Van Williams dies at 82

Van Williams and Bruce Lee in The Green Horney

Van Williams and Bruce Lee in The Green Hornet

Van Williams, the nominal star of the 1966-67 television version of The Green Hornet, died late last month, according to an obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

Williams played Britt Reid, the editor and publisher of The Daily Sentinel who battled crime as the masked Green Hornet. Reid had to dodge both hoods and the police, who believed the Hornet was a racketeer.

The district attorney, Frank Scanlon (Walter Brooke) was in on the masquerade. Meanwhile, Sentinel reporter Mike Axford (Lloyd Gough) was determined the Hornet be captured.

The show, however, became a platform for Bruce Lee, who played the Hornet’s assistant, Kato. Lee’s skill in martial arts was a highlight of the series. For youngsters in the audience, Lee’s Kato upstaged Williams’ Green Hornet. Lee (1940-1973) would become a star before his sudden death.

The show, based on a radio series, was an attempt by producer William Dozier to extend his success with masked characters after the debut of Batman in January 1966. Dozier even provided the narration in the show’s main titles, using his “Desmond Doomsday” voice he utilized in Batman.

Dozier’s Batman series also featured a two-part story in 1967 where the Green Hornet traveled to Gotham City, running afoul of Batman. Earlier in that same season, Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and Dick Grayson were briefly depicted watching The Green Hornet on television. In a different episode, the Green Hornet and Kato opened a window and talking to Batman and Robin, who were climbing up a building. Robin (Burt Ward) commented about the strange outfits worn by The Green Hornet and Kato.

Earlier in his career, Williams played private detective Kenny Madison, first on Bourbon Street Beat (1959-60) and then Surfside 6 (1960-62). two Warner Bros. series that aired on ABC.

Bruce Lee working on The Wrecking Crew

There’s really not much to be said here. During production of The Wrecking Crew, the fourth and final Matt Helm movie, Bruce Lee was credited as “karate adviser.” In reality, he was the fight arranger.

This photo popped up Facebook. Here, Lee (1940-1973) works with Sharon Tate (1943-1969) and Nancy Kwan (b. 1939) on a fight sequence toward the end of The Wrecking Crew.

Even though Lee didn’t appear on camera, his stunt work/fight arranging made The Wrecking Crew a unique entry in the four-film series starring Dean Martin and produced by Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli’s former producing partner.

Bruce Lee supervises Sharon Tate (left) and Nancy Kwan

Bruce Lee supervises Sharon Tate (left) and Nancy Kwan

Happy 70th Chuck Norris; here he is in The Wrecking Crew

Chuck Norris celebrated his 70th birthday on March 10. While he’s known for action movies and martial arts, he does have a tie to the 1960s spy craze in movies: The Wrecking Crew, the fourth, and final, Matt Helm movie starring Dean Martin, featuring a drastically different version of the hero created by Donald Hamilton.

In fact, it was Norris’s screen debut and the fights were arranged by Bruce Lee, listed in the film’s credits as the “karate adviser.” You can pretty much see all of Norris’s screen time in this clip, including the :45 mark, where he gets his only line:

Bruce Lee turns Dino into a kickin’ fool

One of the oddities of the 1960s spy craze was The Wrecking Crew, the fourth, and final, Matt Helm movie starring Dean Martin. It has the distinction of being Chuck Norris’s debut (as a thug) and one of the final appearances of Sharon Tate.

But perhaps the most unusual aspect was the participation of Bruce Lee as “karate advisor” (his on-screen credit). In this YouTube video, we see a series of stills of Lee helping to prepare Dino, Sharon Tate and Nancy Kwan for fight scenes:

Here, we can see the finished product:

Also, here’s a longer clip where Norris shows up, asking Dino for his gun.

Sometime back, HMSS ran an article examining all four Helm movies, comparing them to the much-more serious Donald Hamilton novels upon which they were based. To take a look click RIGHT HERE.