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Farewell, Fritz

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!

James MacArthur 1937-2010

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3 comments to Farewell, Fritz

  • philphoggs

    No! Just shaking my head. So sorry to hear. Yes I guess forever Fritz to me too.

  • RO93461

    I’m a huge Hawaii Five-0 fan and so also losing Danno comes as a double shock. What a nice tribute post too. I had no idea that he was related to Lillian Gish! Triple shock. There is an interview with Jimmy on the “making of” bonus section of the SFR DVD that is well worth watching. I also miss his on screen sweetheart, Janet Munro. If he is not already a Disney legend, he should be.

  • Surely he is… he definitely qualifies more than so many others who have received that award.

    I loved seeing him on the SFR DVD. I was hoping to see him turn up at some of these D23 or WDFM events. He seemed like a cool guy.

    Thanks, guys!

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