Van Williams, known for his starring role as the Green Hornet (aka Britt Reid), in the 1960s TV show, died November 28 in Scottsdale, Ariz., of kidney failure, according to Variety. He was 82.
Williams was a diving instructor in Hawaii in the mid 1950s when he was discovered by producer Mike Todd. He was first signed to contract by Warner Bros. in 1959, with his big break coming that same year as co-star of ABC series Bourbon Street Beat. The New Orleans-set series aired for one season (1959-1960), but his character Kenny Madison was later recycled into the Surfside 6 TV series in the same time slot, with new colleagues played by Troy Donahue, Lee Patterson, Diane McBain, and Margarita Sierra. Williams also starred in a television pilot called The Leathernecks that was shown as an episode of ABC’s The Gallant Men.
His role in The Green Hornet came in 1966 when he signed a deal with 20th Century Fox. He starred as playboy editor/publisher Britt Reid, who inherited The Daily Sentinel newspaper from his father, who died in jail after being framed for a crime he did not commit. Reid donned a mask, fedora and long coat to battle the bad guys as the Hornet. Bruce Lee co-starred as Kato, Reid’s manservant (see photo above.)
Williams also appeared in features Tall Story (1960), in which he played a smug jock stepping stark naked out of the men’s locker room shower giving a young Jane Fonda quite an eye full, and 1963’s The Caretakers. He also was a series regular in ABC’s The Tycoon with Walter Brennan and had guest appearances on several television series. His most recent guest roles came in 1979 on Centennial, Mrs. Columbo and The Rockford Files.