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Youngstown Vindicator (5 February 2003)

"Actor MacArthur shares memories of work, family"

By Sean Barron

For about 45 minutes, actor James MacArthur covered more than 45 years of his career.

MacArthur, who appeared in many films, television shows and stage productions, took center stage Tuesday at Lakeview High School as the keynote speaker for An Evening with James MacArthur.

The event, sponsored by the public libraries of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties, featured the actor sharing many recollections of his four-decade career, and was set up as part of the 10-week "One Book, Two Counties" project.

The project encourages people in both counties to read and discuss a book relevant to communities in their counties.

Conrad Richter's book The Light in the Forest was selected to be read, in part because MacArthur played a lead role in the 1958 Walt Disney film version of The Light. The book also was chosen because of its exploration of Ohio's frontier heritage, and because 2003 is the state's bicentennial year, said Jan Vaughn, public relations coordinator for Warren-Trumbull County Public Library.

MacArthur, 65, best known for his television role as Danny Williams in Hawaii Five-O, also starred in TV westerns Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Death Valley Days and appeared in numerous other films and shows.

He shared with the audience several anecdotes combined with some behind-the-scenes moments, including what it was like to star in the Disney film, as well as how the movie and book differed.

The book, published in 1953, is set in 1764 and tells the story of John Butler, who at age 4 is captured and raised by the Delaware Indian tribe. Years later, he is returned to his white family as part of a treaty settlement, but he only knows the customs and lifestyle of the Indians.

MacArthur showed a film clip in which his character refused to initially acknowledge his being part of the white family, but he eventually accepted his place and lived happily.

In the book, however, John Butler never made that transition, MacArthur said.

"Walt Disney was not a merchant of sadness," he said, referring to Richter's darker and sadder ending in the book version.

MacArthur shared what it was like being adopted by Helen Hayes, a long-time stage and screen star and having a father who was a playwright.

He also said that he planned to do a Hawaii Five-O revisit in the mid-1990s but that illness overcame the show's main star, scrapping the plan.

"Jack Lord developed Alzheimer's [disease] and slipped away," he said sadly.

MacArthur described himself as an "inveterate reader" and said he was considering putting together a one-man show.

"My idea of going to hell is going somewhere where there are no books," he said.

The "One Book, Two Counties" program continues until March 21. For more information about MacArthur, go to his website at www.jamesmacarthur.com.

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