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Van Williams

Mostly Credited As: Van Williams
Birth Name: Van Zant Jarvis Williams
Date Of Birth: February 27, 1934 (Age 80)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: Fort Worth, Texas
Height: 6' (1.82 m)

Van Williams


Van Williams, in true Texas fashion, had initial plans to become a cattle rancher. The Fort Worth native's family was in the business, and his studies at Texas Christian University (animal husbandry and business) pointed him in that direction.

Williams was not quite ready to head into cattle ranching, so after an early failed marriage he went to Hawaii. He found work as a diving instructor, which proved to be central to the turning point in his life. One of the people who sought him out as a teacher was Nicky Hilton, husband of Elizabeth Taylor. Hilton suggested that Williams should take his good looks to Hollywood, where an era of "beefcake" actors at studios was well underway. Following an injury to his back, Williams took Hilton's advice and went to Hollywood, where he quickly found work as guest stars in a number of television shows.

Warner Brothers Studios produced a number of crime dramas, most modeled after their very successful 77 Sunset Strip show. Williams was cast in one, Bourbon Street Beat with veteran actors Andrew Duggan and Richard Long. The show only lasted one season, but executive producer William Orr took Williams' character, Ken Madison, and moved him from the French Quarter of New Orleans to a Miami Beach houseboat. SurfSide 6 teamed Williams with Lee Patterson and young heartthrob Troy Donahue. While this series only lasted two years, it established Williams as a handsome leading man who could effectively do both drama and comedy.

By this time, Williams was a husband and a father. He and wife Vicki, whom he married on New Year's Eve 1959, had a family to care for. Seeing that the acting profession was unstable, Williams began utilizing his TCU education and investing his earnings in business and real estate.

Williams was not short of acting jobs, as he continued to guest star in a number of comedy and drama programs. His spent a year in a program called The Tycoon, with Walter Brennan.

The role that Williams is best-known for came in 1966, when Batman executive producer William Dozier decided to bring another comic book crime fighter to life. Williams was cast as newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fought crime under the name the Green Hornet. To play the role of Kato (which Keye Luke had played in two movie serials in the 1940s), Dozier cast an unknown martial arts expert: Bruce Lee.

Unlike Batman, which was almost a campy parody of the comic books, The Green Hornet had a more serious tone with real criminals instead of costumed ones. The show was successful; however, there were problems. Williams felt that the 30-minute format did not allow for character development that would be necessary to expound on facts from the radio show, movie serial, and comic books (including Kato's science degree, his inventions, and how Britt had saved his life). The dissension proved fatal to the series, and it was canceled after only 26 episodes.

Williams continued acting, but his roles were fewer. He starred in a final series -- a Saturday morning kids' show titled Westwind -- and made carefully selected appearances (including the "Thirty a Month and Found" episode of Gunsmoke in 1975, which Williams listed as one of his favorite performances). Disillusioned with the acting profession, Williams focused his energy on his business ventures. Following a small role in The Rockford Files in 1979, Williams quit acting. He made one cameo in a Bruce Lee biopic, playing the director of The Green Hornet.

Van Williams and wife Vicki live in Idaho.

TV Appearances

Main cast 
Westwind (1975)As: Steve Andrews
The Green Hornet (1966)As: Britt Reid / Green Hornet
The Tycoon (1964)As: Pat Burns
SurfSide 6 (1960)As: Ken Madison
Bourbon Street Beat (1959)As: Kenny Madison
Episode Cast Credits 

E! Mysteries and Scandals (1998) 
  Bruce Lee 03x10: (May/08/2000) As Himself 

The Rockford Files (1974) (1974) 
  Love is the Word 06x06: (Nov/09/1979) As Lt. Duane Kiefer 

Mrs. Columbo (1979) 
  The Valley Strangler 02x04: (Nov/08/1979) As Fielding 

How the West Was Won (1978) 
  Season 1, Episode 6 01x06: (Mar/26/1978) As Captain MacAllister 
  Season 1, Episode 5 01x05: (Mar/19/1978) As Captain MacAllister 
  Season 1, Episode 4 01x04: (Mar/12/1978) As Captain MacAllister 

Barnaby Jones (1973) 
  Circle of Treachery 05x18: (Mar/03/1977) As Munson 

Tales of the Unexpected (US) (1977) 
  Devil Pack 01x03: (Feb/16/1977) As sheriff 

The Streets of San Francisco (1972) 
  The Thrill Killers (1) 05x01: (Sep/30/1976) As Officer Morton 

Bert D'Angelo Superstar (1976) 
  Scag 01x10: (Jun/16/1976) As Junior Danvers 

The Manhunter (1974) 
  To Kill a Tiger 01x21: (Feb/26/1975) As Crawford 

Gunsmoke (1955) 
  Thirty a Month and Found 20x05: (Oct/07/1974) As Quincy 

Mission: Impossible (1966) (1966) 
  The Deal 07x03: (Sep/30/1972) As Arnold Sanders 

Ironside (1967) 
  The Gambling Game 05x04: (Oct/05/1971) As Sgt. Artie Hawkins 

Nanny and the Professor (1970) 
  The Visitor 02x10: (Dec/04/1970) As Mr. Parsons 

Mannix (1967) 
  The Search for Darrell Andrews 03x22: (Feb/28/1970) As Executive #1 

The Big Valley (1965) 
  Rimfire 03x22: (Feb/19/1968) As Dave Barrett (Sheriff Dave Barrett) 

Batman (1966) 
  Batman's Satisfaction (2) 02x52: (Mar/02/1967) As The Green Hornet (Visiting Hero) 
  A Piece of the Action (1) 02x51: (Mar/01/1967) As Britt Reid / Green Hornet (Visiting Hero) 
  The Spell of Tut (1) 02x07: (Sep/28/1966) As The Green Hornet (window cameo), [Uncredited]

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) 
  The Courtship of Elly 04x08: (Nov/03/1965) As Dean Peters 

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961) 
  No Rice at My Wedding 05x05: (Oct/13/1965) As Clark Rice 

Temple Houston (1963) 
  Ten Rounds for Baby 01x19: (Jan/30/1964) As Joey Baker 

Hawaiian Eye (1959) 
  Two Million Too Much 04x20: (Feb/26/1963) As Don Munroe 

77 Sunset Strip (1958) 
  The Tarnished Idol 05x14: (Jan/11/1963) As Wade Saunders 
  Hot Tamale Caper (2) 03x38: (Jun/02/1961) As Ken Madison 
  Hot Tamale Caper (1) 03x37: (May/26/1961) As Ken Madison 

Cheyenne (1955) (1955) 
  Vengeance Is Mine 07x10: (Nov/26/1962) As Ray Masters 

Colt .45 (1957) 
  The Sanctuary 02x06: (May/10/1959) As Tom Rucker 

Lawman (1958) 
  The Young Toughs 01x28: (Apr/12/1959) As Zachary Morgan 

Hallmark Hall Of Fame (1951) 
  King Richard II 03x16: (Jan/24/1954) As Exton's Servant 
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Trivia

Van provided the voice of "the president" in the 1966 Batman feature film.

Van was on the cover of TV Guide once, the October 29, 1966 issue. The cover featured him dressed as the Green Hornet with Bruce Lee as Kato. The issue has been reprinted, and is very much in demand because of Lee's iconic status.

Van Williams Quotes

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