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Picture Show and TV Mirror (21 May 1960)

"James MacArthur: Star Who Does Without Doubles"

By Betty Jennings

Quietly spoken, thoughtful, and extremely polite -- and not quite so shy as he was when he came to this country to finish making Third Man on the Mountain -- that’s the impression I got of young American actor James MacArthur whom I met just before he flew back to the USA.

He’d been working here on the final stages of Swiss Family Robinson and Kidnapped, both Walt Disney films which will be shown later this year.

Unassuming James may be, but there is obviously more to him than meets the eye because whereas he is rather small and could easily escape unnoticed in a crowd, I have heard that he has enough courage for a person twice his size!

All his films for Disney have been of the adventure variety and in his latest James had some hair-raising scenes to perform -- but always refused a double!

In Third Man on the Mountain he had narrow escapes climbing mountains, in Kidnapped he willingly jumped a wide chasm and in Swiss Family he thought nothing of fighting an anaconda of very touchy temperament.

We talked about his life, and over a cup of tea -- he is not a coffee-drinker -- he told me he was the adopted son of Helen Hayes, first lady of the American theatre, and the late Charles MacArthur, a celebrated author and playwright.

Born in December 1937, in Los Angeles, California, he said his real parents were dead.

It was only to be expected that, brought up in the world of the theatre as he was, he should turn to acting. Not that he was influenced by his mother in any way but she did give him “invaluable advice.”

As a Welsh boy in Emlyn Williams’ The Corn Is Green he made his stage debut at the age of eight. He played the role in Welsh -- “It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d forgotten my lines, not that I did,” he hastened to add.

“I retired for a while,” James then commented humorously.

At one point he was the general handyman at a theatre. To get out of being asked to do any job that needed doing he explained: “I used to walk about behind the electrician with a piece of wire in my hand, making out I was his assistant. Then he left. The joke backfired on me for I was supposed to take his place. It went all right until one night I turned out the lights on Margaret Truman. She finished the show in darkness. Fortunately she was very nice about it.”

It was television that got him his first opportunity in films. He played the juvenile lead in the TV play Deal a Blow, the film version of which was released as The Young Stranger.

In between his performances James studied at Harvard University but he admitted to a loss of interest in his studies mainly because he “didn’t know what subject to specialise in.”

An important date in James’ life is 2nd November 1958, the day he married actress Joyce Bulifant.

Since their marriage Joyce and James have travelled a great deal but with the birth of their baby imminent -- and probably arrived by the time you read this -- they have moved from a “small flat in New York to a larger one,” where their household is completed by a cat.

“My wife wanted to be home while the move was on so that she could arrange things and feather her nest, I suppose,” James said with a grin.

Neither of them mind whether they have a boy or a girl, although “My mother hopes it is a boy.”

Naturally James was eager to return home and see Joyce -- they had been apart for a week -- however he enjoys the travelling that seems to be part and parcel of his career and told me -- “I like London, wouldn’t mind living here. It’s different from New York -- here you can look out of a window and see green spaces.”

He has a preference for the country. “I’d like a farm, have six children, and act as foreman. Then I could say, ‘Hey, you. Get on with it’.”

During any leisure time he has at the moment, James told me: “We have people in for cards, go to dances, play tennis.” He appreciates music and reads a great deal. “Thrillers and war stories, mainly.”

At one time he wrote a few articles for magazines. His comment on them, very briefly was, “Trash.”

We were talking of the success of actors of the calibre of Dirk Bogarde and Gary Cooper, and James suggested one reason for their popularity was that they looked as if they needed mothering. I asked him if he considered he had a kindred look. Slightly nonplussed, he said, “No. I don’t think I have.”

But that, I suppose, could only be answered by his numerous female fans!

James MacArthur, Joyce Bulifant

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