Actor Van Williams, the man who brought the Green Hornet so vividly to life in the technicolor '60s TV series, passed away last Monday at the age of 82 at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Williams is mostly remembered for his flashy role as Britt Reid, the millionaire playboy/newspaper editor who became the dashing insect-themed superhero the Green Hornet when the cover of darkness fell.
Discovered by producer Mike Todd while Williams was a diving instructor in Hawaii, the charismatic actor got his first break in the New Orleans-based TV crime series Bourbon Street Beat on ABC in 1959. When 20th Century Fox launched a new superhero show to pair with its Batman TV series in 1966, Van Williams was cast as The Daily Sentinel publisher and masked crimefighter alongside martial arts legend Bruce Lee as his manservant partner, Kato. Besides the Batmobile, Green Hornet's gleaming hero car, the rolling arsenal nicknamed the Black Beauty, was one of the coolest screen cars ever built.
After The Green Hornet was canceled in 1967 following a single 26-episode season, Williams went on to co-star and do cameos on iconic shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Surfside 6, The Tycoon, How The West Was Won, Barnaby Jones and Westwind. In the 1993 movie Dragon:The Bruce Lee Story, Williams was cast as the director for Bruce Lee in his debut appearance on The Green Hornet.
“He had a wonderful, caring, and kind heart,” his wife of 57 years, Vicki Williams, told Variety. “He was a wonderful husband, he was a fabulous father, and a devoted grandfather.”
Was Van Williams the ultimate Green Hornet, and what are your memories of the man growing up?