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The News American (9 July 1978)

"He Keeps Returning"

By Jack Ryan

James MacArthur has been around so long he’s like an old friend.

If it weren’t for the overpowering presence of Jack Lord, MacArthur could easily be the lead of the long running CBS entry Hawaii Five-O. Even though he isn’t the lead, the day cannot be far off when he comes into his own show.

MacArthur is the son of the late newspaperman-playwright Charles MacArthur and the glittering jewel of the American stage Helen Hayes.

But his decision to get into acting was not smiled upon by Miss Hayes.
Charles MacArthur died in 1956 and James was living with his mother and sister <sic> at the family home in Nyack, NY.

Miss Hayes had been a child actress and James’ sister had attended a finishing school and entered summer stock. The plan was for MacArthur to attend Harvard.

And he went for two years and majored in history. But his heart wasn’t in it.

He found Harvard “dull and depressing,” a sentiment shared by millions of young ladies who have suffered through a weekend date at The Yard.

James let his mother know of his feelings.

“I was very saddened by Jim’s decision,” Miss Hayes was to say later. “I wanted him to have those four dividend years, to get out of the woman’s world he’d lived in after his father’s death ...”

Ever the philospher, she observed at last:

“I’d rather have an actor son than a crazy, mixed-up Harvard graduate.”

Actually, MacArthur was a stage veteran at the age of eight when he appeared in summer stock at a theater in Olney, MD.

The story goes that his father handed him an envelope with

“Something for you, Jamie.”

Inside was an invitation to play a young Welsh boy in The Corn Is Green. The part was 12 lines long. All in Welsh.

Later MacArthur was to tell an interviewer of that invitation, “It was addressed to me -- and no credit line or billing I’ve had since has matched it.”

His mother once said, “I have asked Jim only one important question as an actor.

“Are you afraid of failure, Jim? Don’t be. You wake up the next morning and find it isn’t fatal. But once you start to fear, you take refuge in doing nothing -- and that is the real failure.”

Sound advice, that.

MacArthur’s career hasn’t been all advice and handwringing. He once made a move called To Be A Man in the Philippines. During the filming, natives crowded around him under the impression he was the MacArthur who promised to return.

James MacArthur

James MacArthur

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