Jump to content

I attended Actor James MacArthur's Funeral


Recommended Posts

  • Members

On Saturday, Nyack, NY said a final farewell to a friend and former neighbor, actor James MacArthur, who died on October 28 at the age of 72.

His was a most unusual journey. Adopted as an infant by the legendary actress Helen Hayes and her playwright husband Charles MacArthur, James, while growing up, never focused on having an acting career. James was reluctant to follow in his family's footsteps, but he did. The world was then privileged to follow this brright young star whose career would see him perform on stage, in movies and on television.

His first big break came in 1957, when he appeared in an episode of the television series, Climax titled "The Young Stranger;" he played the rebellious son of a motion picture producer.

MacArthur studied at Harvard, but dropped out in his sophomore year. His fledgling theatrical career received a boost in 1961 when he won the Theatre World Award for best new actor for his role in the Broadway play Invitation to a March opposite Jane Fonda. The early 1960s saw the Young MacArthur appearing in such classic Walt Disney films as Kidnapped, Swiss Family Robinson, The Light in the Forest and Third Man on the Mountain.

He later cut his teeth on meatier roles in Hang 'Em High and The Battle of the Bulge, in addition to appearing in episodes of television's western classic Gunsmoke.' But, the role that would catapult him into television superstardom came in 1968, when he was cast in the CBS-TV crime drama Hawaii Five-O. Every episode of the series would have series star, Jack Lord, who played Steve McGarrett, turning to MacArthur and saying, "Book 'em Danno" after apprehending their sought-after suspects. MacArthur appeared in 12 of the series' 13 years on television.

Following his stint on Hawaii Five-O, MacArthur appeared in a series of stage plays. Among his most notable roles was the lead character of Hildy Johnson in The Front Page (1981), the play having been co-written by his father some 60 years earlier. Another one of his later stage performances was as the villainous Mortimer in 'Arsenic and Old Lace.'

The bright lights of Hollywood never went to his head. James MacArthur was, first and foremost, a family man, who was devoted to his parents, to his older sister Mary who died of polio at age 19, and to his wife and children.

In his homily, Reverend Rees W. Doughty, pastor of St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church, told the assembled congregation that James and his wife H.B. (the former Helen Beth Duntz) often enjoyed going out on dates even long after they were married, and invariably, the dates they enjoyed most of all was attending Mass. The pastor wondered why a long married couple would go out on dates and end up in church. Rev. Doughty said that "it was in church where we encounter love in its origin, we rediscover love, where we feel the presence of the risen Lord, and where we know the love we have is meant to last forever."

Philip Altford, a 35 year friend of the late actor, gave the eulogy. Opening his remarks, Altford said that that "it was fitting that we come together in Nyack, to James' boyhood home, for it was here at his family's estate, 'Pretty Penny,' where he could escape the frenzied and hectic life he led, and just be himself, surrounded by family, friends and neighbors who loved him."

"Jimmy Mac was an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life. Raised by parents who had risen to the pinnacles of their professions, James was educated in the finest of schools, and growing up, was surrounded by the giants of the stage, screen and literature.

He found his own fame and fortune at a young age with his co-starring role on the then #1 television show 'Hawaii Five-O.'"

"MacArthur was blessed with many gifts," Altford said. "He had a keen intellect, was a voracious reader and athletically gifted. He had a deep appreciation for Art. He had the wonderlust of a gypsy, and possessed the quality to walk with kings, but he never lost the common touch."

"If he took you as a friend, you were his friend for life."

Altford concluded his remark by saying: "MacArthur took great pride in his four children and his seven grandchildren. His only regret was not being able to match his wife's elegant golf swing."

The celebration of the life of this man, who was a son, brother, husband, father and grandfather, who was known to many of us as an actor, was a very touching tribute to an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life.

A private burial was held earlier in the week at Oak Hill Cemetery, where James MacArthur was interred in the family plot alongside his parents and his sister.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Thanks for telling us about this. I'm sure it must have been a tough experience. I remember seeing the interview Edward R. Murrow did with Helen Hayes in the early 50s, when her daughter was still alive, and James was young. He grew into such a talented, handsome actor, understated. We need more of those.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy