Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Hale and Hale

It’s like they wanted to pretend it wasn’t there.

Alan Hale was available for interviews before and after the debut of Gilligan’s Island. Syndicated columnists didn’t ask him about the show—instead, they wrote stories saying “Gee, he looks just like his dad.”

Erskine Johnson of NEA did it. Hank Grant of the Hollywood Reporter did it. Vernon Scott of UPI did it. Bob Thomas of the AP touched on it, too.

It’s probably because the series got dumped on over and over again by critics. Cynthia Lowry of the Associated Press proclaimed “It is positively the worst new program in a season full of mediocre entries.” This was the “vast wasteland” era of the S.S. Newton Minow. He assailed TV for being too low-brow. The idea of escapist silliness was completely foreign to him and the critics. Because that’s what Gilligan’s Island is. It didn’t pretend to be anything else.

We’ll skip the Johnson and Grant columns. Here’s Scott’s for United Press International, June 7, 1965.

Young Hale still confused with father, dead 15 years

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) — Alan Hale, the rotund skipper of "Gilligan's Island," bears a remarkable resemblance to his late father and, curiously, acknowledges that he still is in competition with his dad.
"I look so much like him that people think my father is still alive," says Hale.
"And he is seen by millions of people on the late movies, which has kept him alive in the minds of the public. The nice thing about it is that my youngsters are able to see their grandfather although they never knew him in life."
Hale Sr. died 15 years ago. And until eight years ago his son continued to be billed as Alan Hale Jr. How that he's dropped the Jr. the confusion between father and son has increased.
The confusion is heightened because Hale's role in the CBS-TV series is precisely the bungling kind of comedy role the senior Hale played so often during his lifetime. Like his father, Alan is a huge, bluff man, easy going and a popular figure in Hollywood.
He and his wife, Naomi, live in a small frame Hollywood bungalow. It's a little old-fashioned place on a quiet, unpretentious street. The furniture is comfortable and unspectacular.
Mrs. Hale weighs less than 100 pounds and provides a striking contrast to her husband's bulk. He calls her Trinket.
"The house isn't large by Hollywood standards," he says. "But it has a lovely little garden and a big fireplace. It's our castle and we love it."
On weekends the castle is crowded with voting Hales by a previous marriage. The youngsters are Alan Brian, 16; Chris, 13; Lana, 12; and Dorian, 9. Of his only daughter, Hale says, "Her name is Alan (Lana) spelled inside out — a sop to my ego."
The children live with father and mother and attend school in the San Fernando Valley.
For all his fame as an actor, Hale might as well be a plumber or a landscape gardener. He is not even on the fringes of movietown's "in" set. He has no status symbols.
He chugs to work each morning through the canyons to Studio Center in a 1954 Cadillac which the entire family calls Old Blue Boy. Trinket clunks along in a 1951 Dodge dubbed the Gray Streak.
"We love our old cars," Hale grins. "They're like personalities to us. They perk along with no trouble at all.
Both Hales are golf nuts. He is a member of The Hackers, a group of amateur golfers who play on various links around the country. But the demands of the series have cut into Alan's game. He has ballooned from a 5 handicap to a 12.
Hale's real avocation can easily be determined by the size of his girth. He fancies himself a talented chef.
"I used to be a camera bug with a dark room and all that," he says. "But when I started using color film I gave it all up—and found out I still had the creative urge to take raw materials and tarn them into something useful and different. So I turned to cooking."
Probably to Trinket's relief, Hale does most of the cooking when the children visit on weekends.
He uses them for experiments.
“I’ll try a new recipe, making it up as I go along,” he laughs. "If they like It, I keep improving the dish. If they don't, I drop the project and try another recipe."
Hale's specialties are potato soup, spaghetti dishes and casseroles.
So far the kids have survived. And Alan's bulk is sufficient proof that he, at least, thrives on his own cooking.
A native California, Hale dresses the part. He almost always can be found in sports shirts and slacks. Even when a tie is required Alan sticks to blazers and informal garb. He may be the only television star who rents a tuxedo for formal functions.
The name Hale may continue to find its way onto screen credits in the next generation. Young Dorian already has taken a screen test, and his proud father says: "He looks like a real comer."

Bob Thomas of the Associated Press penned this for editions of January 2, 1965. He avoids any comment on the series other than it was getting good ratings.

Three Strikes.. A Hit

AP Movie-Television Writer
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — For Alan Hale it looks as if the third time makes the charm.
The hefty, extroverted actor, who fitted neatly into his father's footsteps as a jolly, capable character actor, has been at bat three times in the television game. The first venture was "Biff Baker."
That lasted merely a season. Later came "Casey Jones" for Screen Gems. "There was a lapse of a year between the pilot and the series," Alan recalls. "I saw the producer once during that time — and it was the only time I ever saw him."
Again, a season's run.
Alan joined Bob Denver, Jim Backus, Tina Louise and other castaways on "Gilligan's Island," and this time the ratings indicate he has picked a winner.
"I think people enjoy it," said Alan. "They seem to appreciate a show that has no problems — just fun." And he's not at all displeased that some folks have been comparing him and Bob Denver to Laurel and Hardy.
It has been a half-dozen years since Alan dropped the junior off his billing. He did so not to escape the image of his father famed as the jolly sidekick of Errol Flynn in numerous adventure films. Unlike some second-generation actors, young Alan doesn't fight the comparison with his father.
"I always remember what my grandfather told me one day," he recalled. "We were out in the backyard of our Hollywood house and he said, 'What's that?' I asked him, 'What's what?' 'That — behind you,' he said. I said, 'Oh, that's my shadow,' and he replied, 'Don't ever lose it.' In other words: find my own place in the sun."
The quest was not always simple. In the postwar years when movie business was slack, Alan took a number of outside jobs, including a four-year stretch selling vacuum cleaners.
"That was the best education an actor could possibly have," he commented. "Every front porch was like opening night.
"I had some great experiences. One night another salesman and I were making some calls when we came upon a big party in the valley where only one person spoke English; the rest all spoke Spanish. Well, we were invited in for refreshments and by the time we left we had sold four vacuum cleaners."
Despite promise of a distributorship, Alan returned to acting as soon as his fortunes improved, and he's likely to stay in it as long as his Pa did.
"Funny thing," he reflected, "with his old movies on television, I guess I'm in competition with him. That's okay with me. He was the greatest."

Hale’s identity problem was caused by reruns and solved by reruns. When Gilligan first appeared, Hale’s dad was on the small screen on shows running old movies. Eventually, they were replaced with newer films. Meanwhile, the S.S. Minnow was launched into daily syndication where it remained for years (and is probably still playing somewhere). Alan Hale may have become the Skipper to TV fans, but he became his own man, too.


  1. Hale Sr. played a character called "the Skipper" in the movie "The Great Mr. Nobody," starring Eddie Albert.

  2. I was first introduced to Alan Jr. as a youngster watching Screen Gem's " Casey Jones ", which coincidentally had a episode with Russell Johnson; " The Track Walker ". Then came Jonas Grumby, better known as the skipper. Jim Backus was also a big golfer. Russell Johnson told the story that the two would go out a hit a few balls between scenes. Once, as the two bet who could hit the ball the farthest, Jim hit a ball which went right through a CBS employee's windshield. When the irate employee showed up demanded to know who did it, Jim pointed to Alan and said something to the affect of " Look at the size of that big think *I* could do something like that?! ". Alan Jr. was a gentle giant. There were times when the two Alans looked like they could have been brothers.

  3. CASEY JONES seems to have been a lot more popular in the UK than the US. It was still remembered and probably re-run there years later.