Getting to Know Jack
Jack often visited disabled children and recovering veterans.
Photographer unknown. Deemed to be in the public domain as per Circular 3, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, 2017.
I am very emotionally involved. I come alive under an imaginary situation.
People think acting is talking. No. It’s emotion. I’m an instrument. I dredge
up joy or anger or fear. I use myself totally… You’ve got to be a maniac to be
in this business – and a dedicated maniac to survive.
~ Jack Lord
Source: “Jack Lord: The Hyphenated-Man: The Cop Who Cares”
in Honolulu Magazine, October 1970.
Jack Lord was not an easy man to understand. He was a complex man. And, yet, when we look back and compare how he handled situations to his past life experiences, it is easy to understand the decisions he made and why he made them.
After Hawaii Five-0 ended production, Jack retired to private life. Unless he was tending to his philanthropic or business interests, he rarely went out. Oh, he jogged along Kahala Beach, drove Marie to the market, and took her to dinner at the Kahala Hilton on Sunday nights, but he wasn’t one to put on his blue suede shoes and head out to Waikiki to kick up his heels. Why not?
In the first place, he was sixty years old, not twenty or thirty years old. In the second place, he was a private person, who was more comfortable in the quiet pursuits of painting, reading, and photography. In the third place, he came from a family that lives quietly and values its privacy.
To try and understand Jack’s ways, let’s see how the people who knew him saw him.
Jack was an introvert.
Do you remember the television interview when Marie said, "He didn't like to talk about himself, for one thing . . . I don't want to say Jack was shy, but he was a private person"? ("Jack Lord," Inside Edition, King World Productions, 1999). She was trying to explain that he was an introvert. He was highly creative with his art, his acting, and his directing – and those are just the sides of him that we saw on screen. He was an avid reader, as noted by the number of books from his personal library that are still selling on Ebay. He was more comfortable with small groups of close friends than with large groups of acquaintances. Oh, he could interrelate with large groups, such as the 150 cast and crew members on the set, but at the end of the day, he was ready to go home to a quiet evening with his wife.
Jack was a man with many interests.
Jack’s interests typically are not associated with the same man. For example, he was an artist and looked at scenes with an artist's eye; yet, he went to college on a football scholarship. In fact, he was the only member of the New York University football team to earn a degree in fine arts.
Jack viewed his projects as work. Whether he was painting a picture that would fetch in the thousands of dollars or filming a production that would be seen around the world or pressing for the addition of new buildings at the Hawaii Film Studio, he approached it as though it were business. He was not just an actor, who painted on the side or threw his hat into the ring to give Hawai'i its own film studio or a boost in tourism. It was business to him, serious business. Jack said . . .
I'm proud to run a tight ship. When we came here, we had many problems;
we were fighting to survive, so I used to say to the guys on the crew, 'Look.
You're not working for CBS, You're not working for a production company.
You're working for yourself! And, unless you realize that, we are all going to be
out of work. When you run to get a lamp, you are doing yourself a favor, because,
if we can't make budget, if we can't do these shows on time, we might as well
fold our tents now and go home.
(Anderson, Nancy. Jack Lord: My Life Is Filled With Miracles in Photoplay. March 1974.)
Similarly, Jack was a shrewd businessman, who belonged to a hui, a group of real-estate developers. He was involved in the development of houses on the eastern slope of Diamond Head, as well as shopping centers. Jack spoke often about putting in long days on the Five-0 set, but he spoke less often about the business meetings he attended after he left the set. Jack possessed an incredible amount of energy. Not many people can work 12 or 13 hours at their jobs and go on to meetings lasting several more hours.
He wanted to see potential investments before he made them. He walked across prospective building lots. He walked through construction sites. He wanted to know about every nut and bolt that went into the construction process, just as surely as he wanted to know about every light candle and camera angle that went into shooting a scene on the set. Back in the day, people accused him of having an over-sized ego. More likely, he was just interested in how the pieces went together to form the whole, being it an episode or a shopping center.
In a well written article about Jack from Stoney Burke to Steve McGarrett based on interviews the author had with Jack between 1962 and 1975, the quotations by Jack show a lot about his approach to the business side of acting. (Major, Jack. Jack Lord's fussiness about his roles finally paid off big time. Major-smolinski.com.
Jack said, I had a deal with the network going in and that called for star billing. There was a reason for that. Stardom is something you earn. The two shows I starred in, Hawaii Five-0 and Stoney Burke, I helped sell them on Madison Avenue. So, you may call it ego. I call it good business sense. (Buck, Jerry. "The Lord of the Islands. Associated Press. Printed in Honolulu Star-Bulletin. February 17, 1974, p. C-15.)
Jack was sensitive and caring.
He helped to sponsor Direction Sports, which helps inner-city youths discover who they are and who they want to become through academic achievement and athletic competition. He didn't just participate in meetings; he met with the youth and counseled them. Similarly, he met with disabled children, allowing them to share their interests with him and sharing his interests with them. Being an artist, he entertained them by drawing pictures while they watched.
Jack also led the Veterans Administration's No Greater Love program through which he visited recovering servicemen at Tripler Army Hospital (now, Medical Center) to show his appreciation for what they had given and given up for the nation. He delivered speeches to veterans organizations on commemoration days. Jack also gave to the military. A merchant marine officer during World War II, Jack had affiliation with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and in turn, with the Navy. He helped to promote boat safety inspections and featured Coast Guard and Navy ships on Hawaii Five-0 at a time when, so soon after the Vietnam War, "military" was a bad word in this country. The Coast Guard Auxiliary honored him by naming him an honorary commodore, a rank roughly equivalent to rear admiral (lower half).
Jack loved children and believed in traditional values.
When speaking to the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal (December 9, 1962) about working with Leslie Stevens to create his first series (Leslie Stevens' first television production and Jack's first starring series), Jack said . . .
We believe we can accomplish a lot of good in this world. We are interested in our
influence on children, because they represent what this country can and will
become. . . Do you realize what ten producers like Stevens and myself could
accomplish in just one season by teaching children that forgiveness, tolerance,
and other good qualities still have a place in the world.
In his article, in which the above article appeared, Jack Major says, "Lord's conversation isn't bubbling, and he doesn't often laugh, but when he talks about children this way, his face lights up. . . . He said he won his argument to have Stoney abstain from smoking or drinking for fear this might have a bad influence on young viewers." (Major, Jack. Jack Lord's Fussiness About His Roles Finally Paid Off Big Time in Name Dropping - Jack Lord.
Many of the scenes for the original were shot in and around the area of my parents'
home near Diamond Head. One day (circa 1970) my mother was returning from Times Market with, among other things, ice cream. Tutu could not get to the house because the streets were blocked off for shooting. She was huhu - and told the security folks about her melting ice cream. About two hours later, Jack Lord himself appeared at her front door, bearing a large quantity of ice cream. Talk about 'aloha spirit'.
Kama‘ainainTX in “‘Hawaii Five-0’ Redux Receives Green Light From Network” in Honolulu Advertiser. May 18, 2010. http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2010/May/18/ln/hawaii5180364.html
Jack was a pacifist.
As much as he was religious, Jack favored world peace. He was active in Moral Re-Armament (MRA), now known as Initiatives of Change, an international moral and spiritual movement founded by Frank Buchman. The MRA's appeal was for the moral unification of people from all faiths and nationalities. The group felt that military rearmament alone would not solve the world's problems. As Mr. Buchman said, "The crisis is fundamentally a moral one. The nations must re-arm morally. Moral recovery is essentially the forerunner of economic recovery. Moral recovery creates not crisis but confidence and unity in every phase of life." (Buchman, Frank N.D., Remaking the World. London: 1955, p. 46.)
Jack’s participation in Moral Re-Armament ties in with his serving in the Merchant Marines, rather than the active-duty military. After his ship was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Italy, Jack opted to serve on land. He worked for the Army Corps of Engineers in Persia (now, Iran), helping to build roads and bridges. He took officer training through the Maritime Service and worked for the training division of the War Department in Washington. Jack was a pacifist, but don't let that put you off. He served his country.
Jack's pacifism was seen in an episode of Hawaii Five-0. In "When Does a War End?" (Season 10), near the end, McGarrett and Danno had just arrested Alicia Wade (Anne Francis) and Willie Barker (David Dukes) for the attempted murder of Yuhio and Nancy Muromoto (Bennett Ohto and Donna Benz) when the reporter Joe Boyd (Joshua Bryant) came on the scene. He and McGarrett ad-libbed the following discussion about when all wars will end. Jack was exhibiting strong emotions, which some have reported was not acting.
McGarrett: When do all wars end? When people stop hating and start
Boyd: You think that'll ever happen?
McGarrett: It better. Oh, God, it better.
According to the son of a seamstress for Hawaii Five-0, "Jack hated guns, he only used one to take part in the scene. He always argued against Steve using a gun" (E-mail to Mike Quigley from an unnamed source, 17 September 2014). Similarly, in several episodes of Hawaii Five-0, Jack through Steve McGarrett argued against guns, drugs, and other dangerous intruders into civilized society.
This is illustrated in a conflict Jack experienced when plans were being made to film "Nine Dragons" (Season 9) in Hong Kong. The special administrative district of China has very strict gun control laws and was quite concerned about the filming of what it considered a violent program on its soil. Two years before the episode became reality, Hong Kong officials wrote to Jack and informed him that Mr. McGarrett would need to leave his guns with the police at the Hong Kong airport.
It was very upsetting to Jack that Hawaii Five-0 and, especially, Steve McGarrett were seen in that light. After all, Jack long had lobbied for gun control in the United States and had made a concerted effort to have each episode send a positive message. He was only able to come to terms with the conflict when his wife reminded him about how another violent episode, "Up Tight" (Season 1), had saved the life of a real young girl, whose drug use nearly had driven her to suicide. The episode had shown her that one had a choice about whether to let drugs ruin her life or to turn herself and her friends in to the police and thus turn away from drugs. And so, Jack and the Five-0 team determined to have "Nine Dragons" tell a good story without the use of guns. They succeeded, too!
At the same time . . .
Jack was a Patriot.
One of the arguments for a military draft is that young men come out with a deep appreciation for this country and what it represents. We hope that holds true today. It did hold true in Jack’s day. Men who put their lives on the line for this country, to say nothing of this country’s allies in World War II, came out with very strong feelings of patriotism.
Jack was no exception. Although he served as a civilian mariner in the Merchant Marines, he served. Life on the liberty ships was not easy. The early liberty ships were converted luxury liners, which were stripped of all glitter and glam and pressed into service to transport food, munitions, and personnel to war-torn Europe, Hawai`i, and other locations. The German U-boats were on the lookout for them and took out more than a few. Yes, serving in the Merchant Marine was serving in this man’s military. Jack did not leave government service right after the war, either. He spent two more years making training films for the US Maritime Service in Washington.
Circa 1980, Jack delivered a speech to soldiers and veterans. It was “I Am the Nation” by Otto Whittaker. It is such a strongly patriotic piece that parts of it have been paraphrased by others. Jack introduced the speech by saying he gave the same reading “at a dedication of the Vietnam Memorial at Punchbowl Cemetery several years ago when our guys were coming home from that war.” He went on to say, “The words always touch my heart, because I am so proud and grateful that I am an American. And I know you share that feeling or you wouldn’t be in uniform, serving your country. I am America, and I dedicate it to you all here…”
Jack was a perfectionist.
Jack wanted everything he did to be the very best that he could make it be. He is known to have destroyed 30 percent of his paintings simply because he did not think they measured up. He even admitted to wanting to buy back his works, because he felt that he could make them better. He is known to have instilled perfection in the casts and crews who worked with him on the set, sometimes to their displeasure. He is known to have rejected development projects, because he did not think they were being planned or executed as they should have been.
It is true that Jack could be difficult, although those who knew him best call him a perfectionist (Raddatz, Leslie. How An Ex-Rodeo Rider Went West to Enjoy the Good Life as a Hawaiian Cop in TV Guide. January 4, 1969.) or particular (Henderson, Heather. Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview.
He liked do things well, and he liked for others to do things well. Sometimes, that created friction.
Writer Peer J. Oppenheimer wrote the following two statements about Jack’s aim for perfection: "But he is not a happy man, because he takes himself and everything too seriously" and "Will Jack Lord ever let go and relax? Will he ever consider his painting or acting good enough? I doubt it. He is a perfectionist. And perfection is an elusive goal to achieve." (Oppenheimer, Peer J. Jack Lord: Painting or Performing, He's a Perfectionist in Family Weekly. September 28, 1969.)
Leonard Freeman, creator, executive producer, and writer of Hawaii Five-0, said, "He's terrific. I'm a perfectionist, and so is he... He's always on time, no bags under his eyes, and he always knows his lines." Freeman went on to say, "You can't work this hard and this long without being serious." (Raddatz, Leslie. How An Ex-Rodeo Rider Went West to Enjoy the Good Life as a Hawaiian Cop in TV Guide. January 4, 1969.)
In an interview with Heather Henderson, Michael Anderson, Jr., who appeared with Jack in an episode of Stoney Burke and in four episodes of Hawaii Five-0, said, "So long as you were professional with Jack, he treated you absolutely right." (Henderson, Heather. Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview.
Michael Anderson, Jr. said, "[Jack] did not have time for anybody who was goofin' around." (Henderson, Heather. Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview.
He clarified his statement by saying that Jack did not mind people having fun, just not on the set when cast and crew were trying to complete an hour-long episode in only eight days of filming. By comparison, a two-hour movie can take three or four months to film.
Jack was as "tough as steel, soft as fog".
According to Leslie Stevens, Creator of Stoney Burke, "He's as tough as horseshoe nails, a street fighter with a brooding, almost Irish-poetic quality. I hesitate to say "Heathcliff." But there's a gentleness to him, a haunting feeling." (Gill, Alan. BIG, BIG, BIG in TV Guide. November 17, 1962.)
Jack said, "Yes, I'm tough. That's the only way to survive in a series. I would prefer to say I was firm. You can't be wishy-washy in this business. They go for the jugular. Show one small weakness and they'll destroy you. I know. I've got the scars to prove it." (Jack Lord to Associated Press. Reprinted in Meyers, Ric. Murder on the Air: Television's Great Mystery Series. New York: The Mysterious Press, 1989, 147.)
Jack also said, "I'm death on bad scripts. I've told producers, 'I won't shoot that. I won't put it on film.'" (Anderson, Nancy. Real Jack Lord Soft on Children in Reading Eagle. September 22, 1975, p. 15.)
Yet, according to Kam Fong, "...He was a softie with a marshmallow heart." (Tighe, Lori. Five-0 in His Past, Eight-0 in His Future in Honolulu Star-Bulletin. March 14, 1998.)
Esperanza Isaac, co-chairperson of the Jack Lord Memorial project, wrote . . .
As an 8 year old, [Jack's] eyes filled with tears at the sight of three older
boys throwing stones at a small sparrow. Regardless of his own safety,
he confronted the "torturers". Jack left with a black eye and several bruises,
but the enemies didn't do any better. They eventually disbanded nursing
dozens of teeth marks, bumps and many scratches. The small hero was
unable to save the bird but at least had the satisfaction of giving the
unfortunate creature a decent burial.
(Isaac, Esperanza in The Hawaii Five-0 Newsletter. Volume 3, No. 10,
So, where does the truth lie? As with most things in life, down the middle.
Columnist Leslie Raddatz wrote, “Although Jack Lord has a rather unbending facade, he is a sensitive, vulnerable man...” (Raddatz, Leslie. How An Ex-Rodeo Rider Went West to Enjoy the Good Life as a Hawaiian Cop in TV Guide. January 4, 1969.)
Robert Dowdell, who portrayed Cody Bristol in Stoney Burke, wrote . . .
. . . Jack and Stoney are so different from each other in many ways. For
instance, there’s no element of culture in Stoney, but there definitely is in
Jack, as witness his talent in painting and photography. Jack is a much
more sophisticated man than Stoney, of course, and a much more
rounded man, as far as interests go. And I’m sure Jack’s goal in life isn’t
being a champion rodeo rider!
But that leads me to the similarities between the two. For, just as Stoney
is utterly dedicated to becoming the number one cowboy, so Jack is
dedicated to becoming tops in the acting field. He is very serious, doesn’t
kid around too much, and is a perfectionist in seeing that things are done
right in the show, beginning with his own role. He works hard to achieve
that perfection and drives himself so hard that sometimes at the end of the
day you can see the fatigue written in his face. Although he’s a star and
wants to be considered one, he doesn’t ever slack up. He works as hard
as a ditch digger.
(Dowdell, Robert. The Stoney Burke I Know in TV Star Parade. May 1963,
pp 24 ff.)
Marj Dusay, who appeared in two episodes of Hawaii Five-0, said, "...in my experiences with [Jack], he was always a gentleman. Maybe it's the way I approached it, because I went in respecting what [I was] doing and [he was] doing." (Henderson, Heather. A Talk With Marj Dusay.
(link no longer works))
Sanford Meisner, Jack's acting teacher at The Neighborhood Playhouse, confirmed this when he said, "I remember pairing off the class into partners for rehearsal. Jack said he didn't need a partner; he had a tape recorder... ...tape recorders were out." (Gill, Alan. BIG, BIG, BIG in TV Guide. November 17, 1962)
Jack, himself, confirmed it when he said, "Meisner opened me up. I was closed, introverted, a scared guy." (Gill, Alan. BIG, BIG, BIG in TV Guide. November 17, 1962)
Jack went on to say, "On the set I usually ate alone. I know people thought I was being aloof, conceited. But it was my time for spiritual refreshment. ‘Okay, Father, here I am.’ It was a half-hour or 45 minutes. I could get away and recharge my batteries. It's better than spending the time making small talk." (Witherwax, Rita. Jack Lord: The Man Behind McGarrett in Aloha. October 1980, p. 20.)
Michael Anderson, Jr. called him "somewhat self-conscious" and "somewhat insecure as an actor" and said, "Jack absolutely wanted his privacy." He went on to explain by saying Jack would not join in with others to banter, "...but he was warm. If Jack knew you and liked you, you could always knock on his trailer door and go in and he would be more than willing to spend time with you and enjoy stories and stuff." (Henderson, Heather. Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview.
Anderson went on to say, "[Jack] was a funny storyteller!... He could be very silly. He liked to be silly. And I think once you broke through [his natural reserve]..., you realized what a silly goose he was! ...Oh, I've made Jack laugh so hard that he almost had to be carried out of [Michel's restaurant]." (Henderson, Heather. Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview.
During the latter seasons of Hawaii Five-0, a young woman, 20 years old, sent Jack a scrapbook about him and Hawaii Five-0. She had made it, herself, using pictures from movie magazines and narrative that she had written, herself. Jack kept it until his death.
Jack valued his fans and personally replied to the letters they wrote to him, rather than rely on a service to answer his fan mail, as many actors do. He said it was the least he could do for people who took the time to reach out to him.
Several pieces of correspondence written by Jack indicate he sometimes exchanged photos of himself that were sent to him by fans wishing autographs with what he thought were better photos of himself. That would indicate not an ego of large proportions, but of small ones. (Berkowitz, Joe. Forensic Artist Proves Women Literally Don't Know Their Own Beauty in Fast Company Connection. April 16, 2013.
I am given pause to consider an article I read not long ago about a retired forensic artist who drew pictures of women based on their descriptions of themselves. Then, he drew pictures of the same women based on descriptions given by someone else. Without fail, the pictures drawn from descriptions given by others were more flattering than those drawn from descriptions given by the subjects, themselves. We are known to be our own worst enemies, and Jack gives evidence of having been his, as well.
Jack was the perfect leading man.
William Finnegan said, "Jack has the worst press of anybody I know of. He is reputed to be difficult, but I can tell you that he has never had any problems with directors. He is as close to the perfect leading man in a series as you could find – a total professional. You can plan for a six a.m. call and be damn sure that he will be there and prepared." (Meyers, Ric. Murder on the Air: Television's Great Mystery Series. New York: The Mysterious Press, 1989, 146.)
Don Stroud, who appeared in three episodes of Hawaii Five-0, said, "I was called back to Hawaii to do Hawaii Five-0 by Jack Lord, because he liked my work. He was a fan of mine, and we became very good friends... Jack Lord and I got on wonderfully." (Paul, Louis. Tales from the Cult Film Trenches. McFarland Press, 2007, p. 245.)
Michael Anderson, Jr. also explained Jack's insistence that he was the star of Hawaii Five-0. He said, "Jack was older, and so I think his idea of the movie business was the 'star system.' And the star was very important. It was a different mentality." (Henderson, Heather. Michael Anderson, Jr. Interview.
According to Nancy Anderson, a journalist whom Jack appears to have respected, "Quality, to Lord, is imperative. The shoddy and second rate won't do." (Anderson, Nancy. Jack Lord's Incredible Story: Together We Beat the World in Photoplay. January 1976, p. 19.)
Kam Fong told about an incident that occurred during filming. He, Jack, and James MacArthur sped up to a site. Jack and Jimmy hopped out, but Kam couldn't get the door opened (Jack or Jimmy had locked it). They looked around at Kam, who was struggling with the door, and snickered under their breaths. So, life on the set wasn't all serious; they had their good times, too. (Tomingbang, Emme. Emme's Island Moments: Memories of Hawaii Five-0. Honolulu: Emme, Inc. / KGMB-TV, October 20, 1996.)
Of the cast and crew members interviewed, only one said she did not like working with Jack. The rest, including Leonard Freeman, Bernie Oseranski, James Hong, and Reza Badiyi, all said they had good working relationships with Jack, who respected their professionalism. (
It should be noted that Kam Fong, Jimmy Borges, and Moe Keale all said that, even though Jack was a stern taskmaster, he taught them a great deal. Moe Keale said that Jack's instruction made him not only a better actor, but also a better human being. (Tomingbang, Emme. Emme's Island Moments: Memories of Hawaii Five-0. Honolulu: Emme, Inc. / KGMB-TV, October 20, 1996.)
Jack was a man of his generation. He could be as tough as nails where business was concerned, yet warm and friendly in his personal life and with those he considered his friends.
Marj Dusay said, "[Jack] was the only star who personally wrote me a thank-you note for guesting on his show. That's just unheard of . . ., especially when you're carrying that much of a load on the show. So that always impressed me greatly. I felt like he really enjoyed working with someone who cared about the show." (Henderson, Heather. A Talk With Marj Dusay. (link no longer works))
When we view Jack as a complex person, it comes as no surprise that he passed away from heart failure at the young age of 77. He simply wore himself out. Most of all, he did it all without sacrificing his strict sense of right and wrong. He remained honest and was badly hurt when someone around him proved not to be honest. And, when his life was over, he left everything he had to the people of Hawai'i. No wonder he is still appreciated nearly 20 years after his death. He set a shining example to us all.
Jack Lord I am a grande Fan of him, it must have been 79, or 1980 as I met
him at the Kahala Shopping Mall, I did not ask him for an Autogramm, but
I did let him know that I admire him and we in Hawaii are proud and love
him, I never forget, I guess there was a tear I have seen at the face of this
great Actor Jack Lord.
~ Erich Weberschlaeger on Facebook
I met Jack Lord back stage at the Jerry Lewis Telethon in Honolulu.
It was 1979. . . . he came out and sang a couple of Hawaiian songs.
. . . The guy seemed like he was ten feet tall. All class.
~ Harry Freakstorm. . November 11, 2011
Many thanks to Vrinda, who helped with research for this page.