from Motion Picture magazine
You should have heard her roar of laughter when we asked David McCallum's mother all about TV's smoldering, sexy young star!
"Our Davey a Sex Symbol?"
"I've been told actors occasionally get so carried away with a part they're playing they begin to live the role, but what David McCallum is doing is ridiculous. Even David's mother, Dorothy McCallum, is puzzled by his behavior:
"I don't know why he should be so secretive. He's got nothing to hide."
Well, I've got nothing to hide, and I don't intend to be secretive about what he did to me. I consider the hampering of one's efforts to earn an honest living, such as it is, a gross injustice.
I admit frankly I am not Scottish, but I hasten to add I had an uncle who played the bagpipes like a true native of the Highlands. I feel that that link with David McCallum's homeland, weak as it may be, entitled me to expect better treatment at his hands.
This report must begin with my involvement with David, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 1933, and who moved to London with his family when he was a very small child.
Before departing for a vacation in Great Britain, it was suggested that I research the background for this magazine's "home-town report" or "I knew him when" story being prepared on David McCallum, the popular co-star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
I was, without a doubt, the perfect choice for the assignment. For not only was I a faithful viewer of NBC's top-rated show, but was also an avid fan of the lean Scotsman who plays the role of Illya Kuryakin, the stoic Russian agent who weekly darts from one bloodcurdling situation to another.
With the orders of my assignment tucked in my suitcase, I left Hollywood happy as a lark. Little did I know that soon I was to become a clay pigeon! But that's getting ahead of my story ...
After settling down in a quite London hotel, I got out the GPO Telephone Directory book. Unlike us, the British take pride in being in the "books." I turned to the Mc's and found two D. McCallums, one D. C., one David and one David C. McCallum. Instead of calling each to find the parents of the U.N.C.L.E. agent, I got the number of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I knew that David's father had played with this world-famous group as lead violinist. I was sure they would have his phone number.
I called, or as a Londoner would say, I rang up Hunter 9771. I explained to a pleasant lady that I was trying to get in touch with the David McCallum who had performed with them. After speaking in glowing terms about McCallum's service with the Philharmonic, she inquired as to my reason for wanting to get in touch. I told her I was researching a story on his son.
"His son!" she exclaimed, her voice ringing with astonishment.
"Yes. David McCallum, Jr."
"David McCallum's son?"
"Yes," I reassured her.
"Whatever for?" she asked.
"He's a very popular television star in the States," I explained.
"Well," she said, sniffing contemptuously, "I should think you'd be more interested in doing a story on OUR David McCallum. He's a very talented artist."
I agreed, but as my mission was David Junior, I had no choice. She then gave me the names and numbers of other top English musicians who would be happy to supply material on McCallum Senior - in case I decided to do a piece on him. She also gave me the home phone number of David's parents.
Immediately I rang up Hampstead 8229. A lovely warm voice answered.
"Mrs. McCallum?" I inquired.
"Yes, this is Mrs. McCallum."
I introduced myself and explained my assignment.
"You've come all the way over here to talk to us about David?" she asked in a soft voice.
"Yes," I answered.
"Well now, isn't that nice. Of course," she continued, "we knew he was getting along, but had no idea he was so important."
I told her that on a recent personal-appearance tour he was actually mobbed by his teen-age fans, proving that he has become our new sex symbol.
"Our Davey!" she exclaimed. "Our Davey's a sex symbol?"
Mrs. McCallum, her voice throbbing with laughter, added, "Wait till I tell his father. Our David a sex symbol. The poor pet." As her laughter died down, I told her I would need a lot of family anecdotes, and as many photographs of David as possible.
"Aye. I have many snaps of David, but it'll take a little time to get them all together. You'll have to give me a couple of days. Tell me, my dear, is this a very big magazine?"
"Has one of the largest circulations in the States," I reported honestly.
"How nice! How very nice. Will it be all right," she asked after a pause, "if we make it for breakfast on Wednesday?"
"Breakfast on Wednesday will be fine."
Usually I don't engage in long phone conversations, but that day we chatted on for about 45 minutes like two old friends. She told me they had hoped David would follow in his father's footsteps and make music his career.
"He could have been a violinist, like his father, or a pianist. He has the hands. Strong. And the self-discipline. A good musician needs discipline. And David has that." After a slight pause, she continued, "But he wanted to act."
"I can tell you're very proud of him."
"Proud of David? I should say! He's such a dear pet." I liked the way she said "dear pet." Later I was to think of him as a dear pest.
Before ringing off, Mrs. McCallum suggested I check with her the day before our date. "And don't you worry, dear," she said, "I'll have a lot of snaps for you, some of David with his brother and friends."
For the next couple of days I went happily about seeing the sights of London, but if I had known what was taking place I wouldn't have been so happy. I would have been downright miserable. The day before our breakfast date I called as I had promised.
"Oh, my dear, I don't know what to say, or how to tell you," said Mrs. McCallum. I waited for her to go on, but she said nothing. After a couple of seconds had passed, I said, "I hope nothing is wrong."
"I don't know how to tell you I .... I received a cable this morning. From David. In it he says I'm not to talk to you. He didn't explain, just that I'm not even to see you."
I opened my mouth to speak, but couldn't omit (sic) a sound. Mrs. McCallum must have sensed my state of shock, for she said comfortingly, "I'm sure you're a nice person."
Gathering all of my strength, I cried out, "I am! Really I am."
There was another long silence, then she continued, "I'm so embarrassed, my dear. I can't tell you how embarrassed we both are. Mr. McCallum changed his plans for tomorrow just so he could spend time with you ... and now ... well, I don't know what to say."
"Please, Mrs. McCallum, please don't be upset. There must be a logical reason," I said, though for the life of me I couldn't think of one. "I'm sure," I added, "David has nothing to hide."
"Of course not," she said defensively. "David has had a good life. A good home. He's got nothing to hide. Nothing to be ashamed of."
"Did the cable say anything else?" I asked.
"Only that a letter follows."
"Oh, it's all clear now," I explained in absolute relief. "I'll bet there are certain pictures, maybe baby pictures, the he doesn't want you to show me. Maybe even certain things that happened when he was a little boy that he feels are best left untold. That's it, I'm sure."
"You've made me feel so much better," said Mrs. McCallum. "I've been looking forward so much to meeting you. You know," she continues, "your voice reminds me very much of a girl I knew years ago. A very lovely girl. One of my dearest friends."
It was decided that I should call back in a couple of days after David's letter had arrived and we would set up another breakfast date.
The following Tuesday morning I again rang Mrs. McCallum. She recognized my voice at once and before I had a chance to ask a single question, she said in a cold, guarded voice, "David's letter arrived. It confirms the orders in his cable. I am not to talk to you."
"Did he give a reason?" I asked.
"He doesn't want anyone giving our stories about him," she said firmly.
"Not even his parents?" I exclaimed.
"If you want any information about David," she said tersely, "you'll have to speak to him yourself."
Whatever David had said in his letter had made me a foe and she was on guard against
me. I attempted to put forward sound arguments favor of ignoring David's orders, but she remained steadfast.
"I may go to visit David in California in a couple of months," she told me. "Maybe we can meet then."
"If David lets us," I said with a shallow little laugh. "If David lets us."
As I hung up I had grave doubts that David would ever let me meet his mother. If I must say so myself, and I'm sure David McCallum won't say it for me, I'm really a very nice person - a typical "meet-my-mother" type. I'm an ardent museum-library frequenter, a devout Sunday church goer. I sincerely care about my fellow man. I also care about stray dogs and cats, lost parakeets and even leafless trees. Suddenly I was mad. More than mad. I was furious. Furious with David McCallum for putting me in such an embarrassing position. Who did he think I was? A "THRUSH" agent?
That was it! There could be no logical reasons for David's behavior - only illogical ones such as: (a) He'd been playing the role of Illya Kuryakin so long he was suffering from Uncleitis, an almost always fatal disease which causes its victims to see little pink THRUSH agents everywhere; (b) THRUSH had learned of my mission and not wanting an U.N.C.L.E. agent to get a big national magazine spread was out to sabotage me. There was, of course, another reason. A logical one. David had something to hide. But reasons, illogical or logical, I was determined to carry on.
I did the next best thing in preparing for my role of counter agent: I went to see a James Bond movie. But after viewing Dr. No, I had to abandon my Bond plans. I just didn't measure up to the Bond women!
Falling back on my years of watching Dragnet, I decided to stick with nothing but the facts - and NBC biography on David. I must point out it runs only a page and a quarter, proving that the young Scotsman hasn't done much talking to his television bosses, either.
The first fact mentioned - "David started his professional acting career in 1945, at the age of 12, with the BBC Radio." I called British Broadcasting.
"The war was just over," explained a young man with a rather high-pitched voice, "and everything was till up in the air. Besides," he added sternly, "there are very strict labor laws covering children in this country. Do you know," he asked, "that in the theater it is against the law to use a child? They have to get small adults who look young or who can be made up to look young."
When he asked if I would like him to look further into the McCallum matter, I declined his offer. I didn't want to get embroiled in a child-labor fight.
Next on the fact sheet was the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. I arranged a meeting with John Fernald, Director of the world-famous acting center. Arriving early I got to talking with two guards at the main entrance. Both had been at the RADA for a long time. I asked if they remembered a David McCallum. The older man finally spoke up.
"Aye, there was a little lad here 15-16 years ago. Think his name was McCallum. Yes, I'm sure it was McCallum. A small lad. Wiry."
"Oh yes," I said, urging him on to remember more.
"Very quiet, he was."
"That sounds like my boy," I said.
"Serious, too. Very serious. Thin black hair."
"Black hair? No," I cried. "The young man I refer to is a blond."
"Blond?" he mused. "Blond? No, the McCallum that was here was dark-haired and no matter how much combing he did, it was forever fallin' in his eyes. A nice lad," he recalled fondly. "A very nice lad."
The director of the Academy, Mr. Fernald, wasn't any help at all as he had come to the institution in 1955. The name McCallum meant nothing to him.
My growing suspicion was that perhaps I had stumbled onto David's dark secret, the reason he didn't want me to talk to his parents or to see pictures of him as a boy. David McCallum was a brunet passing as a blond!
My next stop was the Royal British Army. I admit the thought of tackling such a formidable organization sent me rushing for the bottle in true spy style. After two long swigs of homogenized milk, I got the RBA on the phone and in less than 30 seconds had the following information: McCallum, David, Called up for National Service duty, 1951, age - 18. Commissioned into the Middlesex Regiment; was seconded to the Third Battalion, Gold Coast Regiment, Africa. Completed tour of duty, 1953. Awarded no distinguished service medals or decoration, such citations being given only during period of war and not during peacetime service.
So far, the earth-shattering facts on David McCallum that I had unearthed were: (a) Because of the strict enforcement of the British Child Labor Laws, he must have looked old for his age when he worked for the BBC; (b) He has dark roots; (c) He certainly didn't start a war while in the army.
Unhappy about the results of my probing, I decided that instead of institutions, perhaps I should be talking to average people. The people on the streets. Just as I had made this profound decision, the hotel maid came in to clean my room. Deciding not to lose a moment, I quickly engaged her in conversation and discovered, to my delight, that she was Scottish.
"Well," I said, "what do you think of David McCallum?"
"David who, ma'am?"
"McCallum," I said firmly. "David McCallum. He's an actor and I'm doing a story on him. He's Scottish, you know."
"Why don't you write about Peter O'Toole or Patrick McGoohan?" she suggested.
"I'm afraid you don't understand. You see, David is Scottish. Don't you care that one of your countrymen is a big star in America?" I asked, rather sharply. I'm afraid as my nerves were beginning to go under the strain of her piercing gaze.
"I still think you should do O'Toole or McGoohan," she brazenly insisted.
"But, my dear girl, they're Irish!"
"That they are! And I hold nothin' against them, being married to an Irishman m'self."
As soon as I was able to fortify myself with a cup of tea, I was back to working from the fact sheet.
Next call was the Glyndebourne Opera Company, where David had worked as property manger (sic) for several months after leaving the Royal Academy. The lady in the London office had only been there a few weeks. She suggested I drive up to Glyndebourne as I might find someone there who had been with the opera company back in 1951. After supplying me with detailed directions, she casually mentioned that the season didn't start until the following month and doubted very much if I'd find anyone around the place. Then in a conspiratorial tone, she asked:
"What did you say this McCallum has done?"
My first real break in the McCallum caper occurred at a cocktail party given by one of the geniuses of London's world of advertising. Avoiding the groups engaged in discussing the merits of detergents and deodorants, I finally found a circle of people debating the impact of good telly on the cinema. I nudged my way in, and when there was a lull in the conversation I brightly asked my burning question:
"Do any of you happen to know David McCallum?"
The question was followed by another lull. Eventually, a man wearing horned-rimmed glasses and looking terribly creative said, "The violinist? Of course! He was concert violinist with the BBC Television Symphony."
Another man, also wearing horned-rimmed glasses but looking a little less creative, said, "Sorry, old man, but McCallum was with the London Philharmonic."
As I left the group, the two men were shouting - each claiming the other was an ass.
The break I mentioned before was set in motion by Dennis Quilley, a good-looking young man who walked over to me and asked:
"Do you know David McCallum?"
"That ... that's my line," I stuttered in astonishment.
"I know," he replied, a big smile spreading over his handsome face. "I've heard you asking everyone."
"Do you really know David," I pressed.
"I know him. Not well. We did a couple of plays together for BBC telly."
Quilley, who is co-starring in the new British series Undercurrent, then pointed to a man on the far side of the room, "There's the chap you should talk to. He knows David."
I quickly glided across the room to zero in on the target. The gentleman, a director, who asked that his name not be used, pointing out that some of Scotland's most ferocious fighters were members of the Clan McCallum. His frame of reference was meant to be a joke, I think, but I didn't care if he was joking or not. I quickly agreed not to use his name for here, at last, was a man who was going to talk about David McCallum; not David's father, not a dark-haired young student, not an actor who went back to Australia, but my David. Yes, David by now was mine. He had become my cause célèbre. The first thing the director suggested was that I get in touch with David's parents. I explained what had happened.
"Good ol' Davey hasn't changed a bit, I see. Still playing the cloak an' dagger bit."
During our short conversation, he imparted to me the information that David had always been very jealous of his private life. Very secretive about it.
"All the time I've known David I can't ever remember being in his home. Can't remember his talking about his family. It was as though when he left the studio he walked off into another world. I think," he continued "that Jill has tried to bring him more out of himself; but, of course, she's been kept busy having babies and trying to carry on with her own career."
"There's one thing you must remember," he said, "when David McCallum gives his friendship, it is truly a gift to be treasured. Like all Scots, he prizes highly his friends as well as his privacy."
He had just started to tell me about David's wedding, when his wife came up to remind him that it was getting very late and they had to get home.
"Get in touch with Derek Coyte, out at Pinewood," he called to me as his wife steered him toward the door. "He'll be able to give you some information."
The next morning I was on the phone to Pinewood Studios. Derek Coyte, with the J. Arthur Rank Company, was in a meeting.
"What was the name?" his secretary asked.
"Is he with us?"
"No. Not now. He's a big TV star in Hollywood."
"The telly?" she asked innocently.
"Yes. The telly."
"Well, then," she replied, "I should think you'd be calling the BBC, not us. We make films here."
"Yes," I replied harshly, my nerves again beginning to snap. "Yes, I know you make films. But, you see, David McCallum was discovered by Rank and was given his first big picture break with your studio."
"Oh," she answered. "When was that?"
"I think it was 1956."
"1956! Oh, you want the dead files."
Before I had a chance to tell her that I wished I were dead, she had my call switched over to the dead files. And, I'm certainly glad that she did, for there I found a Mr. Green, who was able to give me a few more facts about little ol' David.
From the information supplied by Mr. Green, David was discovered for films by director Clive Donner when he was appearing with the Oxford Repertory Group. At that time Donner was casting The Secret Place, a Rank picture, and David's lean face and expressive eyes had caught his fancy. David was given the role of the rebellious Cockney boy. His performance, coupled with his photogenic face, won high praise from the British film critics who were notoriously stingy when it comes to giving out accolades. When the reviews were read by the Rank hierarchy, David was signed to a term contract. It wasn't long before he was one of the busiest young character actors on the lot. It was during the making of Robbery Under Arms that he married Jill Ireland, who was also working on the picture.
True to his code of keep-everything-a-secret, David and Jill were secretly married.
When news of the wedding broke, one who knew David very well is reported to have said:"I bet he even tried to keep it a secret from Jill!"
David was a contradiction even in those early days. As man, he found it most difficult to give of himself emotionally; but as an actor, he brought so much to each role that no matter how small it was - he made it stand out. The other things I learned (none of them earth-shattering as to cause David to order his parents not to talk) were: He loves music - puts Berlioz and Verdi at the top of his best-composer list; frequents art galleries; has a healthy respect for money, and hopes someday to be a director. And, further, David considers himself a fixer; however, nine times out of ten, after he has fixed something - a professional fixer has to be called in to un-fix his fixing!
I began assembling my notes ... I didn't have much! Certainly not enough for a writer, no matter how skilled, to turn out an interesting, provocative, amusing, informative home-town story on David McCallum.
Completely discouraged, I decided there was only one thing to do: take a hot bath! While relaxing in the faded rose-colored tub, a great truth was borne upon me. The editor of the magazine was going to kill me, and I couldn't think of one good reason why he shouldn't. I faced the truth. I had failed ...
As I got into bed I was still considering the problem from every angle. I though those lovely "snaps" piled high on some table in the sitting room of the McCallum flat. I knew a seasoned reporter would figure some way to enter the house and snatch the snaps. Maybe, I thought, if I found a chimney sweep, I could bribe him into entering the flat and voilà! Happily, complete reason, returned before I had a chance to call the London Times and place an ad for an easily-corruptible sweep.
Finally, I dozed off, but my alert, well-trained mind kept churning away, and when I awoke the next morning I had the solution. David had ordered his parents not to talk to me, not to have me in their home, not to give me any pictures. Right? But what was to stop me from going out to 30 Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead, concealing myself in a doorway and taking all the pictures I wanted?
The idea excited me. After all, weren't Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin always taking pictures with cigarette lighters, fountain pens, tie pins and martini olives? While I didn't possess any of the aforementioned items, I did have a small "it-does-everything-itself" Kodak camera. (Note: The results of my shutter-snapping are in no way a reflection on the quality of the camera - the cab driver was nearsighted.) Feeling quite pleased with myself, I had a double portion of marmalade with breakfast.
The first step in Project 30 Bracknell Gardens was quite simple. I took a cab. From then on it became increasingly perilous. When the driver, in a very civil manner, asked, "Where to, ma'am?" I almost panicked. How do you tell a driver to sneak up on an address? Trying hard to control the note of hysteria that was creeping into my voice, I replied, "Bracknell Gardens, Hamstead (sic)."
"What number?" he asked.
"Must you have the number?"
"It'd help, ma'am."
Yes, I suppose it would," I said, trying effect a gay, frivolous tone. "30 Bracknell Gardens."
"But remember, I cautioned, "I don't want to stop there."
"You want to go to 30 Bracknell Gardens, but you don't want to stop there," he repeated without blinking an eye. As we rode along and the meter kept clicking away, I kept hoping that my editor had seen Dr. No and would remember how James Bond, on his mission, tossed money about in a most lavish manner. We finally approached number 30 Bracknell Gardens.
"Just drive by slowly," I said.
I can only figure he didn't understand my instruction, for we darted past number 30 so fast I couldn't see a thing. About 50 feet beyond the corner, the cab came to a sudden halt, the screeching brakes attracting the attention of the neighborhood dogs, who all began barking at once. Windows and doors flew open as people peered out to see what had happened. As there was just one motor vehicle in sight, all eyes converged on my cab. I crouched back into the corner - waiting for I don't know what. The driver, displaying an agility of mind I had to admire, yelled out to the spectators:
"Thank the Lord, I got good brakes. Missed that black cat by an inch."
Many of the on-lookers, in keeping with the British love of animals, called back, "Well done," "Good show, ol' man."
When the street was again quiet, I asked: "Could you swing around and drive pass (sic) number 30, but this time very slowly, please?"
"Why don't I just stop? Then you can get a good look."
"Oh, no," I cried. "No. Don't stop."
He gave me a queer look, then asked, "You up to somethin', ma'am?"
I was suddenly speechless. Couldn't think of a single thing to say that would sound sensible. Just as I was about to confess all, the cabbie, his voice tinged with masculine innuendoes, said:
Nodding his head and giving me an encouraging wink, he said, "You're not the first. Won't be the last." I didn't have the slightest idea of what he was talking about, but his next question clued me in.
"Is that the love nest? Or does SHE live there?"
"She lives there," I replied with, I think, just the right note of indignation.
"See you brought your camera. You're going to need pictures," he said. "Nothing brings a man to his senses quicker than having his wife show a snap of the love's home under his nose. Had a fare once, one of the swells," he explained, "what got an artist fellow to do a whole bloomin' paintin'. Gave it to her ol' man on their anniversary, she did."
I soon found out that my cabbie was a frustrated private eye. Taking complete charge, he reconnoitered the area, then beckoned for me to join him behind a tree directly across the street from number 30.
"Couldn't be more perfect," he said proudly, pulling me in beside him.
He was so pleased with himself I didn't have the heart to point out that the particular tree he had chosen just wasn't wide enough to hide two fully-grown adults. His faith in our perfect concealment wasn't even shaken when people stopped to ask us what we were doing. And after an hour of socializing with the natives of Bracknell Gardens I decided not to wait for a glimpse of the McCallums, but take pictures of the house and leave. When I aimed my camera, the cabbie, a born helper, with the agility of a kangaroo grabbed my camera and leaped across the street - shutter clicking furiously. During the long drive back to London, the cabbie kept insisting that I give my husband another chance.
"If he's been a good father, a good provider, take him back. Remember, ma'am, when a man strays it's just as much the wife's fault," he insisted. By the time we reached the hotel, I had given my solemn promise to forgive and forget.
While paying the fare, I decided on one last question. "Do you, by any chance," I asked, "know a big television star by the name of David McCallum? He was born in Glasgow, raised in London and is now one of the most popular stars in the States." He lapsed into deep thought.
"Ma'am," he finally said, "you've got the name wrong. It's David, right enough, but not McCallum."
"Not McCallum?" I whimpered.
"No! It's Frost. David Frost. He's the biggest thing to hit the States since we sent you stainless-steel razor blades."
Needless to say, I didn't try to figure that one out.
In conclusion, I am still not absolutely sure that the McCallum clan won't rise up against me, though I fell short of my aim; or that THRUSH wasn't behind the entire madness. But, and without wishing to appear immodest, I do think I handled a sticky-wicket situation with magnificent diplomacy. - By Katie O'Sullavan