Cast & Crew
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 strife 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.
James T. Goto
Carl Benton Reid
Robert Montgomery Jr.
James Cagney Jr.
Frank D. Gilroy
James T. Goto
Capt. Joseph U. Lademan Usn (ret.)
Beirne Lay Jr.
Capt. Idris B. Monahan Usn (ret.)
Fredrick Y. Smith
Howard M. Voss
The Gallant Hours
Born in New Jersey in 1882, Halsey graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904, and earned his Naval Aviator's wings at the age of 52, the oldest person to do so in the history of the Navy. He commanded the sea war in the South Pacific in 1942, which is the setting of The Gallant Hours (1960), and was promoted to Five-Star Fleet Admiral in December 1945 (he was one of only five men to have held that rank). He retired from active duty with the Navy in 1947 and went into business. He died in August 1959 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, next to his father, also a Navy officer. Yet The Gallant Hours is not a sweeping biography of that life. It covers only five weeks in Halsey's life, primarily during the battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, when he was commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Neither is this the typical action-packed war film; the picture instead focuses with semi-documentary style on the duties and strains of command, earning both director and star critical praise for their approach. Bosley Crowther, in the New York Times, called Cagney's performance "controlled to the last detail...one of the quietest, most reflective, subtlest jobs" he had ever done on screen, and credited the actor with giving "life and strong, heroic stature to the principal figure in the film."
Audiences at the time, apparently unengaged by the film's emphasis on dialogue and character development over battle scenes, did not make The Gallant Hours a hit. The film's success may also have been hampered by a lack of top marquee names. Although Cagney was still a draw at this stage of his career, his name alone wasn't necessarily enough to bring people into the theater. The film did, however, give a good boost to the career of second-billed Dennis Weaver, who was then best known as the memorable supporting character Chester on the long-running television Western Gunsmoke.
Cagney and Montgomery were friends for years, even if they were an unlikely duo on the surface Cagney the kid from the streets of New York, a self-admitted "strong Roosevelt liberal" who was once accused of Communist ties; Montgomery, scion of the privileged class, a conservative who appeared as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Nevertheless, they got along well and enjoyed working on The Gallant Hours. Both admired Halsey greatly, and the project became a labor of love for them. Cagney had high regard for Montgomery as a "deeply read, wonderfully intelligent man with a great social flair." In his autobiography, Cagney noted that his friend was "a chap raised with a silver spoon in his mouth who on ability and guts alone became the leader of the Screen Actors Guild, and in their first big fight with the Producers Association, laid his career right on the line." He also admired the way Montgomery tackled "the big guns of the television networks."
The Gallant Hours was their only movie together, although Cagney had appeared in an episode of Montgomery's Emmy-winning TV anthology series Robert Montgomery Presents in 1956. Cagney said in his autobiography that he played the role of an Army sergeant escorting the body of a dead buddy home from Korea "because I promised Bob that if I ever did any work on television, I'd do the first with him." Rarely seen on the small screen, Cagney also showed up on several shows after the release of The Gallant Hours to promote the picture, including one guest spot where he got to meet two other men he admired, heavyweight boxing champs Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey.
As he had done in the past, Cagney decided to retire after The Gallant Hours but was lured back one more time by Billy Wilder for the comedy One, Two, Three (1961). He did not return to the big screen again until Ragtime (1981), his final theatrical feature.
The uncredited narrator of the American sequences of The Gallant Hours is director Robert Montgomery, no stranger in front of the camera either. Born into a wealthy family, Montgomery had success as a screen actor from the late 1920s often as a likable tuxedoed young gent of the upper classes. As he matured, he showed his talent for heavier, darker roles and, in the 1940s, turned to directing and producing for screen, stage and television. He made his last big screen appearance as an actor in 1950, and The Gallant Hours was his final directorial effort. He was the father of the late Elizabeth Montgomery, best known as Samantha on TV's Bewitched.
James Cagney's and Robert Montgomery's sons appear in The Gallant Hours in uncredited bits as Marines. Robert Montgomery, Jr. made a few other films (12 to the Moon , College Confidential ) and a handful of TV appearances (Death Valley Days, Sea Hunt), but James Cagney, Jr. never made another film and died of a heart attack at the age of 45 in 1984, two years before his father's death.
Director: Robert Montgomery
Producer: Robert Montgomery
Screenplay: Frank D. Gilroy, Beirne Lay, Jr.
Cinematography: Joseph MacDonald
Art Direction: Wiard Ihnen
Original Music: Roger Wagner
Cast: James Cagney (Fleet Admiral William Halsey), Dennis Weaver (Lt. Commander Andy Lowe), Ward Costello (Captain Harry Black), Vaughn Taylor (Commander Mike Pulaski), Richard Jaeckel (Lt. Commander Roy Webb).
by Rob Nixon
The Gallant Hours
There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.- Fleet Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey Jr.
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 June 1960 Los Angeles Examiner 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, Hollywood Reporter 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 Los Angeles Mirror-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 Los Angeles Examiner 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 April 1947, he became a successful businessman, and died in August 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 June 1959 Daily Variety 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. Hollywood Reporter 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 May 13, 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 New York Times 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.
Released in United States on Video June 24, 1992
Released in United States Spring May 1960
Released in United States Spring May 1960
Released in United States on Video June 24, 1992