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TV Week (6 December 1975)

"Danny Makes It On His Own"

By Peter MacDonald

The kids following in mum’s or dad’s footsteps isn’t exactly an earth shattering departure. But when mum is an Oscar-winning little old lady, it’s something to take note of. And that’s just what TV Week was doing on one such success story last week in Hollywood.

It may have struck some on the Hawaii Five-O set as a mother-son publicity gimmick. But for James MacArthur it was much more.

The episode the son of Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur was filming with his mother would have been unthinkable for him just a few years ago.

“I had a hang-up about being the ‘son of’ when I began the show,” the series’ Detective Danny Williams explained. “In fact, this is the first time we’ve worked together in a serious professional sense.

“I was even reluctant to talk about my parents. It had nothing to do with our relationship. I wanted to be accepted for myself. But I didn’t have the confidence I do now and there was always that nagging doubt ...”

This was just one of the problems weighing heavily on the husky, 37-year-old actor when he joined the Honolulu-filmed series eight years ago, unhappily typecast as a James Dean and reeling from a broken marriage.

Today by contrast he is happily remarried, to F Troop’s Melody Patterson, has a successful island business and is honing a new talent in local theatre as a director. His credits include The Front Page, the hit his late father wrote with Ben Hecht.

“This show has changed my life,” Jim said. “As for the future, I’d love to direct movies -- even try my hand at producing. My mother keeps encouraging me to make a career of it.”

He keeps encouraging her to slow down a little. But since a bronchial condition forced the 75-year-old Broadway legend to retire from the stage six years ago she has carved out a new career in films and television.

The aunt she plays to Jim’s Danny in a guest stint on the Viacom series is the latest in what she calls her “little-old-lady dodge” which has already netted her an Oscar for Airport.

Not all her “LOL” roles have been so successful and Jim delights in teasing her that The Snoop Sisters, a short-lived mystery series she co-starred in with Mildred Natwick, hardly rivalled Hawaii Five-O’s longevity.

“They expected us to somehow overcome dull scripts and pump life into it,” she snorted.

“But Millie and I didn’t become famous performing in dull plays and movies. We desperately needed wonderful lines to say.”

James MacArthur

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