The co-star on the original Hawaii Five-0 series, James MacArthur, has died at the age of 72. He passed away early this morning, reportedly from natural causes.
MacArthur was born in 1937 and was adopted by renowned actress Helen Hayes and scribe Charles MacArthur, best known for writing plays like The Front Page and Twentieth Century. James was raised alongside their biological daughter, Mary, until her premature death from polio in 1949 at the age of 19. Some who knew Charles MacArthur believed that event helped bring on his own death in 1956, at the age of 60.
James MacArthur got his start in the theatre with his sister in a Maryland production of The Corn Is Green. He trained in summer stock and also worked backstage, sometimes connected with productions starring his mother. At the age of 18, while still in high school, he starred in the Deal a Blow TV play, directed by John Frankenheimer. In 1956, he starred in the movie version of that play called The Young Stranger.
While on breaks from attending Harvard where he was studying history, MacArthur worked in films for Walt Disney. He ultimately left the university in his sophomore year to star in Disney’s Kidnapped and Swiss Family Robinson features.
MacArthur starred on Broadway in 1960, opposite Jane Fonda, in Invitation to a March. Though his work was acclaimed and he won the 1961 Theatre World Award for best new actor, he didn’t return to Broadway but acted in numerous stage productions of shows like 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 starred in numerous films like The Interns, Spencer’s Mountain, The Truth About Spring, Hang ‘Em High, and Cry of Battle.
In 1967, he was cast as Dan “Danno” Williams on the original Hawaii Five-0 after producer Leonard Freeman remembered him from Hang ‘Em High. Co-starring with Jack Lord, Williams stayed with the series for 11 of its 12 years, and left to return to the theatre.
After Hawaii Five-0, MacArthur appeared in numerous plays, including the national tour of Arsenic and Old Lace with fellow TV veterans Jean Stapleton, Marion Ross, and Larry Storch.
He later guest-starred on shows like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Murder, She Wrote. MacArthur also took part in the first attempt to revive Hawaii Five-0 in 1997. “Danno” Williams was now the governor of Hawaii. For a variety of reasons, CBS chose not to move forward with the new series and the pilot was not aired.
MacArthur remained active in his later years and was a world traveler. He had recently agreed to appear on the new incarnation of Hawaii Five-0 but the details hadn’t been worked out yet.
MacArthur is survived by his wife of more than 25 years, H.B. Duntz, four children and seven grandchildren. Church and memorial services will be held in Nyack, Palm Desert and Honolulu.
What do you think? How will you remember James MacArthur — from Hawaii Five-0 or another project?