Dan Williams (also known as Danny or Danno) was a member of the Hawaii Five-0, the (fictional) elite state police unit of Hawaii, from 1968 to 1979.
we assume that he shares the same birth date as his alter ego, James
(December 8, 1937) then Danno was 30 when we first met him, in 1968. At that
time, he was the second-in-command to the unit’s head, Steve McGarrett, and he
remained at that rank for the next eleven years.
are differing opinions as to how
Williams gained the position of Second in Command at Five-0. The majority of
fans believe that he worked his way up through the ranks at HPD. Some, however,
hold the opinion that (given his young age, and the time it would have taken for
him to work his way up), he could have been recruited to the unit directly from
college or the armed forces, and especially trained for the position.
30, some people would consider him young for the responsibilities of the rank.
When we first met him, his inexperience and lack of self-confidence were
sometimes painfully obvious. He was occasionally prepared to argue with
McGarrett, if he felt that it was warranted, though he never won the arguments
-- there was only one boss at Hawaii Five-0, and it was not Dan Williams.
Williams gained experience and confidence as a police officer his willingness to
challenge McGarrett’s authority diminished. Perhaps this was because, as he
became more secure in his abilities, he no longer felt the need to assert
himself by challenging his boss, or, maybe, he realized that arguing with
McGarrett was pointless.
his term with Hawaii Five-0, Williams gained skill in many facets of police
work. From a shaky beginning, when he nervously defused his first bomb,
following instructions shouted to him through the office door, he progressed to
become Hawaii Five-0’s resident bomb expert, and was called upon to neutralize
several more bombs during his career with the unit.
was an expert marksman whose sharpshooting skill was utilized on many occasions.
He was also acknowledged as a handwriting expert.
youthful good looks, charm and ability to blend in with the people around him,
made him a prime choice for undercover work, especially when it was necessary to
get close to young people or women. Some of his more memorable assignments
included posing as a soldier on leave from Vietnam in order to extract
information about a murder victim from a young bargirl, and infiltrating a
neo-nazi group to protect a political candidate.
most TV detectives of the ‘60s and ‘70s, information about Dan Williams’
private life is rather scanty, and riddled with inconsistencies. During his term
with 5-0, he was wounded several times and held hostage at least twice; his
fiancée and several of his friends were killed; his best friend manipulated his
friendship in an attempt to escape detection for the murder of his wife, and an
ex-girlfriend tried to set him up to kill her lover, yet there never seemed to
be anyone, outside the tight-knit 5-0 unit, to give him support. No relatives or
girlfriends waited anxiously for news when he was wounded or held captive. No
family members gathered to support him when his fiancée was murdered, or his
best friend betrayed him. Towards the end of the series, we learned that he had
an aunt, an interfering old busybody named Clara, who (much to his relief, I am
sure!) lived somewhere on the mainland. But where was she, when he needed someone? There was never any mention of Dan’s parents
or any siblings, so we assumed that his parents were dead, and that Clara was
his only living relative. On the other hand, he seemed to have an affinity with
children, and was able to handle children and babies competently, which seems
unusual for a bachelor with no children in his immediate family.
his free time, Dan was the coach of a kids’ baseball team sponsored by Hawaii
early episodes, he went surfing, but, as he aged, his interest in the sport
seems to become restricted to judging surf competitions. He also played tennis,
swam, sailed and rode horses.
few details that we were given about his youth were contradictory. Early in his
career with Five-0, he was wounded and held hostage by a soldier suffering from
a mental breakdown. A television reporter at the scene told his audience that
Williams was a ‘local’ boy, born and educated in Hawaii and that he went to
the University of Hawaii for one year, majoring in psychology, before
transferring to Berkeley to study police science. However, years later, Dan
encountered an old girlfriend who he supposedly knew while he was a student at
O’Farrell High School in California. According to Melissa (the girlfriend), he
kissed her for the first time on the roof of her parents’ house, and their
romance ended when he went away to Berkeley.
do know that one of his hobbies, in his younger days, was making jewelry from
soft metals. He was not terribly good at it, and decided to find another hobby.
We were not told what the new hobby was.
know that Dan did time in the service (in one episode, he was shown a gun and
said that it was his, but that he had not fired it since he got out of the
service). Though we were not told which branch of the service he was in,
McGarrett had no qualms about sending him undercover as a navy medic, so we
might conclude that this was how he did his national service.
we first met him Dan was a smoker, but it appears that he kicked the habit,
perhaps under the influence of McGarrett, who was a devout non-smoker. He was
seen drinking in several episodes, and was once heard ordering bourbon. He lived
alone (his apartment was remarkably clean and tidy for a bachelor – did he
have a cleaning lady?), though he was very attractive to women, and as the
series progressed, gained something of a reputation as a womanizer. (In one
episode, McGarrett warned him about mixing business with pleasure.)
eleven years as McGarrett’s second-in-command, Williams disappeared from the
unit without explanation.
the absence of any official explanation, fans have concocted their own theories,
which vary wildly.
view of the fact that McGarrett never mentioned his name again, some have
supposed that whatever the reason for his departure, it was very damaging to his
relationship with his boss. Some of the scenarios put forward are that he had a
serious disagreement with McGarrett, and walked out, or that, after years of
suffering incredible stress and trauma in the line of duty, he had a nervous
breakdown, became an alcoholic or drug addict, or committed suicide. Perhaps the
simple explanation is that, after eleven years, he got tired of being second
banana, and, realizing that McGarrett was never going to let go of the top job, quit.
short biography by Teresa Fogarty
most people, the name “James MacArthur” immediately invokes a jumble of
images: a plane streaking across the sky; the swinging hips of a young girl
dancing a hula; the flashing light of a police car, speeding through the night;
the Aloha Tower; Punchbowl Cemetery, and, of course, Jack Lord posed
majestically on a hotel balcony. They begin to hum the Hawaii
Five-0 theme, which they had long thought forgotten but which had merely
been lying dormant amongst old memories, and once again, they can hear
Jack Lord snap, "Book ‘em Danno."
eleven years, James MacArthur played the role of Dan (Danno) Williams, reliable
second-in-command to Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), head of the fictional Hawaiian
State Police Squad, Hawaii Five-0. The
role made his name a household word and won him fans all over the world.
great was the popularity of the series, and of MacArthur’s character, that it
is easy to overlook the fact that he had a flourishing career long before the
advent of Hawaii Five-0, and remained
active in movies and TV and on the stage long after its demise …
Gordon MacArthur was born December 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, Adopted as an infant
by playwright Charles MacArthur and his wife, actress Helen Hayes, he grew up in
Nyack, New York, along with the MacArthurs’ biological daughter, Mary, also a
talented actress. He was educated at Allen Stevenson School in New York, and
later at Solebury School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he starred in
basketball, football and baseball. In his final year at Solebury he played guard
on the football team, captained the basketball team, was elected president of
his class as well as of the Student Government and the Drama Club, rewrote the
school's constitution, edited the school paper, The Scribe, and played Scrooge in a local presentation of A
at Solebury, Jim started dating a fellow student, Joyce Bulifant. They were
married in November 1958 and divorced nine years later.
Though his parents
refused to let him be exploited throughout his early years, insisting that he
have a normal childhood, Jim was growing up around the greatest literary and
theatrical talent of the time. Lillian Gish was his Godmother and his parents’
guests included such personalities as Ben Hecht, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley,
Beatrice Lillie, John Barrymore and John Steinbeck. This environment would
present him with opportunities and challenges not experienced by other young
first radio role was on Theatre Guild of
the Air, in 1948. The Theatre Guild of
the Air was the premiere radio program of its day, producing one-hour plays
that were performed in front of a live audience of 800. Helen Hayes accepted a
role in one of the plays, which also had a small part for a child. Her son was
asked if he would like to do it, and agreed.
He made his stage
debut at Olney, Maryland, in 1949, with a two week stint in The Corn is
Green. His sister, Mary, was in the play and telephoned their mother to
request that James go to Olney to be in it with her. The following summer, he
repeated the same role at Dennis, Massachusetts, and his theatrical career was
underway. In 1954, he played John Day in Life
With Father with Howard Lindsay and Dorothy Stickney. However,
young James did not get a fast-track into important Broadway productions just
for being Helen Hayes’ son. Instead, he received his training in summer stock.
Nor was his theatre
experience limited to stage roles. He also worked as a set painter, lighting
director and chief of the parking lot. During a
Helen Hayes festival at the Falmouth Playhouse on Cape Cod, he had a few walk-on
parts. He also helped the theatre electrician and, in fact, grew so interested
that he was allowed to stay on after Miss Hayes' plays had ended. As a result,
he lighted the show for Barbara Bel Geddes in The Little Hut and for Gloria Vanderbilt in The Swan. When
he visited Paris with his mother as a member of The Skin of Our Teeth
Company, he was in charge of making thunder backstage with a four-by-eight sheet
In 1955, at the age
of 18, he was chosen to play Hal Ditmar
in the TV play Deal a Blow. The play
was directed by John Frankenheimer and starred MacDonald Carey, Phyllis Thaxter and Edward Arnold. In his scenes with the
veterans, James showed that he was more than capable of matching experience with
ability, and his “sensitive and intelligent” portrayal of the
misunderstood teenager, teetering on the brink of delinquency, was lauded by
critics and viewers alike.
1956, Frankenheimer directed the movie version of the play, which was renamed
The Young Stranger, and James MacArthur was again chosen for the starring
role. Once again, his performance was critically acclaimed, and earned him a
nomination in the Most Promising Newcomer category at the 1958 BAFTA awards.
summer breaks from Harvard University, where he was studying history, he
made The Light in the Forest and Third Man on the Mountain,
for Walt Disney. Then, deciding to make acting his full time career, he dropped
out of Harvard in his sophomore year, and made two more Disney movies, Kidnapped
and Swiss Family Robinson. These
movies are now regarded as ‘classics,’ and are still popular more than forty
years later. In February, 2003, Conrad Richter’s novel The
Light in the Forest was one of the books selected for Ohio’s One Book, Two Counties project. Jim was invited to be a guest
speaker, and spoke of how the book was turned into the film, and his experiences
making the movie. When Swiss Family
Robinson was released in DVD format, he was asked to provide background
commentary and other ‘bonus’ material for the DVD.
made his Broadway debut in 1960, playing opposite Jane Fonda in Invitation
to a March. For his performance, he received a Theater World Award. Then
came roles in Under the Yum Yum Tree, The
Moon Is Blue, John Loves Mary (with his wife at the time, Joyce Bulifant), Barefoot
in the Park and Murder at the Howard
then went on to star in such movies as
The Interns, Spencer’s Mountain, The
Truth About Spring, and Cry of Battle, as well as in the rather less successful The
Love-Ins and The Angry Breed.
the set of The Angry Breed, in 1968,
Jim met Melody Patterson, who was to become the second Mrs. James MacArthur.
They were married on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, in July 1970, and divorced
several years later.)
1963, he was a runner up in the ‘Top New Male Personality’ category of the
Golden Laurel Awards.
movie and theatre roles, Jim was also much in demand for television guest
appearances, which included parts in Studio
One, G.E. Theatre, Bus Stop, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Eleventh Hour,
The Great Adventure, The Alfred
Hitchcock Hour, Wagon Train, Great Adventure, Combat, The Virginian, Twelve
O’Clock High, Tarzan and a particularly chilling performance as baby-faced
opium dealer ‘Johnny Lubin’ in The
Untouchables episode, Death For Sale.
not all his movie characters were ‘starring roles,’ and some of them were
quite brief, for the most part they were pivotal to the plot. His role in The
Bedford Incident was that of a young ensign who became so rattled by the
needling of his Captain (Richard Widmark), that he accidentally fired an atomic
weapon, thus (we are given to understand) starting World War III.
The Battle of the Bulge he again
played the role of a young and inexperienced officer. This time, however, the
officer found courage and a sense of responsibility.
was his brief but memorable appearance in the Clint Eastwood movie, Hang
‘Em High, that eventually led him to the role of Dan Williams in Hawaii
1967, Leonard Freeman, the producer Hang
‘Em High, produced the pilot for a new television cop show, Hawaii
Five-0. Before the pilot went to air, it was shown to a test audience. The
show was well received, but the audience did not like the actor playing the role
of Dan Williams. Freeman remembered the actor who had appeared as the traveling
preacher in Hang ‘Em High, who came
on the set, did the scene in one take and was gone. He called James MacArthur
and offered him the role of Dan Williams.
Hawaii Five-0, one
of the most successful shows in television history, ran for twelve years.
Hawaii Five-0 at the end of its
eleventh season, Jim returned to the theatre in The
Lunch Hour with Cybill Shepherd.
appeared in A Bedfull of Foreigners in
Chicago in 1984, and in Michigan in 1985. He followed this with The
Hasty Heart, before taking a year out of showbusiness. In 1987, he returned
to the stage in The Foreigner, then played Mortimer in the national tour of Arsenic
and Old Lace with Jean Stapleton, Marion Ross and Larry Storch.
1989, he followed another stint in The
Foreigner with Love Letters and,
in 1990 – 1991, A Bedfull of Foreigners,
this time in Las Vegas.
leaving Hawaii Five-0, Jim has also
guest-starred on such TV shows as Murder,
She Wrote, The Love Boat,
Fantasy Island and Vega$, as well as in the mini series Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story and The Night the Bridge Fell Down, and in the 1998 TV movie Stormchasers:
Revenge of the Twister, with Kelly McGillis.
his career, Jim has also found time for various other ventures. During 1959 –
1960, between movie and theatrical successes, he was a partner with actor James
Franciscus and Alan Ladd Jr. in a Beverly Hills telephone answering service; in
June 1972 he directed The Honolulu
Community Theatre in a production of his father’s play The Front Page, and for a while in the 1990s he was part owner of Senior
World publication as well as writing the occasional celebrity interview.
the year 2000, he joined the ranks of those celebrities who have been awarded
their own 'sidewalk star' in Palm Springs.
days, Jim enjoys spending time with his third wife, H. B. Duntz, his four
children and six grandchildren. He continues to make personal appearances at
conventions and ‘Collectors’ Shows,’ to greet fans and sign autographs,
and at celebrity sporting events. A keen golfer, he was the winner of the 2002
Frank Sinatra Invitational Charity Golf Tournament.
is still much in demand for television and radio specials and interview
programs. His most recent appearances include spots on Entertainment Tonight, Christophers
Closeup and the British BBC 5 Radio obituary programme, Brief Lives,
in which he paid a moving tribute to late Hawaii Five-0 cast mate, Kam Fong.
April, 2003, Jim traveled to Honolulu for a brief return to the stage in a cameo
role in Joe Moore’s play Dirty Laundry,
appearing as a priest accused of molestation.
many of his films now being released in DVD format, Jim has found a new
audience, as he has provided interviews and ‘behind the scenes’ commentary
to be included as ‘extras’ with DVDs of not only his own movies, but also
those of his mother, Helen Hayes.
persist, about another attempt at a movie version of Hawaii Five-0, leaving die-hard fans with the hope that Jim will
once more be seen in the role that he made famous. He comments, “I
certainly would not be playing Danno but perhaps some sort of character ...
maybe an old man leering at the young
girls on the beach!!”
girls on the beach!!”
is also developing a one man show based on his life and career, which he has
tested at a couple of venues near his home, with encouraging results.
details may be found at: The
Official James MacArthur International Fan Club
Fogarty, June 11, 2003
Thanks to special Five-0 Investigator, Teresa Fogarty for a job well done!