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Jack Lord, Star of 'Hawaii Five-O,' Dies

TV: Producer of longest continuously running police show suffers heart failure at 77.


Jack Lord, who produced and starred as Det. Steve McGarrett in "Hawaii Five-O," the longest continuously running police show in television history, has died. He was 77.

Lord died Wednesday night of heart failure at his home in Honolulu, where he and his wife, Marie, had lived for 30 years.

The actor's customary sign-off line, "Book 'em, Danno!" entered television annals, along with the CBS series, which ran from 1968 to 1980.

The line was aimed at actor James MacArthur in the role of Danny "Danno" Williams, one of four original detectives who worked as a special state police force answering directly to the Hawaii governor, played by actor Richard Denning.

Although Lord and MacArthur were professional actors, the other two detectives--Kam Fong as Det. Chin Ho Kelly and Zulu as Det. Kono Kalakaua--and hundreds of supporting players were trained to act by Lord and his colleagues. Zulu, who stayed with the show the first four years, was a native of Hawaiia, and Fong, who remained with the show 10 years, had been a Honolulu police officer for 18 years.

One of the keys of the series' success was being filmed on location in Hawaii. Fans who had never visited the islands particularly relished the lush tropical outdoor scenes. The show set the island-shooting precedent for later series such as "Magnum, P.I."

"It's costing us 25% to 30% more to film here than in Hollywood. But we feel it's worth it because we're getting a fresh kind of hot look from this new environment," Lord told The Times in 1968 after completing the first six episodes.

Even then, Lord was certain the series would last, commenting: "There are certain hallmarks you look for with a new series. This one was completely sponsored within three weeks. And to date, 203 out of 210 CBS affiliates have said they're going to carry the show."

At its height, "Hawaii Five-O" was seen in 80 countries by more than 300 million viewers.

Investing his profits in shopping centers, supermarkets and other Hawaii real estate, Lord retired from acting when the series ended, devoting his remaining years to his earliest artistic outlet, painting. His canvases sold privately for top prices and hung in more than 40 museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum and Brooklyn Museum of Art, all in New York, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and the Library of Congress in Washington.

Born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in New York, the son of a shipping executive, Lord spent summers at sea with the merchant marine and painted what he saw of China, the Mediterranean and Africa. As Jack Ryan, he had bit parts in two 1949 films, "The Red Menace" and "Project X."

He studied art at New York University, which he attended on a football scholarship, and acted at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York at night while selling cars during the day.

Adopting the stage name Jack Lord, he toured with the national company of "Flame Out" in 1953 and a year later made his New York stage debut in "The Illegitimist." In 1955, he succeeded Ben Gazzara as Brick in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway, and that propelled him to Hollywood.

Lord appeared as Elizabeth Montgomery's doomed husband in "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell," as Robert Taylor's financially strapped war buddy in "Tip on a Dead Jockey," as one of Robert Ryan's treasure-seeking sons in "God's Little Acre," and as a drug-selling thug in "The True Story of Lynn Stuart."

On television, Lord found guest roles on popular Western series such as "Have Gun, Will Travel." But by 1960, he was so frustrated by a steady run of villain roles that he wrote a bitter article for The Times complaining that Hollywood had typecast him.

Lord continued to work in some films, including a role as a CIA agent in the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No.," but found greater reception on the small screen.

An expert rider since learning horsemanship on his mother's Hudson Valley farm in his teens, Lord landed his first television series in 1962 as a rodeo rider in "Stoney Burke." Perhaps a precursor to his Hawaii series, the ABC Western was shot on location around the American Southwest as Burke pursued the elusive prize of the golden buckle. The series lasted a year.

Lord, who did guest appearances on the "Dr. Kildare" medical series in the 1960s, said he had turned down the leading role in another medical dramatic show, "Ben Casey," and for the popular Western "Wagon Train."

Less perceptive than he later proved with "Hawaii Five-O," the actor told TV Guide in 1962 that "Westerns were getting tired." Explaining his rejection of the medical show, he added: "I can't stand an atmosphere of human misery."

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