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The Gallant Hours (1960)

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Robert Montgomery did this film in 1960 with James Cagney as Admiral Wm Halsey. I have enjoyed this new remastered release on DVD.


It's a recollection of Halsey's Guadalcanal time, a relatively brief period of time - from about October, 1942 to Jan 1943. It has one incorrectly-sequenced event (the ambush of Yamamoto, which was April 1943, several months after Guadalcanal was 'won'), but even with that oddly inserted episode, the film seems to match most of the "facts" that Halsey's career takes during these months.


This 'error' is even couched in some acceptably loose language... the film opens with Halsey at the time of retirement, and he's talking to his long-time aide, and Halsey asks him, of all the campaigns HE remembers, which is the most memorable. One word: Guadalcanal. And the rest of the film is almost a one-man stage show, with other characters wandering in or out of staterooms, tents and a few bomb-shelters.


There were times when the Navy Choir's acapello musical score was annoying, but other times when it was spot-on perfect.


This film has unexpectedly vaulted far up into my Favorite War Films list.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

MM, wow - I never even looked at the filming proximities to GALLANT and ONE TWO THREE, and these two performances by Cagney couldn't be more different! I really enjoy his ONE TWO THREE over-the-top cartoon version of himself - he's practically parodying everything his film role's had become famous for. And he does it SO well.


GALLANT is the opposite end - full of looks and setting-of-jaws.


I recently picked up THE MALTA STORY with David Niven as the ill-fated recon pilot who falls in love, and Jack Hawkins does his standard great performance - strong, stiff-upper-lip, etc. This film has a lot of "enduring bombing raid" scenes and discussions and, although they're not realistic (how could they be?), it's an interested "set piece" to GALLANT HOURS and the discussion of Guadalcanal's enduring bombing and shelling raids constantly. Except Malta was so close to land that they really COULD be "constant". It's far more fictitious than GALLANT, with romance and glory sprinkled around, but it's a good companion piece, I thought. Never seen it before.

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THE GALLANT HOURS is a clunky docudrama, but it's salvaged by Cagney's reserved performance and the fact that he actually resembled Halsey (who also would be played by James Whitmore, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth Tobey, Richard X. Slattery, Pat Hingle, and Glenn Morshower -- none of whom looked even vaguely like the admiral). Montgomery (who had directed other films and TV shows, including part of THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945, when John Ford was injured on the set), was in the Navy during World War II and obviously had his heart deep in this effort. I don't know when work on the film started, but it was probably before Halsey's death in August 1959. The film came out the following June. The narration,by Frank D. Gilroy and Beirne Lay Jr., is the most annoying aspect of the film (I rather like the score by the Roger Wagner Chorale -- not the Navy Choir), and the depiction of Yamamoto's assassination in mid-November 1942 (rather than April 1943) is also a little jarring. But the war action and historical accuracy of this film are secondary to the character portrayal of a lonely commander who must order men to their deaths. Cagney (and the script) just nail that aspect of Halsey, which is why THE GALLANT HOURS remains one of the best movies ever done about the subject of military leadership. I don't know for sure if they show this in classes at the nation's military academies, but it should be required viewing for aspiring officers. A nice contrast to Cagney's portrayal of Captain Morton in MR. ROBERTS -- also a film about leadership. THE GALLANT HOURS, along with SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, were the high points of Cagney's late career (although ONE, TWO, THREE is a lot of fun).

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