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October 28, 2010

Original Hawaii Five-O Star James MacArthur Dies at 72

The respected performer starred in the classic TV crime drama as Danny “Danno” Williams.

Actor James MacArthur, best known for the role of detective Danny “Danno” Williams on the original Hawaii Five-0, died October 28, 2010, at age 72.

According to news reports, MacArthur died in Florida of natural causes.

In a career that spanned from the mid-1950s through the late 1990s, MacArthur appeared on the stage and in feature films in addition to his television work. But he will always be best remembered for Hawaii Five-0, which aired on CBS from 1968 to 1980.

On the series, set in Honolulu, MacArthur’s character inspired one of the most familiar lines in TV history. At the end of many episodes, lead detective Steve McGarrett played by Jack Lord, would say, “Book ’em, Danno.”

MacArthur left Hawaii Five-0 after its penultimate season. An updated version of the series launched on CBS this season.

He was born December 8, 1937, in Los Angeles, and grew up in Nyack, New York. As the adopted son of renowned playwright Charles MacArthur and esteemed actress Helen Hayes, known to many as the “First Lady of the American Theatre, show business was part of his life from his earliest memories. Silent film star Lillian Gish was his godmother.

Not surprisingly, he was drawn to the family business, and in 1948 he performed on the popular radio series Theatre Guild of the Air, in an audio adaptation of a play starring his mother.

He made his stage debut the following year in a summer stock production of The Corn Is Green.

In 1955 he drew attention in the television series Climax! He matriculated at Harvard University the same year, but left in his sophomore year to devote himself to acting.

More television work followed, including episodes of such series as Gunsmoke, The Untouchables and Wagon Train. After Hawaii Five-0 ended, he had guest roles in such series as Fantasy Island, Vega$, Murder, She Wrote and The Love Boat. In a 1997 made-for-television movie version of Hawaii Five-0, he reprised the role of Danny Williams, who by that time had become of Hawaii.

He also costarred in the feature films Swiss Family Robinson, Kidnapped, The Light in the Forest, Hang ’Em High and others.

MacArthur’s stage appearances included lead role of Hildy Johnson in a 1981 production of The Front Page, a play co-written by his father in the late 1920s, at the Stanford Community Theatre in Palo Alto, California.

His final credit came in 1998 with the TV movie Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister.

From 1958 to 1967, MacArthur was married to actress Joyce Bulifant, and from 1970 to 1975 to actress Melody Patterson.

Survivors include his third wife, H.B. Duntz, four children and seven grandchildren.

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