Williams in 1959.
|Born||Van Zandt Jarvis Williams
February 27, 1934
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Vicki Flaxman (1959–present)|
Van Zandt Jarvis Williams (born February 27, 1934) is a former actor best known for his television role as Britt Reid/the Green Hornet and his earlier leading role as Kenny Madison in both Warner Bros. television detective series Bourbon Street Beat (1959) and its sequel, Surfside 6 (1960). He teamed for one season with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato, in the television series The Green Hornet, broadcast on ABC during the 1966–67 season.
Life and career
A diving instructor in Hawaii in 1956, Williams was discovered there in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who urged him to come to Hollywood to try his hand at acting. Todd, husband of Elizabeth Taylor at the time, died in a plane crash, but Williams took vocal and acting lessons and was signed to a contract by Warner Bros. in 1959. His big break came as costar of the ABC television series Bourbon Street Beat, set in New Orleans. The program aired during the 1959-1960 season; his costars were Andrew Duggan, Richard Long, and Arlene Howell. Williams later worked in a General Electric production with Ronald Reagan, and his Bourbon Street Beat character, Kenny Madison, was recycled into the Surfside 6 television series in the same time slot, with new colleagues played by Troy Donahue, Lee Patterson, Diane McBain, and Margarita Sierra. Williams also starred in a television pilot called The Leathernecks that was shown as an episode of ABC's The Gallant Men.
Williams appeared in the films Tall Story (1960), in which he played a smug jock stepping stark naked out of the men's locker room shower giving a young Jane Fonda quite an eye full of him, and The Caretakers (1963) and as series regular Pat Burns in ABC's The Tycoon with Walter Brennan. After his Warner Brothers contract lapsed in 1964, Williams worked in television commercials and guest appearances on various television series.
The Green Hornet
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In 1966, ABC-TV revived George W. Trendle's famous radio character in a new series, The Green Hornet. Van Williams signed with 20th Century-Fox to portray the mysterious masked hero and his alter ego, newspaper editor Britt Reid (son of Dan Reid, Jr. who was the nephew of John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger although The Lone Ranger was not given that as his official true identity name).
Williams played the role straight, unlike the lampoon comedy approach of the same producer's Batman show. He and co-star Bruce Lee also made three guest appearances, in character, on Batman, a two-part episode and a "window"[clarification needed] cameo.
Williams' acting career faded around 1973, though he made a few television guest appearances and starred in one more series, a 1975-1976 NBC Saturday morning offering, Westwind. In 1977, he appeared in the episode "Devil Pack" from the NBC series Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (known in the United Kingdom as Twist in the Tale).
By the time he starred in The Green Hornet, Williams had become successful investing in various commercial ventures; a TV Guide profile of 1966, titled "Banker with a Sting," characterized him as "your friendly neighborhood tycoon." He retired from acting in 1982 to open a Santa Monica, California communications company that leases time on six two-way radio repeater stations. Williams was also a longtime Reserve Deputy Sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and worked at the Malibu, California, substation.
In 2010, the filmmakers of the 2011 Green Hornet film adaptation had wanted him to make a cameo appearance as a cemetery guard, but Williams was unavailable.
- Colt .45 as Tom Rucker in "The Sanctuary" (1959)
- Bourbon Street Beat (1959–1960) as Ken Madison
- Surfside 6 (1960-1962) again as Ken Madison in the same time slot
- The Green Hornet (1966–1967) as Britt Reid/the Green Hornet
- includes three cross-over episodes on Batman
- The Big Valley
- The Beverly Hillbillies
- The Tycoon
- The Dick Van Dyke Show as Corporal Clark Rice
- Nanny and the Professor as Mr. Parsons
- Westwind (1975–1976) as Steve Andrews
- The Streets of San Francisco - "The Thrill Killers, Part 1" (1976) Officer Morton
- Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected - "Devil Pack," Season 1 Episode 3 (1977) Sheriff
- The Rockford Files - "Love is the Word," Season 6 Episode 6, (Nov 1979) Lt. Duane Kiefer
- Pool, Bob (May 27, 1992). "The Green Hornet Returns to Sting a Radio Pirate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-07. WebCitation archive
- p. 6 Thompson, Ruth Van Williams Says "Green Hornet" Not Like "Batman" Gettysburg Times Jul 30, 1966
- Classic Television Archive: Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (1977)
- Galbraith, Jane (May 16, 1993). "A Look inside Hollywood and the movies : Cameo Corner : Green Hornet Pays Homage to His Kato". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-07..WebCitation archive.
- "Colt .45". ctva.biz. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
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