A few weeks ago I was trashing the resurrected version of classic TV's , "HAWAII FIVE-O." Along the way, I strolled down memory lane and recalled my early teenage years and watching the original with my mom.
"HAWAII FIVE-O," AIRED 279 EPISODES FROM 1968-1980, ON CBS.
The iconic opening theme psyched us up. To hear it, check on the link below.
MY HIGH SCHOOL OFFERED A SEDENTARY BAND. THEY REMAINED SEATED BECAUSE THEY WERE SO BAD THAT MARCHING ONLY WOULD HAVE MADE THEIR RENDITIONS WORSE. IT WAS COMMONLY BELIEVED THAT THE, "STAR SPANGLED BANNER" AND THE, "HAWAII FIVE-O THEME," WERE THE ONLY DISCERNIBLE PIECES THEY PLAYED. THIS PERCENTAGE WAS VASTLY AIDED BY THE IDEA THAT BEFORE SPORTING EVENTS, THE AUDIENCE KNEW, THE "NATIONAL ANTHEM," WAS COMING.
Mom and I were engrossed by the semi-complicated plots. We loved to watch the action unfold in exotic locales as we speculated how the case would be solved. Unfortunately, we were usually wrong because the scripts were weak, and depended on an obscure clue or circumstance to crack the seemingly impossible dilemma. Along the way, I was put off by the acting...primarily by second banana, James MacArthur who portrayed, subservient Danny Williams.
While bashing 5-O, I switched gears and concentrated my lambasting energies on Mr. MacArthur. My rant was spurred by my memories of him as a child actor, playing, "Boy," in "TARZAN," movies. I was absolutely raving by the time I concluded that MacArthur's mother, Helen Hayes had big influence in Tinseltown and that her juice was the only reason MacArthur achieved any stardom.HELEN HAYES, (1900-1993). HER ACTING CAREER SPANNED OVER 70 YEARS. SHE EXCELLED ON STAGE, IN MOVIES AND TV. THIS SUCCESS EARNED HER THE NICKNAME, "THE FIRST LADY OF AMERICAN THEATER." IN HER PRIVATE LIFE, SHE HOBNOBBED WITH THE ARISTOCRACY AND WAS KNOWN FOR HER GENEROUS PHILANTHROPY.
While researching this blog I was surprised to discover that I was making a common mistake about James MacArthur playing, "Boy." Actually, that role was played by a look-a-like, actor Johnny Sheffield. I was proved to be wrong again because MacArthur came up the hard way. He struggled as a young actor and earned his way into movies and TV on his own merit. Nevertheless, I still feel he was a sub-standard actor...so much so that when I watched him, I could tell he was acting.
My first evidence of an unconvincing MacArthur was his lead role in 1957's, "THE YOUNG STRANGER." While playing a good kid unjustly labeled as a delinquent, he (and the whole movie), looked like an alternate cast of, "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER." He was a cardboard cut-out of a clean-cut kid and laughable as a tough guy.
MacArthur seemed to be typecast as a submissive underling. In 1965's cold-war thriller the "BEDFORD INCIDENT," he (of all people) is in charge of deploying nuclear weapons on a destroyer. To make matters worse, the ship's captain, (Richard Widmark), is constantly criticizing him for minor errors. Later, the ship encounters a Russian submarine. In the style of Captain Ahab, Widmark's character relentlessly chases it. His quest exhausts the crew. At a tense moment, MacArthur who's already been proven to be shaky, misinterprets an innocent comment by the Captain as an order. Accidentally, he launches a deadly salvo at the Soviets...that in turns sparks an equally lethal counter-attack...oopsies. Did I forget to include a "spoiler alert?" I think I just gave away the end of the movie.
In the WWII epic film, "THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE, "MacArthur plays an inadvertent hero. Based on a true story, German tiger tanks are annihilating the Americans. But the Germans have an Achilles heel standing in the way of a certain victory...they don't have the resources, primarily gasoline for the battle's long haul.
James MacArthur plays an inexperienced lieutenant. He gets captured with a large group of our troops. They are herded together like lemmings and mercilessly exterminated by the enemy. However, MacArthur survives and sneaks away. I'm okay with that, its perfectly plausible to see anyone in that situation, do what they have to do and run away. But where they lost me is that after floundering beyond enemy lines, MacArthur accidentally re-unites with a rag-tag squad of leaderless Americans at a fuel depot. In the style of John Wayne, Rambo, Steven Seagal and Superman, MacArthur turns the course of the mighty battle by making a split-second decision. In a combination of Einstein and the Amazing Kreskin, he rallies his new, rudderless rag-tag squad into machine gunning down apparent GI's. Because in one in a million shot, he realizes that they are Germans in disguise, stealing truckloads of fuel.
The plot becomes more of an idiotic fantasy as MacArthur has the wherewithal to destroy the entire gasoline dump in the face of advancing hordes of Huns. That is so incredible that you might need two barf-bags because even the Hulk couldn't have handled that job!
I appreciate the high praise MacArthur's acting career has received but it is my belief that his, "HAWAII FIVE-O," character was consistent with my negative spin on his talent. It seemed that the entire cast was over-shadowed by Jack Lord's, Steve McGarrett. He was an imposing character but MacArthur (as second in command) was a rigid, do-nothing in the background and when called upon, he was never more than a milquetoast even when addressing his underlings or the public.
The bottom line is, his career was a long and prosperous one. He was looked upon by his peers as a reliable actor with a good range. So whatever my opinion might be, it is secondary to the fact that so many people in my generation associate him with being a polished man of action because of the famous McGarrett catchphrase, "Book 'em Danno."REST IN PEACE JAMES MacARTHUR, (December 8, 1937-October 28, 2010).