Long before I ever sighed for Van Johnson, swooned over Joseph Cotton or dreamed of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., there was James MacArthur.
I was probably five or six years old and my family was watching one of our favorite movies “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960). Even as a child, I recognized his very attractive looks. I didn’t really understand when my mom told me that MacArthur was now old when in the movie he looked so young. Did that mean I couldn’t marry him when I grew up?
Right now I am in total shock. Just an hour ago, I was shopping in TJ Maxx when my mom texted me the bad news: that James MacArthur was dead at 72. My first childhood crush-and my mother’s childhood crush- was gone!
Admittedly, I haven’t seen many of his films. My favorites that I have seen are “The Interns” (1962), “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960) and “Spencer’s Mountain” (1963) -though I was jealous of every girl he ended up within the movie. I will say I tried to watch his first feature film “The Young Stranger” (1957), but was so angered by the stupidity of his parents and other adults in that movie I had to stop. I’ve always wanted to see the Hayley Mills and James MacArthur movie “The Truth About Spring” (1965) but unfortunately, I’ve never been able to find it.
I sometimes forget that James MacArthur is the adopted son of “the first lady of the theater,” Helen Hayes. He was even the god-son of Lillian Gish, talk about one lucky adopted child.
It’s so heartwarming to me to see them in pictures or films together. In one obituary I read today, he said his favorite episode of “Hawaii Five-O” was in 1975 when Hayes guest starred as Danno’s Aunt Clara, an old woman on vacation in Hawaii. In the show Aunt Clara helped the detectives solve the murder (how cute!).
You will be missed, James MacArthur. I will forever think of you as the young man in “Swiss Family Robinson.” Below is my favorite part from the movie. I’ll miss and always have a crush on your, Fritz.
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