A semi-documentary dramatization of five weeks in the life of Vice Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, Jr., from his assignment to command the U.S. naval operations in the South Pacific to the Allied victory at Guadalcanal.
A Commander receives a citation for an attack on General Erwin Rommel's headquarters, which is actually undeserved, as the Commander is unfit for his job. On top of that, unbeknownst to him, his wife is having an affair with one of his officers.
The Gallant Hours depicts the crucial five-week period in October-November 1942 after Admiral Halsey took command of the beleaguered American forces in the South Pacific Area. That period of combat became a turning point in the struggle against the Japanese Empire during the World War II. The story is told in flashback, framed by Halsey's ceremony of going on inactive duty in 1947.Written by
Rear Admirals Scott and Callaghan were both killed in action in the naval battle of Guadalcanal. Admiral Halsey, who received a promotion, asked that his stars be given to the widows of the two men because, he said, their actions earned him that promotion. Halsey could not have known it at the time, but Admiral Scott was killed in a friendly fire incident aboard the USS Atlanta when it was accidentally fired upon by the USS San Francisco. See more »
At the beginning of the move its stated that he retired on 22 November 1945. Halsey actually retired in March 1947. See more »
A good Cagney movie that could have been far better
An unexpected *little* film from James Cagney. No snappy dancing, no slapping dames and bartenders around, no grapefruit saying hello to your face, no weird little body dance with the hitching up of pants, hunching the shoulders or snapping of fingers. No strutting or shooting locomotive engineers, no `Made it, Ma! Top of the World!.' Not even a glimpse of the old and much loved Warner Brothers logo for that matter.
In The Gallant Hours, Cagney, normally a smorgasbord of tics, sideways delights, raw energy, menace, and American good-guyism, does the least expected thing: he strips himself of all his familiar trademarks and instead delivers the most restrained, internalized, uncagneylike performance we've ever seen. Too bad it's a one-dimensional misrepresentation of the man he's playing---the crusty, bushy-eyed Fleet Admiral William F. *Bull* Halsey. But more about that in a minute.
Shot in black and white in semi-documentary style, The Gallant Hours is a low-budget, bare-bones, *cameo* production that doesn't attempt either the wide scope or the heroics of such better-known war films as Flying Fortress, Wake Island or Bataan. Instead, the film tightly focuses on the series of crucial, life-and-death decisions made by Admiral Halsey as he directs the desperate struggle in 1942 for possession of Guadalcanal, after it was discovered that the Japanese were building an airfield there from which they could launch attacks on Australia.
Produced and directed by actor and former naval officer Robert Montgomery, the film is a melange of the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The Gallant Hours has its moments, beginning auspiciously with a memorable opening scene of a lone sailor standing high up on a ship's mast, the camera then slowly panning down to reveal the rest of the ship's company massed on deck behind Halsey, who's crisply reading out his retirement orders. This is followed by a touching and well-done scene between him and his filipino valet, the two of them recalling the bloody, extended battle for Guadalcanal, which the film then turns to in extended flashback.
In place of battle action---there is none---the movie pads itself with several lightweight scenes that are either frivolous or yawn-inducing, such as when Halsey's aides, gathered on the beach, are oohing and ahhing over the ageing Admiral's prowess in the water, and, after Halsey has rejoined them, all of them then indulgently observing Dennis Weaver (as Halsey's chief pilot, Lt. Commander Andrew Jefferson 'Andy' Lowe) romping with a group of adoring navy nurses who are all agog over Dennis's tactical maneuvers.
The picture would have benefitted from scrapping fluff like this and sticking to the business of waging war, but no, the scriptwriters instead assume we require *entertainment*---the more mindless the better---in the form of multiple scenes of Dennis Weaver pursuing tail, or---the running gag for the first third of the film---Halsey finding ways of avoiding the innoculation shots that his medical officer wants to give him. Very jolly.
The production as a whole is intensely stylized and displays a palpable mood of mournfulness and regret over the horrific sacrifice of life among the Americans and their allies, who were desperately attempting to roll back the powerful Japanese advance in the South Pacific. This atmosphere is maintained throughout the film by the use of a soaring hymn-like musical score which suggests that the war at sea was virtually a holy war by the Allied Forces to save the world from the rampaging Axis powers.
Montgomery's direction is uneven and occasionally downright lazy, as when he several times settles for using the same boring establishing shot of Halsey's flagship sitting like a stilllife in port. Maybe, just once, he could have tried something else to establish the scene? And the sight of Dennis Weaver---one of my favorite actors---made to endlessly pursue more-than-willing navy nurses for comic relief shortly becomes tedious. Deprived of the opportunity to show battle action, the scriptwriters frequently appear to be vamping, for want of anything better to do.
For anyone who's seen John Ford's magnificent, eligiac 1945 wartime drama, They Were Expendable, in which Montgomery and John Wayne had starred, it will be obvious that the concept for The Gallant Hours was strongly influenced by the earlier film. Given the chance to direct, Montgomery apparently believed that what Ford could do, *he* could do better. But where Ford had sown his film with subtle tones of sadness, defeat, and loss, Montgomery drenches The Gallant Hours with painted-on emotion, conveyed primarily by its endlessly repeated score and a narrator who crisply and regularly informs you about which onscreen marine will be dead or badly injured in battle forty-five minutes later. They Were Expendable, now recognized as one of Ford's finest films, was effective without having to repeatedly cue its audience, while The Gallant Hours finds it necessary to frequently poke us when it's time to feel sad again or to grieve over incidents that are never depicted.
None of the above, however, is as off-kilter as the picture's biggest disappointment---its highly *edited* depiction of Halsey. The scriptwriters did an outrageous disservice to the public memory of Halsey by sanitizing the admiral into a nearly flawless, one-dimensional cardboard cutout---nearly a saint. He wasn't. According to his biographers, *Bull* Halsey was a salty, aggressive, Ulysses S. Grant-type warrior who liked his liquor---at one point he was receiving a monthly ration of seventeen cases of Scotch and six of bourbon, both for himself and for the purposes of entertaining others---and whose hatred of the Japanese was legendary and who exalted in killing them in large numbers, often allowing them to drown in the sea rather than picking them up and taking them prisoner. This was a man who was famous in naval circles for once erecting a large billboard that said, `Kill Japs! Kill Japs! Kill more Japs!' This wasn't a guy who, like his Japanese counterpart, Admiral Yamamoto, spent quality time arranging flowers to look just right for snapping with his Leica. Unsurprisingly, he was capable of exhibiting a ferocious temper if provoked and had other colorful human failings as well. The men who served with and under him loved and respected him in part for his being altogether human, for being one of them.
The Gallant Hours may get away with failing to show battle action, but it rolls over and dies when it fashions an utterly false picture of this great American wartime figure as a benign plaster saint who was followed by heavenly music wherever he went. Halsey's business was killing the enemy, not serving the Host to them during the Eucharist.
As for the film's lead, admittedly it is simply not possible to watch Jimmy Cagney and not enjoy him. The guy doesn't know how *not* to be interesting. But I would much rather have seen him play one of America's greatest naval warriors with all of that individual's various human qualities intact. It would have made for a much more compelling film.
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