Actor Van Williams, best known to genre fans as the Green Hornet opposite of Bruce Lee’s Kato in the late sixties passed away last Monday. The actor started working in the mid 50’s and got on a regular series with Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6 in 1960. He would play in a variety of series like 77 Sunset Strip and The Tycoon before landing the role of Britt Reid / The Green Hornet as a spinoff of the successful Batman series. He and Lee appeared in a two episodes as well as a cameo in a third before starting up their own series that lasted one season.
He would stay working in television through the seventies but left acting almost for good after appearances on Mrs. Columbo and the Rockford Files in 1979. He would return to acting only once more, playing the director of the Green Hornet in Dragon: The Bruce Lee story in 1993.
He was approached to do a cameo in the 2010 Green Hornet movie but was unavailable.
Word is that Williams worked as a fire-fighter in the Los Angeles area after his Green Hornet days and singed his lungs in the line of duty and that may have played into the cause of death.
Actress Pat Priest, Williams’ longtime friend and neighbor, confirmed the news to Variety. Priest received an email from Williams’ wife, Vicki Flaxman, about her husband’s death on Sunday. “Sad news. Van passed away last Monday night,” Flaxman wrote. “He really fought hard, but he had more health issues than he could manage. I am heartbroken.”