Tag Archive: Van Williams


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!


Myself and Van Williams on location for “The Streets of San Francisco.”

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!

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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.

You Won’t Like Me When I Am Mad! by Tony Piazza

 

Aside from working with 1960s Green Hornet (VAN WILLIAMS), I got a chance to spend time with another comic book hero. This character will soon make an appearance in “The Avengers” film due out this summer, so I thought it was timely to make him a subject of this blog.

   This comic book hero hit the small screen in the 1980s right out of the pages of Marvel Comics… he was big and green, but did not go “Ho…Ho…Ho”- as you probably figured out from the accompanied picture, I’m talking about “The Incredible Hulk”. Looking back on the show today, and comparing it to the recent big screen features, it visually comes up short on the “Hulk” side. Somehow seeing a muscle builder with translucent contacts, a body covered in green make-up, and wearing a bad punk wig wasn’t just bordering on the ridiculous- IT WAS ridiculous- not to mention that his dialog left a lot to be desired. However, they did pull it off- and for two very good reasons; good stories and the fine acting skills of BILL BIXBY, the human half of the Hulk. He made the unbelievable, believable.

   I got to work with Bill Bixby twice. Once on “The Streets of San Francisco” and then on its’ spin-off “Burt D’Angelo Superstar” starring PAUL SORVINO and ROBERT PINE. In the first instance he was a guest star and I photo-doubled him in a couple of scenes. I am slightly taller and broader than he was, but our hair, eyes, complexion, and facial features were similar. Also he was dressed as a motorcycle cop with leather jacket, dark glasses, and helmet which also helped the illusion.

I am the reporter taking notes. Look behind me to the left. That is Bill Bixby from “Streets”

   The second time I worked with him, was as a director. In that instance I was able to spend more time talking personally with him, and in doing so, we found that we had attended the same High School (but at different times- he was older) and knew some of the same people associated with it. One day I brought my yearbook to the set and he looked it over. He couldn’t get over the fact that his home room teacher was still working at the school (now the Dean of Girls) and he said that he always “remembered her as this little old Italian lady” and was surprised that she hadn’t changed in all these years!

   Bill Bixby and Ray Walston- My Favorite Martian (1963)

   Bill Bixby had a lot of accomplishments- mostly on the small screen- “My Favorite Martian”, “The Courtships of Eddies’ Father”, and of course the Hulk. He did do a feature- a Disney film, “The Apple Dumpling Gang”; and I believe (based upon the successes of those previous shows) he could have gone farther – he was also a very good director- but unfortunately he was taken early in life, which cheated us of any accomplishments he might of achieved in the entertainment world.

He was a very pleasant to know – very personable- bright- and much accomplished- and unlike his counterpart- even great to know when he was mad!

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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” is due out early 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.