THE GREEN HORNET Re-visited by Tony Piazza
Van Williams and Bruce Lee in character.
I never got to work on a superhero film; I guess unlike Metropolis and Gotham City, San Francisco wasn’t worth saving. Although James Bond did save Silicon Valley once!
Van as Britt Reed, owner of The Daily Sentinel.
The closest I ever got to a superhero was working with an actor who was briefly “The Green Hornet” on television back in the sixties.
Lee and Williams, production photo.
Van Williams (The Green Hornet/ Britt Reed) was a guest star on “The Streets of San Francisco” and another of those normal guys that was always a pleasure to meet in the entertainment industry. He was also an actual crime fighter in the real world- working for the Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles County-going after real criminals without his stunt double!
He was a pleasure to talk to and I remember that part of our discussion revolved around the (then) recent death of his former partner in the show- Bruce Lee (Kato). Speculation abounded in the press about Lee’s “mysterious death”. Williams said there was no mystery at all, but simply a brain hemorrhage brought on as a result of some past martial arts injury- certainly not murder as the papers were suggesting. How people love mysteries! I remember him mentioning that he enjoyed his work with the Sheriff’s department and talked a great deal about it…and of course about his first love, acting.
His show, “The Green Hornet” was not as campy as the then popular “Batman”, and only lasted two seasons (1966-1967).
Recent publication on The Green Hornet’s History.
Here is some further information regarding The Green Hornet which began as a very popular radio show in the 1930s, two movie serials in the 1940s, and then graduated to television in the 1960s (1966-1967) running alongside Adam West’s “Batman” on the A.B.C. network.
Movie Serial from the 1940s.
It was the brainchild by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, the same two who created the highly successful Lone Ranger series. The Green Hornet was Britt Reid, a publisher of the Daily Sentinel by day who goes out disguised in his “Green Hornet” identity at night to fight crime. He was accompanied by his Asian valet Kato, who acted as chauffer and drove their car, a technological wonder equipped with an arsenal of advanced technology, called the “Black Beauty”.
1960s Black Beauty.
Sadly I had high expectations for the recent film release of “The Green Hornet,” but was extremely disappointed. It was quite evident neither the star, Seth Rogen, nor anyone connected with that production had a glimmer of an idea what “The Green Hornet” was all about. I’ve never saw such a disregard of the original source material! The Sting of the hornet in this case was what I felt after putting down my hard earned cash at the box office. It was even worse…they charged me ten dollars extra because it was in 3-D…a bad movie looks the same in 3D as it does in two dimensions. The only character that had personality in the film was the car…yes, it was that bad!
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.