Van Zandt Jarvis Williams (February 27, 1934 – November 28, 2016) was an actor known for his television roles as Kenny Madison in both the Warner Bros. television detective series Bourbon Street Beat (1959) and its sequel, Surfside 6 (1960), and for starring as Britt Reid a.k.a. the Green Hornet on the 1966-1967 ABC television series The Green Hornet.
Williams was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Priscilla Anne (Jarvis) and Bernard Cardwell Williams. He grew up on a ranch outside Fort Worth and later studied animal husbandry and business at Texas Christian University. He moved to Hawaii in 1956 after differences with his father on how the ranch should be run.
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 co star of the ABC television series Bourbon Street Beat, set in New Orleans. The program aired during the 1959-1960 season; his co stars 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
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. (He was described as being the 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, first in a "batclimb" cameo, ("The Spell of Tut," 9/28/1966), and later in a two-part episode ("A Piece of the Action," 3/1/1967 and "Batman's Satisfaction," 3/2/1967).
Williams's 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. (This was 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 leased 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 turned it down and proved to be unavailable for the time when those scenes were shot.
Personal life and death
Williams married his wife, Vicki Flaxman in 1959. Together they had three children. He had five grandchildren. He had twin daughters from a previous marriage. In 1988, Williams owned houses in Sun Valley, Idaho, Fort Worth, and Hawaii. He said it was the fruits of good investments. Pat Priest (The Munsters), Williams’ longtime friend and neighbor, said he was her mentor.
He later worked as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff  and was a volunteer captain of the Search and Rescue Team at the Malibu station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and suffered singed lungs and back injuries as a result. His favorite pastime was hunting geese, duck, elk, and other big game. Producer Kevin Burns revealed on December 5, 2016, that Williams died on November 28, 2016 from renal failure at the age of 82 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
- 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
- Centennial - "The Scream of Eagles" (1978), as George
- 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. United States: Tronc Inc. Archived from the original on May 27, 1992. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Allis, Tim; Donloe, Darlene (May 9, 1988). "Van Williams, Television's Green Hornet, Succumbs to a Real Crime-Fighting Bug". People. United States: Time Inc. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- p. 6 Thompson, Ruth Van Williams Says "Green Hornet" Not Like "Batman" Gettysburg Times Jul 30, 1966
- Thorne, Will; Khatchatourian, Maane (December 5, 2016). "'Green Hornet' Star Van Williams Dies at 82". Variety. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- 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. United States: Tonc Inc. Archived from the original on May 16, 1993. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- "New York Daily News". p. 26.
- Barns, Mike (December 5, 2016). "Van Williams, TV's Green Hornet, Dies at 82". The Hollywood Reporter. United States: Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- Lussier, Germain (December 5, 2016). "RIP Van Williams, TV's Green Hornet". io9. United States: Univision Communications. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- "Colt .45". ctva.biz. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
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