Ever since David McCallum first stepped onto the acting scene, he became an example of what is possible when you’re kind and work hard. Since he passed away at 90 years old on Monday, loved ones and fans alike have been celebrating his life. Born in Glasgow in 1933 to musicians, it seems he was almost destined to pursue a creative career. Still, when he briefly joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he struggled to get any roles.
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Then, after his time in the military, a return to his home of London led to a role in “Rubery Under Arms.” In the years that followed, McCallum began to make a name for himself in various films and episodes; but “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” is what gave his career the boost he needed to become a household name.
David McCallum (19 September 1933 – 25 September 2023) R.I.P pic.twitter.com/mgLoNIuOy4— 🇬🇧📺 Classic British TV 📺🇬🇧 (@Classicbritcom) September 26, 2023
At the time, the actor had a haircut that was reminiscent of those in The Beatles, making him quite a heartthrob. This is the role that earned McCallum two Emmy nominations — and this was only the start of his career.
From there, the talented actor was able to land work regularly, taking on roles in movies like “The Great Escape” and “A Night to Remember.” Another one of his most iconic roles, however, came from a beloved television show: “NCIS.” His character, Donald “Ducky” Mallard became a fan favorite.
“He was the quaint, loveable coroner with a penchant for telling long-winded stories from his life that were somehow always related to the case at hand,” InspireMore’s editor, Abby Bowman, said.
McCallum joined the “NCIS” cast when it first aired in 2003 and continued there for the next two decades. In fact, even as the actor neared 90, he was still occasionally popping up in episodes.
“He led an incredible life, and his legacy will forever live on through his family and the countless hours on film and television that will never go away,” CBS, the network that airs “NCIS” said in a statement. “We will miss his warmth and endearing sense of humor that lit up any room or soundstage he stepped onto, as well as the brilliant stories he often shared from a life well-lived.”
Since McCallum passed away on Monday, countless colleagues, family, and fans have shared kind words about him.
“He was a true Renaissance man — he was fascinated by science and culture and would turn those passions into knowledge,” his son, Peter McCallum wrote in a statement. “For example, he was capable of conducting a symphony orchestra and (if needed) could actually perform an autopsy, based on his decades-long studies for his role on NCIS.”
Although he was born in Glasgow, McCallum was a longtime citizen of the United States. He passed away from natural causes at New York Presbyterian Hospital, surrounded by his family. He is survived by Katherine McCallum, his wife of 56 years, three sons (Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum, and Peter McCullum), a daughter (Sophie McCallum), and eight grandchildren.
In memory of David McCallum. He left school at 18 and conscripted for National Service. He joined the British Army's 3rd Battalion the Middlesex Regiment which was seconded to the Royal West African Frontier Force. In March 1954 he was promoted to lieutenant. May he rest in peace pic.twitter.com/Ia6gUOQoJk— Middlesex Regiment (@MiddlesexReg57) September 26, 2023
“He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father,” his son, Peter, continued. “He always put family before self.”
While it’s always sad when someone so loved passes away, there is comfort in knowing that McCallum was able to live such a long, fulfilling life. A quote from the the actor himself in 2007 feels especially relevant right now.
Happy 90th Birthday David McCallum! Born September 19, 1933… Over 130 roles including The Great Escape, A Night to Remember, The Greatest Story Ever Told, TV's The Replacements – & of course Donald Mallard on NCIS and Illya Kuryakin on The Man From UNCLE! #botd pic.twitter.com/FWjU2REmLM— Classic Movie Hub (@ClassicMovieHub) September 19, 2023
“I’ve always felt the harder I work, the luckier I get,” McCallum told a reporter. “I believe in serendipitous things happening, but at the same time, dedicating yourself to what you do is the best way to get along in this life.”
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