Sad news today, as longtime film and television actor James MacArthur has died at the age of 72. Known as “Danno” from his eleven seasons on the original Hawaii Five-O, MacArthur was a constant presence in Disney films of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Perhaps most famously, he portrayed the oldest brother, Fritz, in 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson.
MacArthur was the son of noted playwright Charles MacArthur and legendary stage actress Helen Hayes. He grew up surrounded by the royalty of the American stage and screen – his godmother was Lillian Gish! – and worked his way up from summer stock theater to early television.
His work with Disney began with The Light in the Forest (1958), and continued with Third Man on the Mountain (1959), Kidnapped (1960), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Two of these films left their mark on Disney parks – the Swiss Family still resides in Florida’s Adventureland and Third Man on the Mountain provided the inspiration for Disneyland’s Matterhorn. MacArthur had climbed the actual Matterhorn, having sneaked away with his guide the day before filming began to scale the mountain in secret.
Tonight, put in a DVD of one of these classics and play Swisskapolka or sing Climb the Mountain in tribute!