Monday, November 1, 2010

Hawaii Five-O's James MacArthur R.I.P.

James MacArthur, best known as Danno on the original Hawaii Five-O, passed on October 28, 2010 at the age of  72.

James MacArthur was born on December 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California. At the age of seven months he was adopted by actress Helen Hayes and her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur. He grew up in New York City, often exposed to those famous individuals his parents knew, such as actress Lillian Gish (his godmother), writer Ben Hecht, actor John Barrymore, comedian Harpo Marx, and many others. He received his first acting role while still a child. In 1948 his mother, Helen Hayes, was appearing on Theatre Guild of the Air. The radio play in which she appeared called for a child, so Mr. MacArthur got the part. In 1949 he appeared for the first time on stage, in a summer stock production of The Corn is Green.

In 1955 James MacArthur made his television debut in the episode of Climax "Deal a Blow," directed by John Frankenheimer. In 1957 he made his film debut in The Young Stranger. In the Fifties he guest starred on such shows as G.E. Theatre, Studio One, and Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. He appeared in such films as The Light in the Forest (1958), Third Man on the Mountain (1959), Kidnapped (1960), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). In 1960 he appeared on Broadway in the play Invitation to a March.

In the Sixties Mr. MacArthur appeared in the films The Interns (1962), Spencer's Mountain (1963), Cry of Battle (1963), Truth About Spring (1965), The Bedford Incident (1965), Battle of the Budge (1965), Ride Beyond Vengeance (1966), The Love-Ins (1967), The Angry Breed (1968), and Hang 'Em High (1968, as The Preacher). He was a frequent guest star on television, appearing on such shows as The Untouchables, Bus Stop. Wagon Train, Dick Powell Theatre, Burke's Law, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Combat, and Bonanza.

It was in 1968 that James MacArthur was cast in the role of Danny "Danno" Wiliams on Hawaii Five-O. He would remain with the show for eleven of its twelve years. From the Eighties into the Naughts, James MacArthur appeared in such shows as Vega$, Murder She Wrote, and The Adventures of Superboy. His last appearance on the screen was in the 1998 telefilm Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister.

Although best known as Danno on Hawaii Five-O, James MacArthur played a wide range of roles. In The Young Stranger, he repeated his role from "Deal a Blow," the Climax episode, playing the son of a movie producer who comes under suspicion after he hits a theatre manager. In Swiss Family Robinson he played the oldest son Fritz. In Earl Hamner Jr.'s  Spencer's Mountain, he played Clayboy Spencer, a young man wanting to become a writer (essentially the same role as John Boy on The Waltons). In Hang 'Em High he played Preacher. While Danno would then be his most famous role, John MacArthur played a wide array of very different roles, thus showing a good deal of talent. Indeed, if Danno is such a memorable character, it is perhaps because of Mr. MacArthur's talent.


Anonymous said...

I was a bit shocked when I heard James MacArthur had died a few days ago. Of course I saw him in Swiss Family Robinson as a kid, and was pleasantly suprised to find him as Danny Williams when I started watching Hawaii Five-0 a couple of years ago. I might not have stuck around for the first seven seasons of the show if I hadn't recognized one of the stars!

Still, I think my favorite role I've seen him in is Kidnapped, Scot's accent and all.

I'll have to try to catch his guest spots on The Virginian and Bonanza -- anything for an excuse to watch some of my favorite westerns!

Toby O'B said...

Emm, also check out the episode he did for 'Branded'. It was a flashback to the Civil War and his was a strong portrayal of a man divided in his emotions.

Mercurie said...

Emm, I'm not sure where I first saw James MacArthur. It was probably Swiss Family Robinson or Kidnapped. At any rate, I was familiar with him by the time I first saw Hawaii Five-O!

Toby, definitely, his guest shot on Branded is worth checking out!