James MacArthur, a thesp who was raised in showbiz royalty as the son of Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur, died Thursday in Florida of natural causes. He was 72.
MacArthur notched up a long list of film, TV and stage credits during his lengthy career but is best remembered for his nearly 12-year run on CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” where he was the subject of the show’s catchphrase: “Book ’em, Danno.”
The drama’s revival this season on CBS brought the original series, which ran from 1968-80, back into the spotlight. MacArthur co-starred in the police detective drama with Jack Lord.
“We’ve lost a special part of our heritage today. James’ talents and memorable role helped bring this series to life, and his support of our remake meant the world to us,” said Peter Lenkov, exec producer of the new “Hawaii Five-0.” “The phrase ‘Book ’em, Danno’ will forever be testimony to an actor and character that will not be forgotten.”
Born in Los Angeles in 1937, MacArthur, who was adopted as an infant by Hayes and MacArthur, spent most of his childhood surrounded by notables in the legit world at the family home known as “Pretty Penny” in Nyack, N.Y.
He made his TV debut in the play “Deal a Blow” in 1955, just before he started his senior year of high school.
After graduation, MacArthur went to Hollywood to make a film version of “Deal a Blow,” retitled “The Young Stranger” (1957). He went back to the East Coast to attend Harvard but continued to make movies in Hollywood during his summer breaks, including Disney features “The Light in the Forest” (1958), “The Third Man on the Mountain” (1958), “Kidnapped” (1960) and “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960).
He moved back and forth between film and legit roles in the 1960s, appearing in theatrical productions “Under the Yum Yum Tree,” “The Moon Is Blue,” “John Loves Mary,” “Barefoot in the Park” and “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” and features “Spencer’s Mountain” (1963), “The Truth About Spring” (1965) and “The Battle of the Bulge” (1965).
In 1968, TV producer Leonard Freeman remembered MacArthur’s small part opposite Clint Eastwood in “Hang ‘Em High” and recruited him for the role of Detective Danny Williams in “Hawaii Five-O.” After 11 seasons of lensing in Hawaii, MacArthur left the show and returned to the stage in numerous productions, including a staging of his father’s newspaper potboiler “The Front Page.” In his later years he travelled the world, playing golf and other outdoor pursuits, and mastered flamenco guitar.
MacArthur is survived by his wife of more than 25 years, Helen Beth, four children and seven grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, D.C. the Helen Hayes Hospital, Nyack, N.Y., the Solebury School MOM Fund in New Hope, Penn., the Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church, Palm Desert, Calif. or the Hawaii Theater in Honolulu.