were the epitome of kindness. Thank you for being you.” The upcoming 20th-anniversary “NCIS” marathon will feature an “in memoriam” tribute to honor McCallum.

Over the years, McCallum received three Emmy nominations, two for his work in “U.N.C.L.E.” and one for a 1969 Hallmark Hall of Fame production, “Teacher, Teacher.”

Born in Glasgow in 1933 to a family of musicians, McCallum moved to London at a young age where he studied oboe at the Royal Academy of Music before shifting his focus to acting. After a stint in the military, he resumed his acting career and eventually moved to the United States where he became a longtime citizen.

McCallum was married twice, first to actress Jill Ireland and then to Katherine Carpenter, a former model. He is survived by three sons from his first marriage—Paul, Jason, and Valentine—and a son and daughter from his second marriage, Peter and Sophie.

Peter McCallum noted in a statement, “My father was a true polymath, deeply interested in science and culture, a man who could conduct an orchestra and even perform an autopsy, thanks to his thorough research for his role in NCIS.”

Reflecting on his career in 2007, McCallum commented, “I’ve always believed that the more effort you put in, the more luck comes your way. I’m a strong believer in serendipity, but I also know that dedication to your craft is the best way to make your mark on the world.”


The principal writer of this obituary was Bob Thomas, a veteran journalist with Big Big News, who passed away in 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about David McCallum Obituary

When did David McCallum pass away?

David McCallum passed away at the age of 90 on Monday, surrounded by his family at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. He died of natural causes.

What were David McCallum’s most notable roles?

David McCallum is most renowned for his roles in the 1960s television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” where he played Illya Kuryakin, and in the long-running CBS show “NCIS,” where he portrayed Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a forensic pathologist.

Where was David McCallum born?

David McCallum was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1933. His family moved to London when he was 3 years old.

What awards and nominations did David McCallum receive during his lifetime?

David McCallum received three Emmy nominations, two for his work in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and one for his role in a 1969 Hallmark Hall of Fame production called “Teacher, Teacher.”

Was David McCallum married? Does he have children?

David McCallum was married twice. He was initially married to actress Jill Ireland and later to Katherine Carpenter, a former model. He is survived by three sons from his first marriage—Paul, Jason, and Valentine—and a son and daughter from his second marriage, Peter and Sophie.

What preparations did David McCallum undertake for his role in “NCIS”?

To authentically portray his role as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in “NCIS,” David McCallum conducted thorough research by spending time in the Los Angeles coroner’s office to understand how autopsies are performed.

How did David McCallum’s co-stars react to his passing?

Lauren Holly, his co-star on “NCIS,” expressed her condolences via X, formerly known as Twitter, stating, “You were the epitome of kindness. Thank you for being you.”

What are some of David McCallum’s other works aside from acting?

In addition to his acting career, David McCallum was also interested in music and was capable of conducting a symphony orchestra. He had a diverse set of interests including science and culture.

How did David McCallum begin his career?

David McCallum began his acting career in the United Kingdom after completing his military service. He initially studied oboe at the Royal Academy of Music but shifted his focus to acting, studying briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Who wrote the original obituary for David McCallum?

The principal writer of the original obituary was Bob Thomas, a veteran journalist with Big Big News, who passed away in 2014.

More about David McCallum Obituary

  • David McCallum’s IMDb Profile
  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Series Overview
  • CBS’ Official Statement on David McCallum’s Passing
  • Emmy Awards: David McCallum Nominations
  • NCIS Series Information
  • Lauren Holly’s Tribute on X (formerly Twitter)
  • Hallmark Hall of Fame: Teacher, Teacher Overview
  • Royal Academy of Music Alumni
  • Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Alumni
  • Big Big News Obituaries Archive

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10 comments

Sophia Lewis September 26, 2023 - 12:25 am

He was one of the reasons I started watching NCIS, what a loss.

Reply
Laura Mitchell September 26, 2023 - 12:37 am

it’s hard to believe he’s gone. Feels like an end of an era, really.

Reply
Karen White September 26, 2023 - 3:39 am

I’ll always remember him as Ducky. Those scenes in the autopsy room were the best. RIP David.

Reply
Emily Brown September 26, 2023 - 6:52 am

so sad to hear about his passing, NCIS won’t be the same without Ducky 🙁

Reply
John Smith September 26, 2023 - 7:57 am

Wow, this is really detailed. McCallum was a legend, no doubt about it. RIP.

Reply
Sarah Williams September 26, 2023 - 8:06 am

I remember him from The Man from U.N.C.L.E, he was amazing! Truly a loss for the entertainment industry.

Reply
Timothy Clark September 26, 2023 - 3:44 pm

what a career he had, from 60’s spy dramas to NCIS. And those Emmy noms! An example for all aspiring actors.

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Jerry Turner September 26, 2023 - 4:27 pm

This is heartbreaking. McCallum had a way of making any character he played unforgettable. Gonna miss him.

Reply
Mike Anderson September 26, 2023 - 6:42 pm

Didn’t know he was Scottish-born, thanks for the info. Great actor and he will be missed.

Reply
Peter Johnson September 26, 2023 - 10:50 pm

The obit is really well written, covers all aspects of his life. Good job on that.

Reply

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