Actor James MacArthur, Son of American Theatre Royalty, Dies at Age 72 | Playbill

Related Articles
Obituaries Actor James MacArthur, Son of American Theatre Royalty, Dies at Age 72 Actor James MacArthur, the son of late actress Helen Hayes and famed playwright Charles MacArthur, died Oct. 28 with his family by his side. The retired stage and screen performer was 72 years old.

James MacArthur presenting at the 1994 Helen Hayes Awards.

The administrators of the Helen Hayes Award in Washington, DC, announced the passing of Mr. MacArthur, who was widely known in the 1970s as Det. Dan Williams — of "Book 'em, Danno!" fame — on the TV series "Hawaii Five-O." He was a board member and longtime supporter of the Hayes Awards, which recognize excellence in DC-area theatre.

Victor Shargai, chairman of the Helen Hayes Awards board of directors, said, "I think it gave Jim much joy to commemorate his mother and father. But it was Jim's unique blend of charm, grace, wit, and heart that will forever be with us."

Mr. MacArthur was born on Dec. 8, 1937, in Los Angeles, and raised among show folk by his parents — Hayes, "the First Lady of the American stage," and MacArthur, the screenwriter and playwright best known for The Front Page, with writing partner Ben Hecht. The MacArthurs shared a home, "Pretty Penny," on the bank of the Hudson River in Nyack, NY.

Since 1983, Mr. MacArthur presided over the annual presentation of the Helen Hayes Awards' Charles MacArthur Award, the prestigious new-plays award category named for his father.

As an actor, Mr. MacArthur acted on stage and screen. In 1955, prior to his senior year at the Solebury School, he appeared in the TV play, "Deal a Blow." After graduation and before going to Harvard, he went to Hollywood to make the film version of it, renamed "The Young Stranger," which earned him a nomination in the Most Promising Newcomer category at the 1958 BAFTA awards. During summer breaks from Harvard he made "The Light in the Forest" and "Third Man on the Mountain" for Walt Disney. In 1959 and 1960, he made both "Kidnapped" and "Swiss Family Robinson" for Disney.

He made his Broadway debut playing Aaron Jablonski opposite Jane Fonda in Invitation to a March, which won him the 1961 Theatre World Award for Best New Actor.

On Broadway, he appeared in Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Moon Is Blue, John Loves Mary, Barefoot in the Park and Murder at the Howard Johnson's before returning to Hollywood to star in such movies as "The Interns", "Spencer's Mountain," "The Truth About Spring" with Haley Mills and "Cry of Battle." In 1963, he was a runner up in the Golden Laurel Awards in the "Top New Male Personality" category. He then was a member of the all-star cast which included Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, George Montgomery, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas in "The Battle of the Bulge."

In 1968, producer Leonard Freeman remembered the actor who did a cameo in the Clint Eastwood movie "Hang 'em High" as the traveling preacher who came on the set, requiring only one take which was excellent. He called Mr. MacArthur and cast him as Det. Dan Williams of "Hawaii Five-0."

After 11 years as Williams, he returned to the live stage in regional productions of The Hasty Heart with Caroline Lagerfelt, The Front Page, A Bed Full of Foreigners and played Mortimer in the national tour of Arsenic and Old Lace with Jean Stapleton, Marion Ross and Larry Storch.

Mr. MacArthur's passion for playing golf led him to meet and fall in love with his wife, LPGA tour player and teacher, Helen Beth "H.B." Duntz, who survives him.

He also leaves behind four children Charles P. MacArthur (Jenny), Mary McClure (Kevin), Juliette Rappaport (Kurt), James D. MacArthur and seven grandchildren; Ruby Johnstone, Riley Kea MacArthur, Ford and Daisy McClure, Jake, Luke and Julia Rappaport.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, DC; the Helen Hayes Hospital in Nyack; the Solebury School MOM Fund in New Hope, PA; the Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church, Palm Desert, CA; and the Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu.

James MacArthur and Helen Hayes arriving at the inaugural Helen Hayes Awards presentation.
Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!