Born February 10, 1892, Alan Hale kicked off a screen career in 1911 that would span well over 200 movies by the time of his death in 1950. The image of Hale shown below is from the latter part of his silent days and just precedes the Hale we all know and love from his 1930’s and 40’s hey day.
My 5 Favorite Alan Hale Appearances:
5: Dodge City (1939) - He’s a total buffoon here as Rusty paired with Guinn “Big Boy” Williams in his usual role as an Errol Flynn sidekick. This one stands out though for Hale’s brief foray into the temperance movement culminating with one of the wildest barroom brawls of the 30’s!
4: The Strawberry Blonde (1941) - I tried to pick 5 somewhat distinct Alan Hale types, but I have to admit this one is very similar to what will be #2 on this list. Here, however, Hale distinguishes himself playing James Cagney’s father as a loner barfly and is a bit lower brow that he is in the father role yet to come on this list. While Hale is his typical brawler with a decent enough heart when you look deep down, his Old Man Grimes in The Strawberry Blonde is definitely lacking some of the basic morality found in most of Hale’s characters. I actually found him kind of creepy in a dirty old man sort of way when he takes a ride with Rita Hayworth.
3: They Drive By Night (1940) - More dramatic by Hale’s usual standards his Ed Carlsen has an unfortunate run-in with the doors, which leaves this as one of Hale’s more sympathetic roles as well. Don’t get me wrong, Carlsen’s still a bit of a goof, but you’ve got to feel bad for the guy.
2: Gentleman Jim (1940) - All right, I’m biased just because this is a long-time favorite flick of mine, but then again it is my 5 favorites and so here it is. Hale plays Flynn’s father, who’s much the same personality as Cagney’s pop in The Strawberry Blonde but here he’s head of the Corbett clan, a much more typical family unit. While nobody likes a scrap more than the Corbetts it’s all in good fun and Hale’s a simple all-around good guy this time around. It’s hard to find any Hale to top his star struck Pat Corbett upon shaking hands with the great John L. Sullivan … himself!
1: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - It had to be Little John, right? Probably Hale’s leading type, basically Flynn’s fun-loving right-hand man, this is the best-remembered version of Hale simply because the film itself is one of the best of all-time. Doesn’t mean Hale's not fun on his own merits as well!
Obviously this list is colored if not flawed by the fact that it’s based only upon the Alan Hale movies I’ve seen. Since there are more than a couple of hundred of them, about half of which are silent roles of which I’ve seen none, there’s certainly a lot more to choose from than the handful I’ve put here!
But I do think this list provides a nice overview of the variety of characters Hale, typically viewed as one-dimensional, played throughout his talkie career. And yes, at heart they’re all the same guy, but colored differently ever so slightly in each of my favorites above.
The image of Alan Hale towards the top of this page is a 5” X 7” Movie Star Fan Photo, in this case from the 1920’s. These are the type of photos fans of the period would receive back in the mail when they wrote their favorite stars in care of the studio.
Like I said, I’m sure I missed something … what are some of your Alan Hale favorites?