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James MacArthur

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James MacArthur
MacArthur in 1968
James Gordon MacArthur

(1937-12-08)December 8, 1937
DiedOctober 28, 2010(2010-10-28) (aged 72)
Years active1955–2008
Known forHawaii Five-O
Swiss Family Robinson
Helen Beth Duntz
(m. 1984)
Parent(s)Charles MacArthur
Helen Hayes
RelativesMary MacArthur (sister)
John D. MacArthur (uncle)
J. Roderick MacArthur (cousin)
John R. MacArthur (paternal first cousin once removed)

James Gordon MacArthur (December 8, 1937 – October 28, 2010) was an American actor and recording artist.

He had a long career in both movies and television, and his early work was predominantly in supporting roles in films. Later, he had a starring role as Danny "Danno" Williams in the long-running television series Hawaii Five-O.[1]

In 1963, his spoken-word recording "The Ten Commandments of Love" charted on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 94.[2]

Early life


MacArthur was born in Los Angeles, and was adopted by playwright Charles MacArthur and his wife, actress Helen Hayes. He was raised in Nyack, New York along with his elder sister, the MacArthurs' biological daughter Mary, who died of polio in 1949.[1] 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.[citation needed]

In his final year at Solebury, MacArthur played guard on the football team, captained the basketball team, rewrote the school's constitution, edited the school paper, played Scrooge in a local presentation of A Christmas Carol and was president of his class, the student government and the drama club. He also dated fellow student and future actress Joyce Bulifant, whom he married in November 1958 and divorced nine years later.[citation needed]

MacArthur was raised among people of literary and theatrical talent. Lillian Gish was his godmother, and his family's guests included John Steinbeck, John Barrymore, Harpo Marx, Ben Hecht, Beatrice Lillie and the humorist Robert Benchley.[citation needed]

Acting career


Early career


MacArthur's first radio role was on the Theatre Guild on the Air in 1948, accompanying his mother Helen Hayes.

MacArthur made his stage debut in Olney, Maryland in 1949 with a two-week stint in The Corn Is Green. His sister Mary, who was also in the play, had requested that he join the company. The following summer, he repeated the role in Dennis, Massachusetts and his theatrical career was under way.[1]

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 theater. He 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 theater's electrician and became so interested that he was allowed to remain after his mother's plays had ended. As a result, he lit the show for Barbara Bel Geddes in The Little Hut and for Gloria Vanderbilt in The Swan.[3][4]



In 1955, at the age of 18, MacArthur played Hal Ditmar in the television play '"Deal a Blow", an episode of the series Climax! directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Macdonald Carey, Phyllis Thaxter and Edward Arnold. The critical response was excellent, with the New York Times saying that he "performed splendidly."[5]

The following year, Frankenheimer directed the film version of the play, which was renamed The Young Stranger (1957), with MacArthur again in the starring role. His performance was again critically acclaimed, earning him a nomination for Most Promising Newcomer at the 1958 BAFTA awards.[6]

In late 1956, it was announced that MacArthur would make Underdog, based on a novel by W. R. Burnett, along with his mother and Susan Strasberg, but the project never materialized.[7]

MacArthur returned to television to appear in World in White (1957) and episodes of General Electric Theater, Studio One in Hollywood and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse.



MacArthur was selected by Walt Disney to star in The Light in the Forest (1958), playing a white man raised by Indians. In April 1957, he signed a three-picture deal with Disney. For Light in the Forest he was paid $2,500 per week, which increased to $3,000 per week for the second film and $3,500 for the third. However, MacArthur was only available to work during his summer vacation from Harvard, where he was studying history.[8]

Disney executives liked his performance and cast him in Third Man on the Mountain (1959), playing a young man who climbs the Matterhorn. His mother had a cameo role.[9]

Deciding to make acting his full-time career, he left Harvard in his second year to appear in two more Disney movies, Kidnapped (1960) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). He was named a possibility for Bon Voyage (1962) but did not appear in the film.[10]

MacArthur made his Broadway debut in 1960 playing opposite Jane Fonda in Invitation to a March, for which he received a Theatre World Award. Although he never returned to Broadway, he remained active in theater throughout his career, appearing in such productions as Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Moon Is Blue, John Loves Mary (with his wife Joyce Bulifant), Barefoot in the Park and Murder at the Howard Johnson's.[11]

He also released several records in the early 1960s,[12] scoring two minor hits with "(The Story of) The In-Between Years" and "The Ten Commandments of Love", which peaked at number 94 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.[2]

MacArthur delivered a chilling performance as baby-faced opium dealer Johnny Lubin in The Untouchables episode "Death For Sale". He also appeared in episodes of the television shows Bus Stop and Wagon Train. He returned to feature films as one of several young actors in The Interns (1962), Columbia's popular medical drama.

He appeared in episodes of The Dick Powell Theatre, Sam Benedict and Arrest and Trial, then made Spencer's Mountain (1963) at Warner Bros. with Henry Fonda and Cry of Battle (1963) in the Philippines.[13]

In 1963, MacArthur was nominated for the Top New Male Personality category of the Golden Laurel Awards. That year, he starred in and produced a pilot for a television series about a writer, Postmark: Jim Fletcher, but it was not sold.[13]

He guest-starred on the television shows Burke's Law, The Eleventh Hour and The Great Adventure, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour before appearing in the feature films The Truth About Spring and The Bedford Incident, both in 1965.

In Battle of the Bulge (1965), MacArthur again played the role of a young and inexperienced officer. He appeared in Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966) and guest-starred on Branded, Combat!, Gunsmoke, Hondo, Insight, Death Valley Days, Bonanza, The Virginian, Twelve O'Clock High and Tarzan.

MacArthur returned to Disney to appear in Willie and the Yank (1967) for television, released theatrically as Mosby's Marauders. He also had a role in The Love-Ins (1967) for Sam Katzman[14] and a brief but memorable appearance in the Clint Eastwood film Hang 'Em High (1968) as a preacher.

Hawaii Five-O


Hang 'Em High was written by Leonard Freeman, who was producing a new police procedural, Hawaii Five-O. Tim O'Kelly was originally cast as Jack Lord's assistant, but test audiences felt that he was too young, so MacArthur was offered the role.[1] MacArthur said that Lord "said 'book him' to others in the cast, but I guess he said it to me the most. It wasn't anything we really thought about at first. But the phrase just took off and caught the public's imagination."[1]

Appearing in the show made MacArthur wealthy,[15] and he invested much of his earnings in Hawaiian real estate.[1]

MacArthur left the show in 1979, feeling that it had become bland and predictable. It was canceled one year later. He later reflected: "It was just time. I called the producer from South America and told him I was heading down the Amazon River."[16][17]

William Smith, who replaced him on the show, claimed that MacArthur quit "because Jack Lord wouldn't let him have a dressing room. He had to change in the prop truck for eleven years."[18]

After Hawaii Five-O


After leaving Hawaii Five-O, McArthur guest-starred on television shows such as Time Express, Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Walking Tall, The Littlest Hobo,Vega$ and Superboy. He also appeared in the miniseries Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (1980) and The Night the Bridge Fell Down (1983).[19] He returned to the stage, appearing 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 showbusiness.

In 1987, he again took to the stage in The Foreigner, and then played Mortimer in the national tour of Arsenic and Old Lace. In 1989, he followed another stint in The Foreigner with Love Letters and in 1990–1991, A Bedfull of Foreigners in Las Vegas.[20]



From 1959 to 1960, MacArthur partnered with actors James Franciscus and Alan Ladd, Jr. in the ownership of 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.

He appeared at conventions, collectors' shows and celebrity sporting events. A keen golfer, he won the 2002 Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament.

MacArthur also appeared in television and radio specials and on interview programs such as 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 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 1997 unaired reboot pilot of Hawaii Five-O.

In April 2003, he traveled to Honolulu's historic Hawaii Theatre for a cameo role in Joe Moore's play Dirty Laundry. Negotiations were under way in Summer 2010 for MacArthur to make a cameo appearance in the new CBS primetime remake of Hawaii Five-O at the time of his death, a role that eventually was offered to Al Harrington. Before the start of the November 1, 2010 episode, MacArthur's death was mentioned in a short tribute.

In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to MacArthur.[21]

Personal life and death


At the time of his death, MacArthur was married to former LPGA golfer Helen Beth Duntz. MacArthur had two daughters and two sons.[22]

MacArthur died on October 28, 2010, at the age of 72 of unspecified causes in Florida.[23][24]


Year Title Role Notes
1953 Take the High Ground!
1955 Climax! Hal Ditmar Deal a Blow
1957 The Arthur Murray Party Self April 30, 1957
1957 The 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 The 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 Waiter The Jenny Tannen Story, Uncredited
1960 Kidnapped David Balfour
1960 Night of the Auk Lt. Mac Hartman
1960 Swiss Family Robinson Fritz Robinson
1960 The 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 The Play of the Week Lt. Max Hartman Night of the Auk
1961 The Untouchables Johnny Lubin Death for Sale
1961 Bus Stop Thomas Quincy Hagan And the Pursuit of Evil
1962 Insight Jim Brown The Sophomore
1962 Wagon Train Dick Pederson The Dick Pederson Story
1962 The Interns Dr. Lew Worship
1962 The 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 Archive 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 David McVey
1963 Burke's Law (1963 TV series) Larry Forsythe Who Killed the Kind Doctor?
1963 The Eleventh Hour Mason Walker La Belle Indifference
1963 The Great Adventure Lieutenant Alexander The Hunley
1964 The Great Adventure Rodger Young Rodger Young
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Dave Snowden Behind the Locked Door
1965 The Truth About Spring William Ashton
1965 The Bedford Incident Ensign Ralston
1965 The 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 Color Cpl. Henry Jenkins Willie and the Yank: The Deserter
Willie and the Yank: The Mosby Raiders
1967 Combat! Jack Cole Encounter
1967 The Love-Ins Larry Osborne
1967 Mosby's Marauders Cpl. Henry Jenkins
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 Hang 'Em High The Preacher
1968 The Angry Breed Deek Stacey
1968 Premiere Russ Faine Lassiter
Hawaii Five-O Det. Danny Williams 259 episodes
1971 The Movie Game Self June 28, 1971
July 4, 1971
1971 Hollywood Squares Self April 12, 1971
1972 Hollywood Squares Self March 6, 1972
1973 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 The 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 The 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 The Littlest Hobo Jim Haley Trail of No Return
1983 The Scheme of Things Self
1983 The Night the Bridge Fell Down Cal Miller
1983 The 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 The Love Boat Marc Silver Vicki's Gentleman Caller/Partners to the End/The Perfect Arrangement
1989 The 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 The Wonderful World of Disney: 40 Years of Television Magic Self
1997 Hawaii Five-O (1997 TV pilot) Governor Danny Williams Unsold pilot episode
1997 Light Lunch Self 70 Super Cops
1998 Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister Frank Del Rio (final film role)
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 The 100 Greatest Family Films Self
2006 The 100 TV Quotes and Greatest Catch Phases Self
2007 Entertainment and TVLand Present: The 50 Greatest TV Icons Self
2008 The Age of Believing: The Disney Live Action Classics Self Grateful thanks


  1. ^ a b c d e f "James MacArthur: 1937-2010: 'Danno' from 'Hawaii Five-0'; Helen Hayes' son also in 'Swiss Family'" Nelson, Valerie J. Chicago Tribune, October 29 2010: 1.31.
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2013). Top Pop Singles 1955-2012 (14th ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 524. ISBN 978-0-89820-205-2.
  3. ^ Obituary, The Independent, October 30, 2010: 50.
  4. ^ "James MacArthur Can't Wait to Be 20 So He Can Shake Off Teen-ager Label", Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1957: 12.
  5. ^ "New Star in Family: James MacArthur Has Debut on 'Climax!'", New York Times, August 26, 1955: 39.
  6. ^ Past Winners and Nominees – Film – Awards, Bafta.org; retrieved October 21, 2011.
  7. ^ "Jim M'Arthur, Helen Hayes' Son, to Co-Star in Movie", Chicago Daily Tribune, November 26, 1956: B-14.
  8. ^ "Helen Hayes' Adopted Son Gets Pact OK", Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1957: 2.
  9. ^ "Helen Hayes Does Bit in Disney Film", Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1958: C8.
  10. ^ By Way of Report: "Disney Plans 'Voyage' -- Other Movie Items", The New York Times, January 10, 1960: X7.
  11. ^ 'Danno' was TV crime-stopper, Barnes, Mike. Hollywood Reporter; Hollywood Vol. 416 (Oct 29-Oct 31, 2010): 8, 87.
  12. ^ "James MacArthur Discography - All Countries - 45cat". www.45cat.com.
  13. ^ a b "James MacArthur: Broadway to the Valley---Non-stop", Los Angeles Times, October 7, 1962: 10.
  14. ^ "James MacArthur, 'Danno,' Dies at 72", New York Times, October 29, 2010: B-11.
  15. ^ "James MacArthur | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos".
  16. ^ 'Danno' of 'Hawaii Five-O': [ALL Edition] Ellington, Christy. The Christian Science Monitor22 July 1999: 23.
  17. ^ Obituary: James MacArthur: US actor known for his role as Danno in the TV series Hawaii Five-O Bergan, Ronald. The Guardian1 Nov 2010: 31.
  18. ^ Poggiali, Chris (1998). "Shock Cinema Talks with the Legendary William Smith". Shock Cinema. No. 12. p. 5.
  19. ^ "Obituaries; James MacArthur, 1937-2010; Actor was 'Danno' on 'Hawaii Five-0' Nelson, Valerie J". Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2010: AA.6.
  20. ^ Lomartire, Paul (April 7, 1991). "MacArthur started career at 8". The Palm Beach Post. p. 309. Retrieved June 25, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars" (PDF). October 13, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 18, 2019.
  22. ^ "Actor James MacArthur, Son of American Theatre Royalty, Dies at Age 72", playbill.com, October 28, 2010.
  23. ^ "James MacArthur, 'Danno,' Dies at 72" by Dennis Hevesi, The New York Times, October 29, 2010
  24. ^ "'Hawaii Five-0' actor James MacArthur dies", msnbc.msn.com, October 28, 2010; retrieved October 21, 2011.