David Keith McCallum (19 September 1933 – 25 September 2023) was a Scottish actor and musician. He gained wide recognition in the 1960s for playing secret agent Illya Kuryakin in the television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. His other notable television roles include Carter in Colditz (1972–1974) and Steel in Sapphire & Steel (1979–1982). Beginning in 2003, McCallum gained renewed international popularity for his role as NCIS medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in the American television series NCIS, which he played for 20 seasons until his death. On film, McCallum notably appeared in The Great Escense.
David McCallum, who was best known for playing Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS has died. He was 90.
The actor died “peacefully” of natural causes surrounded by family at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Monday, CBS announced.
“He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father. 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,” his son Peter McCallum shared in a statement on behalf of the family. “He and his youngest grandson, Whit, 9, could often be found in the corner of a room at family parties having deep philosophical conversations.”
David Keith McCallum was born on 19 September 1933 in Glasgow, the second of two sons of orchestral violinist David McCallum Sr. and Dorothy (née Dorman), a cellist. When he was three, his family moved to London for his father to play as the leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Early in the Second World War, he was evacuated back to Scotland, where he lived with his mother at Gartocharn by Loch Lomond.
McCallum won a scholarship to University College School, a boys’ independent school in Hampstead, London, where, encouraged by his parents to prepare for a career in music, he played the oboe. In 1946, at the age of 13, he began doing boy voices for the BBC radio repertory company. Also involved in local amateur drama, at age 17, he appeared as Oberon in an open-air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Play and Pageant Union. He left school at age 18 and was 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. After leaving the army he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (also in London), where Joan Collins was a classmate
The statement continued, “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.”