NCIS veteran David McCallum passed away peacefully this morning, Sept. 25, of natural causes at New York Presbyterian Hospital, surrounded by family. He was 90, having celebrated his birthday less than a week ago.
A fan favorite, McCallum was the last remaining original cast members on CBS’ NCIS, in which he played Chief Medical Examiner Donald “Ducky” Mallard, an eccentric but highly efficient investigator with a knack for psychological profiling, for two decades.
“For over twenty years, David McCallum endeared himself to audiences around the world playing the wise, quirky, and sometimes enigmatic, Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard,” said NCIS executive producers Steven D. Binder and David North. “But as much as his fans may have loved him, those who worked side by side with David loved him that much more. He was a scholar and a gentleman, always gracious, a consummate professional, and never one to pass up a joke. From day one, it was an honor to work with him and he never let us down. He was, quite simply, a legend. He was also family and will be deeply missed.”
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The previously announced 20th anniversary NCIS marathon will now include an “In memoriam” card in remembrance of McCallum.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of David McCallum and privileged that CBS was his home for so many years,” the network and NCIS studio CBS Studios said in a joint statement. “David was a gifted actor and author, and beloved by many around the world. 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. 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. Our hearts go out to his wife Katherine and his entire family, and all those who knew and loved David.”
Born in Glasgow, Scotland on Sept. 19, 1933 in a prominent musical family, McCallum studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Following a well received performance from Shakespeare’s King John at a local theater group, he switched his focus to acting while keeping music as a secondary interest. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he joined Actors’ Equity in 1946 where he began working on BBC Radio and made his debut in a 1946 production of Whom the Gods Love, Die Young. That was followed by several years in repertory theater. His many theater productions include Amadeus, Communicating Doors, The Hunting of the Snark, Comedians, The Lion in Winter and Julius Caesar.
After moving to America in 1961, McCallum was cast in the role of Illya Kuryakin in the television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Initially a minor character with two lines. Bit that was enough for producers to see that McCallum and star Robert Vaughn had considerable chemistry together, and McCallum was boosted to co-star status, with the role earning him two Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe nod. He went on to appear in the movies The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Great Escape, Mosquito Squadron,” “Billy Budd, Freud and A Night to Remember.
McCallum found his next hit with NCIS. A close confidante to Mark Harmon’s Jethro Gibbs, his “Ducky” Mallard served as father confessor and paternal figure for the show’s offbeat cast of characters.
In addition to acting, McCallum also orchestrated and conducted a trio of records that put unique spins on some of the period’s more popular songs. In 2016 McCallum published his first novel, Once a Crooked Man.
Callum 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.
“He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father,” Peter McCallum said in a statement on behalf of the family. “He always put family before self. He looked forward to any chance to connect with his grandchildren, and had a unique bond with each of them. He and his youngest grandson, Whit, 9, could often be found in the corner of a room at family parties having deep philosophical conversations.
“He was a true renaissance man — he was fascinated by science and culture and would turn those passions into knowledge. 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.
“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.”
In lieu of flowers, McCallum’s family asks that donations be made to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation at http://www.mcsf.org.
No immediate memorial service will take place, instead a celebration of life service will be held in the future.
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