James MacArthur

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For other people named James MacArthur, see James MacArthur (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with James McArthur or James Macarthur.
James MacArthur
James MacArthur 1968.JPG
James MacArthur in 1968
Born James Gordon MacArthur
(1937-12-08)December 8, 1937
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died October 28, 2010(2010-10-28) (aged 72)
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1955–2010
Spouse(s) Joyce Bulifant
(m.1958-1967; divorced)
Melody Patterson
(m.1970-1975; divorced)
Helen Beth Duntz
(m.1984-2010; his death)

James Gordon MacArthur (December 8, 1937 – October 28, 2010) was an American actor best known for the role of Danny "Danno" Williams, the reliable second-in-command of the fictional Hawaiian State Police squad in the long-running television series Hawaii Five-O.

Early life[edit]

Born in Washington, D.C., MacArthur was the son of playwright Charles MacArthur and a woman with whom he had an affair.[citation needed] He was adopted by actress Helen Hayes, who was married to MacArthur's father. He grew up in Nyack, New York, along with the MacArthurs' biological daughter, Mary. He was educated at Allen-Stevenson School in New York, and later at the Solebury School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he starred in basketball, football, and baseball.

In his final year at Solebury, MacArthur: played guard on the football team; captained the basketball team; was president of his class, the student government, and the Drama Club; rewrote the school's constitution; edited the school paper, The Scribe; and played Scrooge in a local presentation of A Christmas Carol. He also started dating a fellow student, Joyce Bulifant; they were married in November 1958 and divorced nine years later.

MacArthur grew up around the greatest literary and theatrical talent of the time. Lillian Gish was his godmother, and his family's guests included Ben Hecht, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley, Beatrice Lillie, John Barrymore, and John Steinbeck. His first radio role was on the Theatre Guild on the Air, in 1948. Theatre Guild on the Air was the premier radio program of its day, producing one-hour plays that were performed in front of a live audience of 800. Helen Hayes accepted a role in one of the plays, which also had a small part for a child. Her son was asked if he would like to do it, and agreed.

Acting career[edit]

MacArthur made his stage debut at Olney, Maryland in 1949, with a two-week stint in The Corn Is Green. His sister Mary was in the play and telephoned their mother to request that James go to Olney to be in it with her. The following summer, he repeated the role at Dennis, Massachusetts, and his theatrical career was underway. In 1954, he played John Day in Life with Father with Howard Lindsay and Dorothy Stickney. He became involved in important Broadway productions only after receiving his training in summer stock.

MacArthur also worked as a set painter, lighting director and chief of the parking lot. During a Helen Hayes festival at the Falmouth Playhouse on Cape Cod, he had a few walk-on parts. He also helped the theatre electrician and grew so interested that he was allowed to stay on after his mother's plays had ended. As a result, he lighted the show for Barbara Bel Geddes in The Little Hut and for Gloria Vanderbilt in The Swan. When he visited Paris with his mother as a member of The Skin of Our Teeth company, he was in charge of making thunder backstage with a sheet of metal.

At the age of 18, he played Hal Ditmar in the television play, Deal a Blow, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Macdonald Carey, Phyllis Thaxter and Edward Arnold. In 1956, Frankenheimer directed the movie version of the play, which was renamed The Young Stranger, with MacArthur again in the starring role. Again his performance was critically acclaimed, earning him a nomination for Most Promising Newcomer at the 1958 BAFTA awards.[1] He made The Light in the Forest and Third Man on the Mountain, for Walt Disney, during summer breaks from Harvard University, where he was studying history.

Deciding to make acting his full-time career, he left Harvard in his sophomore year to make two more Disney movies, Kidnapped and Swiss Family Robinson.

MacArthur made his Broadway debut in 1960, playing opposite Jane Fonda in Invitation to a March, for which he received a Theater World Award. Although he never returned to Broadway, he remained active in theatre, appearing in such productions as Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Moon Is Blue, John Loves Mary (with his then wife, Joyce Bulifant), Barefoot in the Park and Murder at the Howard Johnson's. He also released several records in the early 1960s,[2] scoring two minor hits with "(The Story Of) The In-Between Years" and "The Ten Commandments Of Love", both of which peaked at #94 in the Billboard Hot 100.

He then went on to parts in movies including The Interns, Spencer's Mountain, The Truth About Spring and Cry of Battle, as well as The Love-Ins and The Angry Breed. On the set of The Angry Breed, in 1968, MacArthur met Melody Patterson, who was to become his second wife. They were married on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in July 1970 and divorced five years later. In 1963, he was nominated for the "Top New Male Personality" category of the Golden Laurel Awards.[3]

Between movie and theatre roles, MacArthur was also in demand for television guest appearances, which included parts in Studio One, G.E. Theatre, Bus Stop the play, Bus Stop the television series, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Eleventh Hour, The Great Adventure, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Combat!, The Virginian.

In 1966 he guest-starred as Lt. Harley Wilson in the "The Outsider", episode 20 in the second season of 12 O-Clock High (TV series). He co-starred with his mother Helen Hayes in the 1968 episode "The Pride of the Lioness" on the Tarzan television series. MacArthur also gave a particularly chilling performance as baby-faced opium dealer "Johnny Lubin" in The Untouchables episode, "Death For Sale".

Though many his movie parts were not starring roles, and some were quite brief, they were usually pivotal to the plot. His role in The Bedford Incident was that of a young ensign who becomes so rattled by the needling of his Captain (Richard Widmark) that he accidentally fires an ASROC at a Soviet submarine, thus creating a nuclear incident when the submarine returns fire, resulting in the destruction of both vessels.

In Battle of the Bulge he again played the role of a young and inexperienced officer. This time, however, the officer finds courage and a sense of responsibility. His brief but memorable appearance in the Clint Eastwood movie, Hang 'Em High eventually led to his role as Dan Williams in Hawaii Five-O, popularizing the catchphrase "Book 'em, Danno."

Hawaii Five-O[edit]

In 1967, Leonard Freeman, the producer and co-writer of Hang 'Em High, made the pilot for a new television cop show, Hawaii Five-O. Before it went to air, the pilot was well received by test audiences, except for some dislike of the actor playing Dan Williams.

Freeman remembered MacArthur's portrayal of the traveling preacher in Hang 'Em High — MacArthur had come on the set and done the scene in one take. He called MacArthur and offered him the role of Dan Williams.

The show was popularized by its opening sequence and theme music and location filming in Hawaii. It was not in the top 30 in ratings until its second season, when it was rated #19. For the next five seasons, the show's ratings were always in the top 10, topped by its #3 rating and 25.2 share in 1972-73.

Many episodes would end with Hawaii Five-O chief Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) instructing Williams (MacArthur) to "Book 'em, Danno!" (sometimes followed by stating a charge such as "murder one"), which became a well-known catch phrase in popular culture. Hawaii Five-O was the longest-running TV crime drama until it was finally surpassed by Law & Order in 2003.

MacArthur has said that one of his favorite episodes was “Retire in Sunny Hawaii Forever” (1975), which starred his mother, Helen Hayes. She played Danno’s Aunt Clara, who visits Hawaii and helps the detectives solve a murder.[4]

Hawaii Five-O ran for 12 years — 11 with MacArthur. Leaving the show at the end of its 11th season, MacArthur returned to the theatre, appearing in The Lunch Hour with Cybill Shepherd.

Post- Hawaii Five-O[edit]

He appeared in A Bedfull of Foreigners in Chicago in 1984, and in Michigan in 1985. He followed this with The Hasty Heart, before taking a year out of show business. In 1987, he returned to the stage in The Foreigner, then played Mortimer in the national tour of Arsenic and Old Lace with Jean Stapleton, Marion Ross and Larry Storch. In 1989, he followed another stint in The Foreigner with Love Letters and, in 1990–1991, A Bedfull of Foreigners, this time in Las Vegas.

After leaving Hawaii Five-O, McArthur guest-starred on such television shows as Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Vega$, as well as in the mini series Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story and The Night the Bridge Fell Down, and in the 1998 television movie Stormchasers: Revenge of the Twister, with Kelly McGillis.

Semi-retirement[edit]

Throughout his career, MacArthur had also found time for various other ventures. From 1959–60, he partnered with actor James Franciscus and Alan Ladd, Jr. in a Beverly Hills telephone answering service. In June 1972, he directed The Honolulu Community Theatre in a production of his father's play The Front Page. For a period in the 1990s he was part-owner of Senior World publication, as well as writing the occasional celebrity interview. He continued to appear at conventions, collectors' shows, and celebrity sporting events. A keen golfer, he was the winner of the 2002 Frank Sinatra Invitational Charity Golf Tournament.

He also appeared in television and radio specials and interview programs. His latest appearances included spots on Entertainment Tonight, Christopher's Closeup and the BBC Radio 5 Live obituary program Brief Lives, in which he paid tribute to his Hawaii Five-O castmate, the late Kam Fong. In 1997, MacArthur returned without Jack Lord (who was in declining health) to reprise his character, who had become Hawaii's governor in the plot, in the 1997 unaired pilot of Hawaii Five-O which starred actor Gary Busey.

In April 2003, he traveled to Honolulu's historic Hawaii Theatre for a cameo role in Joe Moore's play Dirty Laundry. Negotiations were underway in summer 2010 for MacArthur to make a cameo appearance in the new CBS prime time remake of Hawaii Five-0 at the time of his death, a role that eventually was given to Al Harrington. On the November 1, 2010 episode, MacArthur's death was mentioned in a short tribute that played before the start of that episode.

In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[5]

Death[edit]

MacArthur died of natural causes on October 28, 2010, at the age of 72, at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. He was survived by his third wife, former LPGA golfer Helen Beth Duntz, of 25 years, and his four children and six grandchildren.[6][7] The episode "Ho'apono" from the 2010 version of Hawaii Five-0 was dedicated to MacArthur.[8]

He is interred in Nyack, New York's Oak Hill Cemetery.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1955 Climax! Hal Ditmar Deal a Blow
1957 Arthur Murray Party, TheThe Arthur Murray Party Self April 30, 1957
1957 Young Stranger, TheThe Young Stranger Harold James 'Hal' Ditmar
1958 General Electric Theater Johnny Dundeen The Young and the Scared
1958 Studio One Jim Gibson Ticket to Tahiti
1958 Studio One Ben Adams Tongues of Angels
1958 Light in the Forest, TheThe Light in the Forest Johnny Butler/True Son
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Jamsie Corcoran The Innocent Assassin
1959 Third Man on the Mountain Rudi Matt
1959 Wagon Train (uncredited) The Jenny Tannen Story
1960 Kidnapped David Balfour
1960 Night of the Auk Lt. Mac Hartman
1960 Swiss Family Robinson Fritz Robinson
1960 Play of the Week Lieutenant Max Night of the Auk
1961 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Johnny Butler/True Son Archive footage
Light in the Forest: True Son's Revenge
1961 Play of the Week Lt. Max Hartman Night of the Auk
1961 Untouchables, TheThe Untouchables Johnny Lubin Death for Sale
1961 Bus Stop Thomas 'Tom' Quincy Hagan And the Pursuit of Evil
1962 Insight Jim Brown The Sophomore
1962 Wagon Train Dick Pederson The Dick Pederson Story
1962 Interns, TheThe Interns Dr. Lew Worship
1962 Dick Powell Show, TheThe Dick Powell Show Jack Doffer The Court Martial of Captain Wycliff
1963 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Rudi Matt Archive footage
Banner in the Sky: To Conquer the Mountain
1963 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Rudi Matt Archive footage
Banner in the Sky: The Killer Mountain
1963 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color David Balfour Archive footage
Kidnapped: Part 1
1963 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color David Balfour Archife footage
Kidnapped: Part 2
1963 Sam Benedict Bert Stover Some Fires Die Slowly
1963 Spencer's Mountain Clayboy Spencer
1963 Arrest and Trial Deke Palmer A Shield is for Hiding Behind
1963 Cry of Battle/PHL: "To Be a Man" aka "Officers and Men" David McVey
1963 Amos Burke: Secret Agent Larry Forsythe Who Killed the Kind Doctor?
1963 Eleventh Hour, TheThe Eleventh Hour Mason Walker La Belle Indifference
1963 Great Adventure, TheThe Great Adventure Lieutenant Alexander The Hunley
1964 Great Adventure, TheThe Great Adventure Rodger Young Rodger Young
1964 Alfred Hitchcock Hour, TheThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour Dave Snowden Behind the Locked Door
1965 Truth About Spring, TheThe Truth About Spring William Ashton
1965 Bedford Incident, TheThe Bedford Incident Ensign Ralston
1965 Virginian, TheThe Virginian Johnny Bradford Jennifer
1965 Battle of the Bulge Lieutenant Weaver
1966 Ride Beyond Vengeance The Census Taker
1966 Branded Lt. Laurence A Destiny Which Made Us Brothers
1966 12 O'Clock High Lt. Wilson The Outsider
1966 Gunsmoke David McGovern Harvest
1967 Dateline: Hollywood Self June 19, 1967
1967 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour Cpl. Henry Jenkins Willie and the Yank: The Deserter
Willie and the Yank: The Mosby Raiders
1967 Combat! Jack Cole Encounter
1967 Love-Ins, TheThe Love-Ins Larry Osborne
1967 Insight Billy Thorp Some Talk About Pool Rooms and Gin Mills
1967 Hondo Judd Barton Hondo and the Mad Dog
1967 Tarzan Dr. Richard Wilson The Pride of the Lioness
1967 Bonanza Jason 'Jase' Fredericks Check Rein
1967 Death Valley Days Kit Carson Spring Rendezvous
1968 Death Valley Days Kit Carson The Indian Girl
1968 Angry Breed, TheThe Angry Breed Deek Stacey
1968 Premiere Russ Faine Lassiter
1968 Hang 'Em High The Preacher
1968–
1979
Hawaii Five-O Det. Danny Williams 259 episodes
1971 Movie Game, TheThe Movie Game Self June 28, 1971
July 4, 1971
1971 Hollywood Squares, TheThe Hollywood Squares Self April 12, 1971
1972 Hollywood Squares, TheThe Hollywood Squares Self March 6, 1972
1973 Hollywood Squares, TheThe Hollywood Squares Self January 1, 1973
1977 Battle of the Network Stars III Self
1978 Battle of the Network Stars IV Self
1978 Fantasy Island Fantasy Island The Funny Girl/Butch and Sundance
1979 Time Express Dr. Mark Toland Garbage Man/Doctor's Wife
1979 Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat Chet Hanson The Spider Serenade/The Wife Next Door/The Harder They Fall
1980 34th Annual Tony Awards Self
1980 Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story Walt Stomer
1980 Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat Scott Burgess The Caller/The Marriage of Convenience/No Girls for Doc/Witness for the Prosecution
1981 Fantasy Island Bob Graham The Heroine/The Warrior
1981 Vega$ Jerry Lang Heist
1981 Walking Tall Father Adair The Fire Within
1981 Littlest Hobo, TheThe Littlest Hobo Jim Haley Trail of No Return
1983 Scheme of Things, TheThe Scheme of Things Self
1983 Night the Bridge Fell Down, TheThe Night the Bridge Fell Down Cal Miller
1983 Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat Paul Krakauer I Don't Play Anymore/Gopher's Roommate/Crazy for You
1984 Murder, She Wrote Alan Gephardt Hooray for Homicide
1985 Love Boat, TheThe Love Boat Marc Silver Vicki's Gentleman Caller/Partners to the End/The Perfect Arrangement
1989 Adventures of Superboy, TheThe Adventures of Superboy Hogan Birdwoman of the Swamps
1991 JFK uncredited David McVey Archive footage Cry of Battle
1991 American Masters Self Helen Hayes: First Lady of the American Theatre
1994 Wonderful World of Disney: 40 Years of Television Magic, TheThe Wonderful World of Disney: 40 Years of Television Magic Self
1997 Hawaii Five-O (1997 pilot) Governor Danny Williams Unsold pilot episode
1997 Light Lunch Self 70 Super Cops
1998 Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister Frank Del Rio
2002 Swiss Family Robinson: Adventure in the Making Narrator Special thanks
2002 Inside TVLand: 40 Greatest Theme Songs Self
2002 Inside TVLand: Cops on Camera Self
2005 100 Greatest Family Films, TheThe 100 Greatest Family Films Self
2006 100 TV Quotes and Greatest Catch Phases, TheThe 100 TV Quotes and Greatest Catch Phases Self
2007 Entertainment and TVLand Present: The 50 Greatest TV Icons Self
2008 Age of Believing: The Disney Live Action Classics, TheThe Age of Believing: The Disney Live Action Classics Self Grateful thanks

References[edit]

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