I'm always leery about discussing films based on actual history. Hollywood has a tendency to rewrite history and I don't want to be the sucker. I'm going to throw that idea out the window for this post & put some trust into The Gallant Hours. This 1960 film starring James Cagney as Fleet Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey grabbed my attention for its 115 minutes, which is rare these days. If you have no interest in a lot of dialogue or military history, the film probably isn't for you.
The story revolves around Admiral Halsey's leadership in the Guadalcanal campaign in WWII. Not having much background on the Admiral, it's hard to do a comparison between his personality and Cagney's portrayal of him. Nonetheless, Cagney is able to create a solid character who doesn't pound his fist but instead connects with his men.
Some additional observations on the film: the Japanese actors actually speak the language and we're shown subtitles, you see no battles or explosions, the choir soundtrack is a bit creepy - but effective.
I would be remiss in my duty if I didn't mention that the film was directed by Robert Montgomery and produced by Cagney-Montgomery Productions, their only film partnership. You'll also hear Bob's voice as narrator for background relating to the Admiral. It would be his last film direction.
HOLLYWOOD, May 20 -- HALSEY MEETS HIS MOVIE COUNTERPART -- Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., whose experiences during the Battle of Guadalcanal are being made into a movie, talks over the script today with producer-director Robert Montgomery and actor James Cagney, who'll portray the doughty World War II admiral on the screen. It was the first time Halsey had seen Cagney in his makeup for the role in the picture, "The Gallant Hours."
Sigh . . . January is pretty much over and the stash of recorded James Cagney films will dwindle in the upcoming days. I don't know about you guys, but I got spoiled this month by always having a Cagney at the ready. Back to the topic at hand, I had my fingers crossed hoping for a Bob film festival on my birthday (TCM, please take note for 2009). No such luck, but 3 quality films nonetheless. When Ladies Meet is recommended - Bob & Myrna Loy together are always a (rare) pleasure to watch. Earlier this month, TCM played the Robert Taylor/Joan Crawford remake of the story, which is still in my "to watch" queue.
As always, check your local listing for exact start time.
February 6 10:15 a.m. When Ladies Meet (1933) A female novelist doesn't realize her new friend is the wife whose husband she's trying to steal. Cast: Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy. Dir: Harry Beaumont
February 17 5:30 p.m. They Were Expendable (1945) A Navy commander fights to prove the battle-worthiness of the PT boat at the start of World War II. Cast: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed. Dir: John Ford
25 Monday 7 a.m. Hide-Out (1934) Farmers take in an injured racketeer and try to reform him. Cast: Robert Montgomery, Maureen O'Sullivan, Mickey Rooney. Dir: W.S. Van Dyke II
Three Comrades and a lady, Margaret Sullavan. Interesting photo - looks like the photographer was focusing on Robert Taylor, everyone else has a bit of a blur on them (in addition to being moving). The shadows against the wall are a subtle touch to the storyline.
Related, there's a good OTR version of this story with Joseph Cotten and Louise Albritton. Joseph is dead-on perfect as Richard Kurt. The file is a bit on the large side for me to host, but visit the Internet Archive page on the Screen Guild Theater and just scroll down until you hit Biography of a Bachelor Girl.
America In WWII magazine has a feature story in their February issue on Capt. Clark Gable. If you're familiar with Clark's military service, this probably won't be any new information to you. I'm just happy 66 years later that someone remembers and writes about this sort of stuff.
Some miscellaneous tidbits from the article you might find interesting:
Sworn into the Army Air Corps on August 12, 1942 at the age of 41.
Gable's "goal" was to make a movie about aerial gunners as a recruiting tool.
They made him shave off his mustache during training.
He graduated 700th out of 2,600 in his officer candidate school class. As a new lieutenant, he gave the class graduation speech.
At aerial gunnery school his mustache came back.
Gable headed to England in April 1943.
Hitler personally offered a reward to any pilot who shot down Clark Gable.
I'll leave it at that. Hitler never paid out that award and Clark never made that "big" aerial gunner movie, just short films that are probably lost today.
Happiness is Bob Young and Bob Montgomery on the same stage. That's what you get with this episode of Good News of 1939, presented March 16 of said year and hosted by Bob Young with Frank Morgan in between segments. 14 MB - 1 Hour MP3
In this particular episode, Baby Snooks visits the World's Fair, Bob Young talks about his new ranch in the San Fernando Valley, and Bob Montgomery plays a part in Fate is Not Always a Lady. Not one of my favorites, but it does have its moments.
Many thanks to Bantaskin for digging up this recording.
As always, check your local listings for the exact start time.
9:45 a.m. Big House, The (1930) An attempted prison break leads to a riot. Cast: Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, Robert Montgomery. Dir: George Hill.
10 p.m. Gallant Hours, The (1959) Admiral William F. Halsey fights to turn the tide against the Japanese during World War II. Cast: James Cagney, Dennis Weaver, Richard Jaeckel. Dir: Robert Montgomery.
I just realized that I've been on an unintentional Cary Grant bender since the beginning of December. I've been watching movies I've already seen a dozen times . . . one more time. Mr. Blandings, Awful Truth, etc. etc. I even spent New Year's Eve watching Holiday (sorry, I fell asleep during the last 15 minutes).
This realization came to me when I ran into an article this morning in the Atlantic Monthly, "Becoming Cary Grant." Give it a read when you have a few minutes. The writer also makes a number of reading recommendations - if you haven't read all the books on Cary yet.