Alan Hale

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Alan Hale with Johnnie Pulaski in Action in the North Atlantic

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Birth Name: Rufus Edward MacKahan

Birthdate: February 10, 1892

Number of Films Alan Hale Made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

Probably like most folks from my generation, I learned of Alan Hale’s son, Alan Jr., long before I knew of the talented and distinguished character actor himself.

Hale’s legend seems to grow greater for me every time I dig a little deeper. He studied opera, invented folding theatre seats, starred as Little John alongside of Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, and John Derek in three different Robin Hoods, directed as well as acted, was great friends with Errol Flynn, and fathered the one and only Skipper for goodness sakes!

It’s impossible to see Hale in a film and not enjoy every moment. Larger than life, good natured, and wonderfully talented, Hale will forever be remembered as one of Classic Hollywood’s best character actors, and a member of ‘Warner Brother’s Stock Company.’

Along with Frank McHugh, Alan Hale was one of the actors that I was most excited to (re)discover while putting posts together for this blog.  While he barely shared any screen time with Bogart, Hale was definitely part of the glue that held several of his films together.

The Filmography

Virginia City – 1940

Hale Virginia City

Hale with Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams

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Alongside of Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Hale plays one of Errol Flynn’s sidekicks, Olaf ‘Moose’ Svenson. Hale, Williams, and Flynn are Union soldiers trying to root out an underground shipment of gold headed for the Confederate army. I loved Hale in this film, as he and Williams create so much of the comic relief that it’d be an entirely different movie without them. It’s a true showcase of how to use supporting actors to elevate the quality of a script. You can read my original write up on the film here.

They Drive by Night – 1940

Hale Raft They Drive by Night

Hale with George Raft . . .

Hale plays Ed Carlsen, the fun loving and hard drinking owner of a trucking company that hires George Raft after a trucking accident. Ed’s the trucker who made good, finally opening his own company, and it’s a crime – A CRIME, I TELL YA! – when his onscreen wife, Ida Lupino, bumps him off. What kind of monster thinks that it would be a better world without Alan Hale?!? It’s insanity in its purest form! Hale is so doggone likable in this film, that it’s a wonder any truck driver in this world wouldn’t want to work for him. Sharing some great scenes with both Raft and Lupino, Hale gets to do what he does best – joke, laugh, shout, drink, and love. It’s my favorite Hale/Bogart collaboration out of all four films, and it really gives Hale a chance to show how great of an actor he really was! You can read my original write up on the film here.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

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Hale at the Deployment Office with Some of His Crew

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Hale plays ‘Boats’ O’Hara, one of the crewmen under Bogart’s command as they survive a German U-Boat attack during WWII. Hale gets some great time to shine as he holds the ship’s crew together, leading by bravado and example while they wait to get redeployed. The scene where Hale plays cards with his shipmates in the deployment office is one of the strongest in the film, and this one’s a must see for Hale fans who like both the comedic and dramatic sides of the character actor. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Hale and Carson

Hale with Jack Carson

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Hale does a song and dance routine with Jack Carson in this film about a variety show fundraiser. Singing “Going North,” we get to hear just a glimpse of Hale’s very solid singing voice, and it really makes me wish that I could hear him sing some of the opera that he trained for when he was younger. Plus – he dances! And he does it very well! For a big guy, he’s very light on his feet as he trots around the stage with Carson, clearly enjoying himself. While it’s only a short scene in the film and he’s never together with Bogart, this one’s a must see for Hale fans, as we don’t get the typical goofball lummox that he played quite often in movies. You can read my original write up on the film here.

They Drive By Night – 1940

They Drive By Night Poster

My Review

—Some Decent Melodrama— 

Bogie Film Fix:

3 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Raoul Walsh

The Lowdown

The Fabrini brothers (George Raft and Humphrey Bogart) do their best to maintain a living as long distance truckers despite the constant threats of dangerous roads, sleep deprivation, and bosses who try to swindle them at every turn.

What I Thought

Okay.  I’m on board with George Raft.  He reminds me a lot of a more subdued version of James Cagney.  Both guys are small in stature, good looking, and great actors.  Don’t get me wrong, Raft isn’t nearly as charming and charismatic as Cagney, but he does a great job of playing men who are wound tight and ready to explode.

The chemistry here within the entire cast is superb.  Raft and Bogart work well together playing brothers with a very believable sibling dynamic.  Raft and Alan Hale have a lot of fun moments as they fall into business with one another.  Raft and Ann Sheridan make a great couple.  (Full disclosure – I’d pay to see Ann Sheridan watching paint dry, so I’m a little biased.)  And Raft gets to squirm alongside of Ida Lupino in some of the film’s best moments of dramatic tension.

My only real hang-up with the film comes with the ending when it devolves into a “he said/she said” courtroom drama.  The melodrama dial is already set at a “9” here, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they went with the old “murder trial” convention to decide the fates of all involved, but I do feel like it was a bit of an unrealistic cop out for the film to end that way.  I think it might have been more in line with the characters and the story to have Lupino and Raft’s final confrontation be a more privately painful moment.

But there’s so much right with Raoul Walsh’s direction here that I can’t fault the film for too much.  Walsh is one of my absolute favorite Bogart directors having worked on Women of All Nations, The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, High Sierra, Action in the North Atlantic (uncredited), and The Enforcer (uncredited).  He knows how to build a story, get the most out of his actors, and frame each shot like it could be a movie still worth hanging on your wall.  I’m excited to add him to The Usual Suspects soon.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart plays a regular joe with his portrayal of Frank Fabrini.  It’s essentially a “good guy” version of the blue collar role that he played in Black Legion, and Director Walsh makes sure that he has plenty of time to flesh out his character despite the fact that he’s only the fourth billed actor in the film.

Raft and Bogart get the opportunity to build a good natured brotherly relationship before the plot gets dark, and we’re given ample time with Bogart’s Frank and his wife Pearl (Gale Page) as we see him torn between providing for his wife and fulfilling her dreams of a having a baby.  When the Fabrini’s truck is finally wrecked and Frank loses his arm, Bogart has created a deep enough character that it’s a gut wrenching moment to watch him tell his brother that he should have been left behind in the burning vehicle.

It’s not Bogart’s show to steal here, but he does a great job with a large supporting role.

The Cast

George Raft plays Bogart’s brother and trucking partner, Joe Fabrini.  Raft is authentic and relatable as the industrious trucker who’s willing to work hard in order to get ahead.  Besides this film, Invisible Stripes, and Some Like it Hot, I’m not familiar with Raft’s work, and I feel the urge to start exploring the rest of his filmography.  Raft’s biggest talent as an actor is the ability to play his emotions close to his chest until it’s time for the drama to really kick in.  I think I’m a big enough man to finally let his off screen tension with Bogart go . . .

Ann Sheridan plays truck stop waitress Cassie Hartley who falls for Raft after he’s more than a little persistent.  Sheridan does a good job of giving us the impression that she’s a good girl who’s perhaps done some dark things in her past, and she has some really nice scenes with Raft as they share a hotel room for a night before eventually falling in love and making a life together.  I can’t get enough of Sheridan, and this is one of her best Bogart film appearances.

Ida Lupino is Lana Carlsen, the femme fatale that bumps off her husband so that she can go after Raft.  Lupino is lots of fun here as she smolders away, doing whatever it takes to keep the money she married into while making advances on a man who wants nothing to do with her.  The moment where she makes the decision to leave her husband in the garage with the car running is done to perfection.  Just a moment of realization flashes across her eyes – then there’s a short pause before passing the garage door sensor – Director Walsh and Lupino put together a wonderful little murder scene.

Alan Hale plays Lupino’s gregarious husband, Ed Carlsen.  Ed’s the trucker who made good, finally opening his own company, and it’s a crime – A CRIME, I TELL YA! – when Lupino bumps him off.  What kind of sick mind thinks it would be a better world without Alan Hale?!?  It’s insanity in its purest form . . .

Roscoe Karns plays the good natured, pinball-addicted, milk truck driver for Ed Carlsen, Irish McGurn.  Karns is a scene stealer in the best possible way, and it’s a real treat to have him in the film.  The moments between Karns and Hale when they play drunk are laugh-out-loud good.

Classic Bogie Moment

In a rare turn, Bogart gets to play both goofy and dramatic here.  One of his very best mugging moments from any film comes when he’s trying to mime his excitement about a sale to George Raft behind the back of a prospective client (George Tobias) which gives us this great pic for your classic moment from the film:

They Drive By Night Bogart

The Bottom Line

I’d go ahead and make this one a must see.  It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s a great supporting role for Bogart where he gets to explore a lot of character depth and nuance.

Action in the North Atlantic – 1943

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My Review

—A Very Good Film—

Your Bogie Fix:

4 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Lloyd Bacon (Byron Haskin finished the film after Bacon was dismissed when the studio could not renegotiate a new contract.)

The Lowdown

Bogart is Lt. Joe Rossi, second in command on a Merchant Marine tanker that is sunk by a German U-boat during World War II.  After a harrowing escape in which the Germans ram the sailors’ lifeboat, Rossi and his crew are rescued and taken back to the U.S.

Safely back at home, it doesn’t take long for Rossi to find himself a new love interest when he meets nightclub singer Pearl O’Neill, played by Julie Bishop.  Against his hard drinking and woman-in-every-port image, Rossi and O’Neill get hitched.  You see, Rossi’s aging, and being a Merchant Marine is becoming a young man’s game, so he’s aware that his days for sewing wild oats and tempting death are drawing to a close.

Unfortunately for Rossi’s new bride, Rossi’s Captain, played wonderfully by Raymond Massey, is knocking on the door with a new mission – take a shipment of tanks, planes, and supplies to Russia with a fleet of other ships through U-Boat infested waters.

Rossi accepts the mission, as does the rest of his surviving crew, and before you know it, their new ship, The Sea Witch, is knee deep in U-boats and fighting for its life.

In an attempt to divert one of the U-boats away from the rest of the fleet, Jarvis and Rossi break away from the pack and begin a game of cat and mouse with the sub – including several nail biting scenes of silence as The Sea Witch attempts to “go dark” in silence to evade its pursuer.  After the sub calls in a Luftwaffe attack, Capt. Jarvis is injured, and suddenly Rossi finds himself in charge of a ship for the first time – a job he could have had a long time ago, but he never wanted the responsibility.

Although it could easily be considered a WWII propaganda film, Action in the North Atlantic  does a fine job of transcending the clichéd patriotism that we might expect from a film like this, and gives us a lot more character depth and nuance than most propaganda films can muster.

Bacon makes some bold choices in direction – especially in regards to some longer scenes on the German U-boat where the viewer can go several minutes with only German being spoken.  There is clearly a lot of trust on the part of the director that we’ll be able to understand the gist of the scenes even though no English is used, and it works well.  The scenes effectively elevate the tension as the viewer begins to understand a little German shorthand for what’s going on with the Nazi sailors.

Attributing all the directorial choices to Bacon may not be a safe bet though, as apparently producers pulled him from the last ¼ of shooting due to his expired studio contract and failed renegotiations, replacing him with Byron Haskins.

The Great

There are multiple stand-out performances from the cast here.

Bogart really shows his subtle side as the aging sailor who’s aware that his best days are almost behind him.  When Capt. Jarvis keeps complaining about the young, untested sailors that the ship is assigned, Bogart reminds him that times are changing and they need to change with them.  The movie is series of constant challenges for Bogart’s character to move on, step forward, and begin to think about the next phase of his life.

Dane Clark as Johnnie Pulaski does a great job of playing the conflicted sailor who has to weigh his priorities between his country and his family.  In a scene at the Merchant Marine’s recruiting center, we see Bogart’s crew tread a fine line between comedy and melodrama as Pulaski’s crewmates verbally rough him up, questioning his patriotism as they play a round of cards.  Bacon does a great job of putting the moviegoer in Pulaski’s mindset as we understand both sides of his dilemma – does he do his patriotic duty, or live to see another day with his wife and kids?

A young(er) Ruth Gordon, as Capt. Jarvis’ wife Sarah Jarvis, doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but what she gets makes me want to dig up more of her older movies.  The role of the forlorned sailor’s wife might all too easily have fallen into the realm of  formula for such a film, but Gordon makes a lot out of what could have been a throwaway role.

The Good

Bogie’s supporting cast here is stellar.  Raymond Massey, Alan Hale, Dane Clark, and Sam Levene are all strong supporting presences.  If you’re an Alan Hale appreciator, this is an especially fun supporting role.

Classic Bogie Moment(s)

Here we go again!  Bogart enters a nightclub, a beautiful woman is singing, and we watch his mind begin to work as he sits on a bar stool with a drink.  Not a word is spoken, but we know . . . he’s captivated, so we’re captivated.

But my favorite Bogart moment comes when another nightclub patron begins talking too loud and too long about recent US ship movements.  Bogart, following the old adage that loose lips sink ships, diplomatically tries to get him to stop.  When the blowhard doesn’t take the hint, Bogie uses a quick uppercut to put him out of commission without drawing too much notice from the rest of the club.  Then we get the following exchange:

Bogart:  (TO THE BARTENDER)  Hey Charlie, I think our friend has had a little bit too much to drink, don’t you?

Bartender:  Yeah . . . did you hurt your hand?

Bogart:  (COOLLY) Never do.

The Bottom Line

This is a strong, audience friendly, Rah!  Rah!  America!  film that doesn’t tip too heavily into the propaganda bucket for its emotional effect.  Bogart has a chance to play his character with an understated subtly that isn’t always common for this style of film.

Fun Fact

The Russian pilot at the end of the movie is revving his engine in Morse code to say “V” for victory.