James MacArthur, who will always be remembered for his role as "Danno" in CBS Television’s original "Hawaii Five-0," died early today. He was 72 and the last of the police drama’s original cast.
Longtime friend Jimmy Borges confirmed the actor’s passing after speaking with MacArthur’s wife, H.B. MacArthur. She told Borges her husband in Florida died of "internal complications."
Plans are being made to bury him in New York beside his mother, actress Helen Hayes.
Ever since his character collared his first crook on "Five-0," following orders from the stern Steve McGarrett to "Book ’em Danno," MacArthur was cemented into TV history.
He was a starring cast member of the series from 1968 to 1979, leaving one year before it ended.
Ironically, he was not the first choice when the original "Five-0" pilot was shot. The part had been played in the pilot by Tim O’Kelly, but audiences didn’t warm to him. MacArthur’s tough yet sincere portrayal made his Danno one of television’s most enduring characters.
He was part of an ensemble that has all passed: Jack Lord, who played McGarrett, in 1998. Kam Fong who played Chin Ho Kelly in 2002. And Gilbert Lani "Zulu" Kauhi in 2004.
CBS had hoped to find a role for MacArthur in its reboot of "Five-0" and as recently as last month, the actor’s personal website said he had agreed to appear in an episode.
When CBS premiered the new series, which stars Scott Caan as Danno, a statement from MacArthur was read to the audience, which cheered when it heard that the actor hoped to have a guest appearance.
Peter Lenkov, the new show’s executive producer and a big fan of the original series, was deeply affected by MacArthur’s death.
"James was a great actor, admired by so many," he said in a statement. "Since the early development of our reboot, I had hoped to include James in the show, in a cameo or a recurring role…Alas, that will never happen now and today I join millions of fans mourning this great loss."
MacArthur was born on Dec. 8, 1937, in Los Angeles. He was adopted as an infant by actress Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur, so it’s not surprising that he spent his life on stage and in front of the camera.
A popular high-school athlete in New York and Pennsylvania, MacArthur never quite outgrew his boyish looks. It was this blend of wholesome, all-American looks and an edgy toughness that won him the life-changing role of Danno.
His first acting job was as a child, alongside his mother in a radio play performed before a live audience. As a teenager, MacArthur appeared in summer-stock productions, breaking through as a misunderstood teen in John Frankenheimer’s "Deal a Blow," broadcast on live television. It went over so well that Frankenheimer remade it as the feature film "The Young Stranger," again starring MacArthur. Next came a role as a boy captured by Indians in the Disney film "The Light In The Forest," and MacArthur’s portrayals were so intense that he won notice as a promising newcomer.
He worked steadily thereafter — as a young adventurer in "Kidnapped," "Third Man on the Mountain" and "Swiss Family Robinson," as a psychopathic murderer in "The Untouchables," as naive men who must rely on inner strength in "The Interns," "The Bedford Incident" and "Spencer’s Mountain," and an Army lieutenant in "Battle of the Bulge."
After departing "Five-0," MacArthur appeared mostly on stage, and made occasional television appearances in programs like "The Love Boat," "Vega$," "Fantasy Island" and "Murder, She Wrote" as well as TV movies "The Night the Bridge Fell Down" and "Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story." His last TV role was in "Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister" in 1998.
He reprised his role as Danno, though, when CBS shot a pilot for a new "Five-0" in 1997. He appeared as the newly elected governor of Hawaii who is shot on the steps of the state Capitol. The pilot never aired.