January 23, 1998

Jack Lord, 77, Star of 'Hawaii Five-O'

Jack Lord, the deadpan star of "Hawaii Five-O" who made "Book him, Danno" a fixture of American slang, died Wednesday at his home in Honolulu.

He was 77 and died of congestive heart failure, said Carolyn Tanaka, a spokeswoman for Marie Lord, the actor's wife and only survivor.

Playing strait-laced, tight-lipped Detective Steve McGarrett, head of an elite state police investigative unit, Lord helped make "Hawaii Five-O" the longest running police drama in television history. It lasted 12 seasons on CBS, from 1968 to 1980, and was also seen in more than 80 other countries.

The phrase "Book him, Danno," used when the bad guy was captured, came from the name of McGarrett's assistant, Detective Danny Williams, who was played until the show's penultimate season by James MacArthur.

Lord was not only the star; his contract gave him control over dramatic decisions on every episode, and it was he who insisted, against the network's wishes, that the show be shot entirely on location in Hawaii.

That decision enhanced not only the show's appeal, as viewers seemed as entranced by the idyllic island scenery as by the crime stories, but also the Hawaiian economy. The network's spending on the production and on staff members' living expenses was estimated at more than $100 million a year, and the show fostered what Hawaiian government officials called significant increases in tourism.

"It was considered the ultimate travelogue for Hawaii," David Poltrack, executive vice president of research at CBS, said Thursday. "The ascent of Hawaii as a major tourist location coincided with the strong years of that program. It really hit a chord."

Lord helped shape the show with its creator and executive producer, Leonard Freeman. After Freeman's death in 1973, a succession of producers followed, but it was widely known that Lord controlled the show. He also directed several episodes.

"He was always a strict taskmaster, a perfectionist," said Kam Fong, an original cast member, who played Detective Chin Ho Kelly for 10 years. "When we were on the set, it was strictly business; he wouldn't stand for any horseplay. And he was not the sociable type. After work, he had nothing to do with us socially.

"But I learned quite a lot from him, and so did others," added Fong, who had acted on stage but never in films or television before "Hawaii Five-O." "We always had a lot of local actors on the show who were inexperienced, and he helped them a lot. He would yell at them, but always to help them learn."

Different biographies give varying birth dates for Lord, but Ms. Tanaka said the correct date was Dec. 30, 1920. He was born John Joseph Patrick Ryan, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a steamship company executive. As a youth, he served as a merchant marine officer, and pursued his first love, painting, while working on freighters around the world.

Returning to New York, he won a football scholarship to New York University, where he majored in fine arts.

Selling Cadillacs from a showroom at 57th and Broadway in Manhattan by day, Lord began studying acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse by night. His first break was a role in the Ralph Bellamy television series "Man Against Crime," and he went on to play in numerous live television dramas in the early 1950s. He also appeared in four Broadway plays, including Elia Kazan's production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," in the role of Brick.

He later had roles in several movies, most notably "Dr. No," one of the early James Bond films.

Before "Hawaii Five-O," Lord won acclaim as the lead character, a rodeo rider, in "Stoney Burke," a 1962-63 series that lasted one season competing against "I Love Lucy" and "The Danny Thomas Show."

According to Fong and other acquaintances quoted in Hawaiian newspaper accounts, Lord and his wife, a former fashion designer, were famously reclusive. In recent years, when Lord's health deteriorated, he was rarely seen.

The Lords, who moved to Hawaii from New York during the show's early years and never left, were married for more than 50 years, according to Ms. Tanaka, and had occupied themselves since 1980 with charitable work and relaxation.

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company