The Gallant Hours (1960)

115 mins | Biography, Drama | May 1960

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HISTORY

The film’s working titles were The Admiral Halsey Story and Bull Halsey. The Gallant Hours closes with the following written statement: "Sincere appreciation is acknowledged for the cooperation extended by the United States Department of Defense and, most specifically, by the United States Navy and Marine Corps."
       According to a Jun 1960 LAEx article, director Robert Montgomery came up with the idea for the film while attending the seventy-fifth birthday party of Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey (1882--1959). In May 1957, HR reported that Montgomery and his good friend James Cagney had acquired the rights to Halsey’s life story and would form an independent company, Cagney-Montgomery Productions, to produce it. Cagney wrote in a LAMirror-News article that although he had met Halsey twice before filming, he deliberately attempted to eschew the man’s mannerisms. Many contemporary sources describe Cagney’s in-depth research process, which included interviewing hundreds of men who had served under Halsey. As noted in the LAEX article, Cagney and Halsey were very similar physically. Cagney later referred to the role as his most difficult; it was his last starring role in a dramatic film. He starred in one additional film, the Billy Wilder-directed comedy One, Two, Three in 1961 (see AFI Catalog of Feaure Films, 1961-70) before retiring, then had a brief appearance in Ragtime in 1981, his last film before his death in 1986. Cagney's son, James Cagney, Jr., had his only film role in The Gallant Hours.
       Halsey graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904, won the Navy Cross during World War I, and ...

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The film’s working titles were The Admiral Halsey Story and Bull Halsey. The Gallant Hours closes with the following written statement: "Sincere appreciation is acknowledged for the cooperation extended by the United States Department of Defense and, most specifically, by the United States Navy and Marine Corps."
       According to a Jun 1960 LAEx article, director Robert Montgomery came up with the idea for the film while attending the seventy-fifth birthday party of Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey (1882--1959). In May 1957, HR reported that Montgomery and his good friend James Cagney had acquired the rights to Halsey’s life story and would form an independent company, Cagney-Montgomery Productions, to produce it. Cagney wrote in a LAMirror-News article that although he had met Halsey twice before filming, he deliberately attempted to eschew the man’s mannerisms. Many contemporary sources describe Cagney’s in-depth research process, which included interviewing hundreds of men who had served under Halsey. As noted in the LAEX article, Cagney and Halsey were very similar physically. Cagney later referred to the role as his most difficult; it was his last starring role in a dramatic film. He starred in one additional film, the Billy Wilder-directed comedy One, Two, Three in 1961 (see AFI Catalog of Feaure Films, 1961-70) before retiring, then had a brief appearance in Ragtime in 1981, his last film before his death in 1986. Cagney's son, James Cagney, Jr., had his only film role in The Gallant Hours.
       Halsey graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904, won the Navy Cross during World War I, and during World War II led the task force that attacked Japanese forces in the Gilbert Islands. He was promoted to admiral in 1942 and soon after took control of naval operations in Guadalcanal, taking command of the South Pacific Force in 1943. After his retirement in Apr 1947, he became a successful businessman, and died in Aug 1959, just months after The Gallant Hours finished production.
       Montgomery had served under Halsey in the navy in World War II. The prominent actor began directing when John Ford became ill on the set of the 1945 picture They Were Expendable, and went on to direct and star in Lady in the Lake for M-G-M in 1947 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 for both). That film garnered much praise for its experimental use of a subjective camera, known as the “Camera I.” The Gallant Hours marked Montgomery’s last directorial effort and his last involvement in film or television.
       As in Lady in the Lake, Montgomery used innovative techniques in The Gallant Hours. In voice-over narration, Montgomery introduces characters with a brief biographical sketch, including personal details and information about how they will be wounded or die in upcoming battles. The Japanese characters speak Japanese rather than English, and Art Gilmore, in voice-over narration, describes what they are saying. The Roger Wagner Chorale sings the score throughout the film, most of which is a long flashback, framed by Halsey’s retirement ceremony. Reviews noted that the filmmakers’ decision not to include any battle scenes marked a dramatic departure from most war films. In The Gallant Hours, all of the action takes place in Halsey’s offices and headquarters, with major military maneuvers taking place offscreen. Another novel aspect of the film was in its focus on a mere five weeks in Halsey’s life, despite the admiral’s long, multifaceted career as a brilliant military strategist.
       As noted in a Jun 1959 DV article, the battleship interiors were shot using a new construction technique in which sets were hung from overheads grids so walls could swing in and out, making it easier to light the cramped sets. HR news items add the following actors to the film’s cast: Jim Jacobs, Larry Thor, Warren Frost, Peter Miller, Bob Holten, Roy Taguichi, Bob Kino and Bob Ozaki. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       The film's Washington, D.C. premiere on 13 May 1960 was sponsored by the Navy League in a tribute to Halsey. Some reviews called The Gallant Hours overlong, but most were laudatory, with the NYT critic stating that “So detailed and fascinating is it that this might be a standout documentary film.” Cagney received high praise for his quiet, unaffected performance.

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PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 May 1960
---
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1959
---
Daily Variety
12 May 1960
p. 3
Film Daily
12 May 1960
p. 6
Filmfacts
1960
pp. 131-32
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 1957
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1959
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1959
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1959
p. 17
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1959
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1959
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1959
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1959
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1959
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1959
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1960
p. 3
Los Angeles Examiner
20 Jun 1959
---
Los Angeles Examiner
5 Jun 1960
---
Los Angeles Times
29 May 1960
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 May 1960
p. 700
New York Times
23 Jun 1960
p. 19
Newsweek
23 May 1960
---
Variety
18 May 1960
p. 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Joe MacDonald
Dir of photog
Ed Phillips
Asst cam
Asst cam
Madison Lacey
Stills
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
Wiard Ihnen
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Fredrick Y. Smith
Ed supv
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Property
Asst props
Const coord
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Eff ed
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Japanese naval tech adv
Scr supv
Casting
Casting
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Gallant Hours Theme," words and music by Ward Costello.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Bull Halsey
The Admiral Halsey Story
Release Date:
May 1960
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Washington, D.C.: 13 May 1960
Production Date:
late Apr--early Jun 1959 at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Cagney-Montgomery Productions, Inc.
13 May 1960
LP16663
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
115
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19384
SYNOPSIS

Following his retirement ceremony, Fleet Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr. must return to his cabin to don civilian clothes. Before leaving, he asks his valet, Manuel Salvador Jesus Maravilla, for his recollections of their time together, and when Manuel brings up Guadalcanal, Halsey is flooded with memories of his most difficult command: In October 1942, Halsey and his handpicked staff, including pilot and aide Lt. Cmdr Andrew Jefferson Lowe III and flight surgeon Capt. Horace Keys, fly from Pearl Harbor to the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal, which is under heavy fire from Japanese troops, lead by Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto. Yamamoto, a brilliant strategist, learns that a plane has been spotted and, although he does not know that Halsey is aboard, orders the plane intercepted. In turn, Halsey, upon hearing that there has been an unusual amount of Japanese radio traffic, decides to change course, thus avoiding a confrontation. Soon after, Halsey receives notice that he has been selected to take command of the South Pacific forces in Guadalcanal, replacing Adm. Robert L. Ghormley, a close friend of Halsey. Upon reaching his new command ship, Halsey meets with Ghormley and quietly assures his friend that his only mistake was in being the first to lead the difficult battle. Although Yamamoto assumes that Halsey will need at least a month to gain a full understanding of the many military units on the island, Halsey immediately calls all key personnel to brief him, and works at his customary ceaseless pace to get a full picture of the Allied position. Ghormley’s chief of staff, Capt. Harry Black, believes he will be fired, both for his loyalty to Ghormley and because he ...

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Following his retirement ceremony, Fleet Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr. must return to his cabin to don civilian clothes. Before leaving, he asks his valet, Manuel Salvador Jesus Maravilla, for his recollections of their time together, and when Manuel brings up Guadalcanal, Halsey is flooded with memories of his most difficult command: In October 1942, Halsey and his handpicked staff, including pilot and aide Lt. Cmdr Andrew Jefferson Lowe III and flight surgeon Capt. Horace Keys, fly from Pearl Harbor to the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal, which is under heavy fire from Japanese troops, lead by Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto. Yamamoto, a brilliant strategist, learns that a plane has been spotted and, although he does not know that Halsey is aboard, orders the plane intercepted. In turn, Halsey, upon hearing that there has been an unusual amount of Japanese radio traffic, decides to change course, thus avoiding a confrontation. Soon after, Halsey receives notice that he has been selected to take command of the South Pacific forces in Guadalcanal, replacing Adm. Robert L. Ghormley, a close friend of Halsey. Upon reaching his new command ship, Halsey meets with Ghormley and quietly assures his friend that his only mistake was in being the first to lead the difficult battle. Although Yamamoto assumes that Halsey will need at least a month to gain a full understanding of the many military units on the island, Halsey immediately calls all key personnel to brief him, and works at his customary ceaseless pace to get a full picture of the Allied position. Ghormley’s chief of staff, Capt. Harry Black, believes he will be fired, both for his loyalty to Ghormley and because he favors a “by-the-book” approach, as opposed to Halsey’s more intuitive approach to decision-making, but the fair-minded admiral asks him to stay on, as he values the captain’s experience and contrasting viewpoint. After working through the night, Halsey meets with the heads of each branch of the military: Air Force Maj. Gen. Millard F. Harmon; Army Col. Evans Carlson, who created Carlson’s Raiders; Marines Maj. Gen. Archie Vandegrift; aviation commander Maj. Gen. Roy Geiger; and Navy supply ship commander Rear Adm. Kelly Turner. From each, Halsey hears the same story: they need more men, more supplies and more naval protection. Although the situation is bleak, Halsey reminds them that Guadalcanal is the stronghold of the Allied defense and must be held, and promises aid, though he knows that he will be hard-pressed to obtain any more supplies or air support from Washington. Later, Halsey diverts nearby troops to the Guadalcanal ground force, despite Black’s misgivings that they do not have the proper authorization. At the end of the day, Lowe and Keys try to convince Halsey to get his annual shots and go to sleep, but the wily admiral evades them and plans a trip the next morning to the front lines, regardless of the danger. There, he personally observes the harsh conditions, with young boys remaining courageous in the face of hunger, crippling injuries and exhaustion. Even the hardened Halsey is forced to seek shelter in a bunker when the Japanese planes relentlessly strafe the camps. The next day, as Halsey is readying to leave, Lowe informs him that the soldiers have gathered to hear him talk. Halsey is reluctant but delivers a stirring speech, reminding the boys how vital their sacrifice is, then nails Yamamoto’s intercepted terms for the Allied surrender to a tree to inspire them. The admiral’s visit inspires the troops, and soon Yamamoto learns that resistance has increased. As Yamamoto plans the obliteration of the island’s airfield, Halsey soon deduces that a major attack is forthcoming. Although the Allies have only two carriers to fight the entire Japanese fleet, Halsey plots a surprise attack. That night, Halsey grants Lowe's request to enter combat on one of the carriers, the Enterprise , and when Lowe’s only final plea is for the admiral to get his shots, Halsey is forced to acquiesce, to the delight of his entire crew, who line up to watch. Halsey remains awake all night while the attack is mounted. When it is over, he understands that the outcome was strategically positive despite the huge losses to the Americans. The other military leaders fear that they are too weak to go on, but Halsey points out that Yamamoto has historically always failed to follow up on an advance, and pools the military’s mechanics to repair the damages to the carriers. His hunch proves correct, as Yamamoto retreats, allowing the Americans to work on the carriers. On the Enterprise , Halsey approaches pilot Roy Webb to be his new aide, and when Webb explains that he recently lost half his squadron and feels unfit for duty, Halsey counsels, “There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.” Later, Halsey’s men correctly guess that Yamamoto will attack on November 11. On November 9, the Navy sends supplies and reinforcements, and Halsey is forced to order the still-crippled Enterprise to protect the arriving ship. Soon after, he learns that his son’s plane is missing in action. Yamamoto then moves his command closer and determines to visit his front lines, as Halsey has done. Meanwhile, Halsey prepares for battle, tormented by the multitude of lives he must sacrifice. Alone in his room, the admiral tries to clear his mind of the voices and uncertainties that plague him. By morning, many of Halsey’s men—and friends—have been killed, but the defense has been successful, and Halsey learns that his son is alive. Lowe presents Halsey with his fourth star, which he orders sent to the widows of the naval admirals. Just that morning, the Allied forces have managed to break the Japanese code and have learned that Yamamoto is aboard a nearby ship. Despite some misgivings that this may be a trap, Halsey goes against protocol to detach ships to attack him. Allowing his key personnel to help plan the assault, Halsey rushes forces in. The Japanese are soon in retreat, but Halsey is disheartened to hear about the huge American casualties. The soldiers, sailors and pilots continue fighting despite their exhaustion. Finally, word comes that Yamamoto and his top aides have been killed, and the men enjoy a triumphant celebration. Back in the present, Halsey changes into a suit and bids a fond goodbye to Manuel. As he leaves the ship, each member of his staff salutes him with the great respect and affection that he has never failed to earn.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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