I think Steve McGarrett as played by Jack Lord answers a very basic need in our society today. It’s a troubled, disturbed society, and a cop who cares and a cop who is fair and just and with it seems to have a need, and I don’t see that need going away too quickly.”
— Leonard Freeman
Hawaii Five-0 Documentary footage – 1971. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zrjKsz52EM
Far and away, Jack's most beloved -- and most successful -- production was Hawaii Five-0, which was produced by Leonard Freeman Productions and CBS Television from 1968 until 1980. Jack portrayed the chief of a special investigations force for the State of Hawaii, Steve McGarrett. McGarrett has been described as an "amped-up" Jack Lord. What is less well known is the fact that Jack was an interest-owner in Hawaii Five-0 and an ex-officio executive producer.
Jack and Marie Lord are seen with Leonard and Rose Freeman at the world premiere of Hawaii Five-0 on February 19, 1968. The airing was a huge success, not only granting the series a slot on CBS's fall schedule, but predicting the series would enjoy a very long run -- it did! Twelve years! The pilot, Cocoon, aired on September 20, 1968. The series premiered on September 26, 1968. (CBS, 1968)
...Jack Lord was Steve McGarrett,
and Steve McGarrett was the greatest television cop of all time.
(Meyers, Ric. Murder on the Air: Television's Great Mystery Series.
New York: The Mysterious Press, 1989, p. 152.)
...Mr. Ryan was and is a major influence in my life. I became a Law Enforcement Officer because of his character on Hawaii Five O. I saw how he personified the character and I even developed my methodology and demeanor of McGarrett. Many of my associates often called me McGarrett or often just 5-0. My sister...told him that I was a huge fan and about my moniker in law enforcement. She said he chuckled and extended his warmest wishes to me. I have always remembered that. RIP, Mr Ryan. (Tom B.)
Jack created this poster announcing the anticipated premiere of Hawaii Five-0. Apparently, the network decided to change the air date, because neither the pilot, nor the series aired on September 24th.
The picture depicts an anthurium. It comes from one of Jack's lithographs, which would go on to enjoy great popularity in the Ebay sales from Jack's estate in 2007.
Donated by Dave Ryan
A letter that Jack published in Variety magazine (April 2, 1980, page 61) summarizes the success of Hawaii Five-0:
In a recent national magazine story a scriptwriter said Hawaii Five-0 was the toughest show to work for. She’s right. It was. Perhaps this was because our standards were so high and our demands for originality persisted.
Jack wrote his letter principally to thank CBS for giving Hawaii Five-0 and Leonard Freeman Productions twelve years of air time. Even so, he expressed thanks to the production team – including the “…writers, actors, directors, producers, and technicians…” – saying they “…supplied the creativity and did the daily chores that made it all work…”
Achieving and maintaining quality and originality is a difficult job and a never-ending one. To do so for twelve years required Hawaii Five-0 to grab and hold onto the leading edge in television entertainment.
The Depth of Hawaii Five-0
So many other programs seemed to offer only entertainment. Hawaii Five-0 offered lessons in Hawaiian history and culture, poetry, morality, and more. It let us step into the lives of those who turned to crime as they struggled to make ends meet, became more successful than they could handle, suffered from emotional disorders and drug addiction, and went through the five stages of mourning and the twelve steps of recovering from alcoholism. They let us fly in helicopters, sail on ships, and scale Diamond Head. They let us visit Hong Kong and Singapore.
Hawaii Five-0 explored the socio-political issues that plagued Hawai‘i and, in too many cases, still do. We saw the Hawaiian people being moved out of Waikiki and into tract housing and efforts to clean up Hotel Street from drugs and prostitution. We met characters who had lived through Japanese internment during the second world war and others who had lost their fingerprints from working with pineapples in the canneries. We saw the cane fields being burned of weeds and waste for harvesting, even as they diminished in numbers as other countries gained the ability to provide sugar and pineapple at more competitive prices than Hawai‘i could offer. We saw the young Hawaiians struggling to earn a living in a world that was becoming increasingly competitive. We saw the problems wrought by the number of visitors increasing from two million to twelve million annually, and we learned about the difficulty of keeping Hawai‘i safe for tourists and soldiers on rest and recuperation leave. We watched neighborhoods being taken over by criminal element from the mainland and other countries and watched the Hawaiian people fight to retain control of the labor unions that had been put in place to protect them. We even saw representatives of various factions dump their problems on the governor and learned how patient he had to be to keep life on an even keel amidst the disagreements.
In the middle of the power struggles, we learned about the struggle to retain some semblance of respectability. We learned about the art world in “How to Steal a Masterpiece” (Season 7), about the need to return treasures to their homeland in “Ring of Life” (Season 7), and about the smuggling of works of art in “Wooden Model of a Rat” (Season 8). We even learned about a very valuable 1913 Liberty “V”nickel in “The $100,000 Nickel” (Season 6); the same nickel, one of only five still in existence, sold circa 2010 for $3 million.
Not to Be Too Serious
A quality that set Hawaii Five-0 apart from other series was the widespread use of ad libbing. Although this practice is common today, it was not in the day when Hawaii Five-0 was produced. Still, in some scenes, a character’s expression reflected surprise, letting us know that the previous line had not been expected. An example comes from “Sing a Song of Suspense” (Season 8), when Chelsea Merriman (Lois Nettleton) calls after McGarrett, “Call if you’re going to be late, dear.” The expression on McGarrett’s face said it all.
The Five-0 team kept a sense of humor. From the pilot’s showing Chin and Kono swiping McGarrett’s lunch and Season 1’s “Don’t look at me; bring him a bucket” to Season 12’s “You’re not supposed to talk to me. I’ll tell your kahuna,” we got to see the Five-0 detectives enjoy a good joke.
We were treated to the music of Melveen Leed, the Bee Gees, and Yvonne Elliman; the head-strong, yet endearing, personalities of Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick; the flirtations of Marj Dusay and Camilla Sparv; and the comedic pranks of Hume Cronyn and Robert Reed.
Returning Guests, Cast, and Crew
We saw notable guest stars return time and again. Hawaii Five-0 was graced with the acting skills of such names as Helen Hayes, Mildred Natwick, Eileen Heckart, James Gregory, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Pat Hingle, Nehemiah Persoff, Theodore Bikel, Hume Cronyn, Joseph Sirola, Luther Adler, and William Windom – and those are just big Broadway names. Big names from the silver screen and television include Khigh Dhiegh, Milton Selzer, Andrew Duggan, James Olson, Simon Oakland, Charles Cioffi, Dane Clark, John Marley, David Birney, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Vaughn, Leslie Nielsen, Lew Ayres, Monte Markham, Ross Martin, Christopher Walken, Herbert Lom, Harry Guardino, Mark Lenard, James Hong, Loretta Swit, Philip Ahn, Michael Anderson, Jr., Nancy Kwan, Tommy Sands, Henry Darrow, France Nuyen, Bruce Boxleitner, and William Schallert – and the list goes on!
Khigh Dheigh made the most guest starring appearances with fifteen. Soon Tek Oh appeared eight times. Nehemiah Persoff, Andrew Duggan, and Ed Flanders made seven appearances on Hawaii Five-0. Milton Selzer and Don Knight appeared six times. Joseph Sirola, Luther Adler, Ross Martin, and Simon Oakland appeared five times. And the repeat visits don’t end there!
Some guest stars, like Pat Hingle and Lois Nettleton, were friends of Jack’s from his Broadway days. Some, like Robert Vaughn, Milton Selzer, Michael Anderson, Jr., and Harry Guardino, were friends from his television days. Some simply liked the show and wanted to be a part of it.
Similarly, the main cast remained incredibly steadfast through the years. Oh, some dropped out along the way, but some like Richard Denning, who portrayed Governor Paul Jameson, remained all twelve seasons. In fact, Mr. Denning worked without a contract! James “Danno” MacArthur remained for eleven years, while Kam Fong Chun remained for ten years. Herman Wedemeyer appeared in 152 episodes spanning all twelve seasons, even though he portrayed multiple characters. Harry Endo appeared in 115 episodes between Seasons 2 and 10, portraying forensic specialist Che Fong in 114. Similarly, Al Eben appeared in 54 episodes from Season 1 through Season 11, although he only began portraying Doc Bergman in Season 4 and was unnamed in his last few appearances. Peggy Ryan appeared in 49 episodes between Seasons 1 and 8. In Season 1, she portrayed the governor’s secretary, Mildred; beginning in Season 2, she portrayed Steve’s secretary, Jenny Sherman.
The list of returning local actors is impressive, as well, and features such names as Joe Moore, Kwan Hi Lim (who appeared in 25 episodes), Moe Keale (who became Det. Truck Kealoha in Season 12 and went on to portray a character by the same name in M Station: Hawaii), Derek Mau, Arthur Hee, Galen Kam, Yankee Chang, Bernard Ching, and many others. We were glad to see them each time, as though old friends had come home.
Similarly, the list of technicians remained amazingly consistent throughout the twelve seasons. They did not always perform the same duties; for example, Reza Badiyi, who designed the opening sequence titles, directed several episodes. Seeleg Lester, who wrote seven episodes, pulled technical detail, as well. Even the men who drove the equipment trucks, set up lighting, and styled hair came back year after year.
All This Despite…
If anything marks Hawaii Five-0 as the best of the best, it would have to be that all of the above was accomplished against overwhelming odds. Filming in Hawai‘i was still a rare thing when the series began. As a result, there was no studio or sound stage. There were no trained actors. There were no trained technicians. There were no experienced writers of screenplays. Nearly everything had to be imported from the mainland.
That wasn’t easy. Equipment was large, heavy, and expensive to ship. Writers never had been to Hawai‘i and didn’t know Kalakaua Avenue from Main Street. The team members in Hawai‘i did not see what they had filmed until it appeared on television; thus, there was no opportunity to make such corrections as having McGarrett leave, travel, and arrive in the same car.
And, yet, through dedication and hard work, the production team, both in front of and behind the camera, pulled it together and made it work. Yes, Quality was Job 1 on Hawaii Five-0. As Jack said, “Maybe that’s why we lasted for 12 years.”
Leonard Freeman, Creator of Hawaii Five-0
It would be a serious dereliction of duty to say so much about Hawaii Five-0 and so little about its creator, producer, and writer, Leonard Freeman. They say the good die young. Certainly that is true of Mr. Freeman, who passed away following heart surgery at the age of only 53. And, yet, when we look at his vast list of accomplishments, we know that he lived a very full life in those few years. Mr. Freeman, this page is offered in your memory.
Leonard Freeman was born on October 31, 1920, in Sonoma County, California. His career began at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he and actress Joan Taylor (nee Rose Marie Emma) were working to put on Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
Freeman began his career as a television actor in 1951, first appearing in the Fireside Theatre and The Lone Ranger, among others.
He began writing in 1952 with the stories for Steel Town and The All American. Soon, he was writing for Four Star Playhouse, Lassie, Men of Annapolis, and others.
In 1961, Freeman began producing television programs with an episode of Route 66. Over the next twelve years, he produced or served as executive producer for television series (The Untouchables, Naked City, Cimarron Strip, Storefront Lawyers), made-for-television movies (Visions, Cry Rape), and a motion picture (Hang 'Em High).
Far and away Freeman's best-known achievement was Hawaii Five-0. He created the series and served as executive producer for 129 episodes and as producer for 5 episodes during the series' first six seasons. He was responsible for Five-0's being filmed in Hawai'i, and he was responsible for making contact with governmental and business leaders and with citizens who acquainted him with the Hawaiian Islands, their personalities, and their issues.
Freeman was nominated three times for Emmy Awards: in 1955, for "Best Written Dramatic Material" for Four Star Playhouse; in 1965, for "Outstanding Program Achievements in Entertainment" for Mr. Novak; and in 1973, for "Outstanding Drama Series - Continuing" for Hawaii Five-0.
Leonard Freeman died on January 20, 1974, soon after filming was concluded for the sixth season of Five-0. He died in Palo Alto, California, as the result of complications from heart surgery. He was survived by his wife, Rose Freeman, and three daughters, Lisa, Robin, and Susan.
After his death, Freeman's name in the credits on Hawaii Five-0 ceased to appear as "Leonard Freeman, Executive Producer" and appeared as "Developed by Leonard Freeman Productions."
Rose Freeman Credited Jack with the Survival of Hawaii Five-0
From an interview with Emme Tomimbang on Emme's Island Moments, "Memories of Hawaii Five-0" (Emme, Inc. / KGMB-TV, 1996):
Emme Tomimbang: Your husband died during open-heart surgery in the fifth season, but [Hawaii Five-0] continued to live for six more years after that. That must say a lot about him for you.
Rose Freeman: It says a lot about him, and it also says a lot about Jack Lord. Jack kept the show going. He is a perfectionist, and I thank him for it.
The Cast of Hawaii Five-0
Steve McGarrett - Jack Lord
Dan "Danno" Williams
Tim O'Kelley (pilot)
James MacArthur (series)
Kono Kalakaua - Gilbert "Zulu" Kauhi
Chin Ho Kelly - Kam Fong Chun
Ben Kokua - Al Harrington
Duke Lukela - Herman Wedemeyer
Truck Kealoha - Moe Keale
James "Kimo" Carew - William Smith
Lori Wilson - Sharon Farrell
Unnamed - Lew Ayres (pilot)
Paul Jameson - Richard Denning (series)
Unnamed - Philip Ahn (pilot)
Stewart - Morgan White (series)
John Manicote - Glenn Cannon ("Elegy in a Rain Forest" (Season 9), only)
District Attorney John Manicote - Glenn Cannon
Doc Bergman - Al Eben
Che Fong - Harry Endo
Lydia Lei Kayahara
Mitzi Hoag (pilot)
Maggie Parker (series)
Jenny Sherman - Peggy Ryan
E. Lynne Kimoto
Luana - Laura Sode-Matteson
James Gregory (pilot)
Joseph Sirola (series)
Robert Dixon (series)
Tim O'Connor (series)
Bill Edwards (series)
Lyle Bettger (series)
It Came at a Price
No one does anything without its having an effect, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Spread it out over twelve years, and the effect becomes even greater. After ten years, when he reached the age of sixty, Kam Fong Chun decided it was time to retire. A year later, James MacArthur decided it was time to move on to other projects.
Perhaps, the heaviest toll was paid by Jack. Five-0 was a love-hate relationship for him. On the hand, it was, as he told Marie after reading the first script, "This is what we've been waiting for." On the other hand, the creator / executive producer died midway through the series. Then, of course, there were the headaches of finding a permanent location for the film studio, finding and training local actors, and juggling the myriad of details in the daily operations of any film project. These Season 1 (age 47) and 12 (age 59) photographs of Jack reflect that toll.
Perhaps, that is the primary reason why we are honoring Jack with these pages: He gave his all, without thought for how exhausted he felt. Hawaii Five-0 wouldn't have been the same if any other man had been cast as Steve McGarrett, because other men would have shown up in time to read their lines, then gone home to pursue their own interests. Jack, on the other hand, made Five-0 his own interest -- and it showed.
Photograph (left): Screen capture from Hawaii Five-0. Leonard Freeman Productions / CBS Television (1968-1980).
Photograph (right): Photographer unknown. Used for illustrative purposes under the Fair Use Doctrine, US Copyright Office.
CBS Honors Jack in Variety Magazine
CBS paid tribute to Jack as Hawaii Five-0 finished filming its last episode. In part, they said,
Jack’s versatile talents, rare dedication and his unmatched profess-
ionalism made Hawaii Five-0 the third longest-running dramatic
series in network television.
We want to thank Jack Lord and all of the talented people on both
sides of the camera for their magnificent contributions . . .
CBS is proud of its long association with Jack and we look forward
to continuing that association in a number of new projects. We know
they will embody the high standards that have made the name Jack
Lord synonymous with dramatic excellence.
Source: “Hawaii’s Finest” in Variety. November 28, 1979, p. 43.