Hawaii Five-0: James MacArthur Dies at 72; Farewell “Danno” Williams

James MacArthurThe 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?

Canceled and renewed TV show

9 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. says

    I love the new Five 0. I watched reruns of the original series as a child. I will miss Mr. McArthur. Scott Caan does do the character justice. I respect the producers for respecting what has come before and also building their own identity.

  2. Daniel says

    I think MacArthur’s scripts were better in the Disney films, more chance for his acting talent than in Five O. Occassionally we would get a Five-O episode that featured him more, but not a lot in 11 years. It would have been great to see him cameo on the new series, but we bid Aloha to beloved Danno.

  3. says

    I loved James from the first Five 0 rerun, and I was looking forward to him acting alongside Scott Caan in the new series. I would remember him by putting a dedication to him in the Hawaii Five 0 fan fic I am working on. Aloha, James! We will miss you greatly!

  4. Connie says

    I’ve been a fan of James all my life. Being a huge Disney fan, his 4 films for Disney are some of my favorites. Hawaii 5-0 became a favorite of mine because he co-starred in it.

    I’m not sure how many people know this, but James is seen in the movie JFK by Oliver Stone. His 1963 movie “Cry Of Battle” was playing in the theater where Lee Harvey
    Oswald was attempting to hide from Dallas police. Oswald was captured in that theater.
    You’re able to see James face on movie screen during this screen

  5. says

    i remember him handsome beautidul eyes and handsome smiles sweet voice *
    side of jack lord whom died 1998 – which to see him on the new hawaii 50
    but sorry for the of your husband james mac arthur – and wife and childrens _
    aloha – i have been to hawaii once time in my life time august 8th 1974 _
    same day elvis left the builting < hawaii ciao jackie

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