Image: The Everett Collection
Van Williams portrayed the Green Hornet, and his handsome alter ego Britt Reid, for one single season fifty years ago. While it lasted just 26 episodes, the superhero series had a lasting impact. For starters, it introduced the world to the martial arts mastery of Bruce Lee. To this day, The Green Hornet inspires new comic book series and toys featuring the likenesses of Williams and Lee.
Williams died of renal failure at the age of 82 last Monday, accoring to Variety.
Williams was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered by Elizabeth Taylor's husband, producer Mike Todd, in 1957. The athletic actor was cast in Bourbon Street Beat, one of Warner Bros.' hip, exotic detective series modeled after the success of 77 Sunset Strip. In 1960, his character was carried over into Surfside 6.
Six years later, William Dozier, creator of the overnight success Batman, looked to start another vigilante series with a far less campy tone. Enter The Green Hornet. Both Williams and Lee made cameos on Batman, first popping their heads out of windows before fighting the Dynamic Duo in a crossover story.
The following decade, his acting career waned, and Williams became a reserve deputy sheriff and a volunteer fire fighter in Malibu. In 1982, Williams retired from acting to start a communications company. Williams is survived by his wife, three children and five grandchildren.
You can see The Green Hornet on Heroes & Icons every Saturday morning at 5aET and 5:30ET as part of Comic Book Heroes.