×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Green Hornet’ Star Van Williams Dies at 82

Van Williams, star of the 1966 TV show “The Green Hornet,” died last Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., of renal failure. He was 82.

“He had a wonderful, caring, and kind heart,” his wife of 57 years, Vicki Williams, told Variety. “He was a wonderful husband, he was a fabulous father, and a devoted grandfather.”

Williams was a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who was married to Elizabeth Taylor at the time. Williams was persuaded to come to Hollywood and try his hand at acting, and earned his big break on the ABC private detective show “Bourbon Street Beat.” He played Ken Madison, a character he later recycled for another detective show, “Surfside 6.”

In 1966, Williams signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to star in “The Green Hornet” as both the titular masked crusader and his newspaper editor alter ego, Britt Reid. He was ably supported by his martial arts master sidekick Kato, played by Bruce Lee, and by his weaponized car, Black Beauty. Williams played the role straight, signaling a departure from the lampoon comedy of Fox’s earlier “Batman” series.

Williams appeared in iconic shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as well as in the young adult-targeted “Westwind,” which centered around the adventures of the Andrews family who sailed around the world on a yacht.

After his acting career dropped off in the late 1970s, Williams became a reserve deputy sheriff and a volunteer fire fighter at the Malibu station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Actress Pat Priest (“The Munsters”), Williams’ longtime friend and neighbor, said Williams was her mentor.

“We had many fun dinners around our dining room table,” Priest told Variety. “We laughed a lot and he was my mentor in helping me with memorabilia shows. He was very special. We saw him last year and we have wonderful memories.”

Producer Kevin Burns, who worked with Williams on a relaunch campaign for “Batman” and “Green Hornet” in 1989, told Variety that Williams had singed his lungs while working as a volunteer fire fighter, and suffered from bronchial problems and back injuries.

“Through it all he remained strong and rarely spoke of what he went through. He was a great guy and a class act all the way,” Burns said in his Facebook post.

Williams is survived by his wife; three children, Nina, Tia, and Britt; and five grandchildren.

More TV

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    ABC Seeks $2 Million to $3 Million for Oscars Ads (EXCLUSIVE)

    Kevin Hart won’t be showing up for the Oscars, but advertisers will. Walt Disney’s ABC has sold more than three-quarters of its commercial inventory for its February 24 broadcast of the glitzy awards fest, according to Jerry Daniello, senior vice president, entertainment brand solutions, for Disney ad sales, pacing ahead of its progress at this time [...]

  • TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb and

    Kathie Lee Gifford to Leave NBC’s ‘Today’

    Kathie Lee Gifford will leave “Today” after more than a decade co-hosting the fourth hour of the NBC morning franchise. Gifford wants to spend more time focused on a variety of media projects, and said during Monday’s broadcast that her decision was “bittersweet, as these things are.” She expects to stay with the program through [...]

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    Protests Outside But No Fireworks Inside CBS' Annual Shareholders Meeting

    A small group of protestors chanted “No money for Les” outside of CBS Corp.’s annual shareholders meeting in New York on Tuesday, but inside there were no questions from shareholders about the sexual misconduct scandal that has enveloped the company and former chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves. The meeting held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was [...]

  • Fox Reshapes Ad-Sales Unit as Disney

    Fox Reshapes Ad-Sales Unit as Disney Deal Nears (EXCLUSIVE)

    Some of 21st Century Fox’s best-known ad-sales executives will leave the company when it closes a large sale of its assets to Walt Disney in 2019. Bruce Lefkowitz, executive vice president of ad sales at Fox; Mike Denby, a senior vice president of ad sales; and Jake Piasecki, another senior vice president, are slated to [...]

  • Chris McCarthy on Reinventing MTV, Moving

    Chris McCarthy on Reinventing MTV, Moving From 'Buy to Build Mentality'

    As goes MTV, so goes Viacom. For the industry, there is no stronger measure of the health of Viacom than the state of MTV. Chris McCarthy, a 15-year Viacom veteran, has been leading the effort to revive the brand since October 2016, when he added oversight of MTV to his portfolio that already included VH1 [...]

  • Bob Bakish Variety Cover Story

    Inside Bob Bakish's Aggressive Turnaround Plan for Viacom

    Bob Bakish was days into his job as CEO of Viacom in late 2016 when he began convening meetings with senior executives to execute a triage effort to save the once-mighty media giant. Paramount Pictures had just posted a $445 million annual loss. Viacom’s cable networks were in danger of being dropped by major distributors [...]

  • Carol Burnett

    Carol Burnett to Receive Inaugural Golden Globe Television Special Achievement Award

    Carol Burnett will receive the inaugural Golden Globe television special achievement award, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (HFPA) announced Tuesday. Aptly named the Carol Burnett Award, this new honor will celebrate the highest level of achievement in the medium. Burnett, who is a five-time Globe winner — the most decorated in the television category — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content