1960s The Gallant Hours (1960)

Published on February 11th, 2013 | by Chris

1

The Gallant Hours (1960)

Movie directed by:
Robert Montgomery

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On February 11, 2013
Last modified:February 17, 2013

Summary:

What could have been an excellent biopic of a troubled yet noble figure in military history.... almost.

The Gallant Hours (1960)OK, as you may or may not know, I am not a fan of James Cagney.  I tried to go into The Gallant Hours objectively, not carrying my Cagneyphobia with me, but it still ended up tainting my final verdict.

The Gallant Hours is a dramatized biopic of a short window into the life of famous World War II Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, Jr., portrayed by one aged and tired looking James Cagney.  Actually that aged, tired, worn out looking man was exactly the right choice, because that's how Halsey is portrayed here.  He's a man who has (at least in this film) the best interests of his men and country at heart, but has just seen a bit too much of war for his own good.  Not to mention that this aged and tired looking Cagney actually bears a striking resemblance to the man himself.  Not bad.

The movie follows Halsey as he takes command of the Pacific fleet up through Guadalcanal.  This part and aspect of the movie I have no qualms with.  This is a look "behind the scenes" at what may have taken place at the tables and board rooms on both sides.  A look at command decisions and consequences.  And a quite good one.

Except.

I did not care for the overall tone of the movie one bit.  For one, the narration sounded like one of those crummy films you had to watch in school.  Remember those, old guys like me?  The film strips and movies with the boring "storytelling" style of narration that sounds like a more-animated version of your dad reading a bedtime story?  That.  The second-person nature of this, especially during the Japanese scenes, was just annoying.  Just skip forward, or put some subtitles up there.

Second, some of the supporting cast just rubbed me the wrong way.  Especially Dennis Weaver as Lowe.  That overplayed accent and drawl.  ARGH.  And what's up with his man servant?  I don't even.

The Gallant Hours (1960)

The real Admiral Halsey. Not a bad resemblance!

Third.  The soundtrack.  I don't think I've heard a more heavy-handed and overbearing score.  It reminded me mostly of the non-classical portions of Kubrick's 2001.  That choral bass-and-tenor stuff that is unsettling at best.  Works for Kubrick.  Doesn't work here.  Makes the whole thing feel like a bloody funeral.  Especially that final scene in the movie where he's leaving the ship.  It seriously felt like that.

And then we come full circle back to Cagney, and his portrayal of Halsey.  Did the man ever smile?  It seems like for most of the picture, Cagney's direction was basically, "OK, now look angry and/or pensive, while we focus on your stoic face for a while."  If the goal was to make Halsey look like a neurotic emotionally challenged stick-in-the-mud,  then mission accomplished.  In between said moments of dark, focused, over-scored contemplation are scenes illustrating his fear of needles and medical care, and his disdain for public speaking that is...

....but through it all, the end goal was to paint an overall favorable picture of the man who bears the name Admiral Halsey.  I think, even despite the above paragraph, that they acheived it.  An ultimately flawed man with the best intentions.  Although "Why so serious?" might have been the movie's tagline.  I will relent and give The Gallant Hours a final 3/5 as a total package.  Just because it was a Gallant Effort as a biography.

All joking aside, if it hadn't been for the over-the-top seriousness, and the narrator ruining everything... this would have been a 4/5.  Here's the best entry I could find....  Hopefully you see (and hear) what I mean.

The Gallant Hours The Gallant Hours
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Description

James Cagney is riveting as the legendary commander of South Pacific forces, Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, in this extraordinary film that depicts his courageous actions during the Japanese war.When sold by Amazon...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: MGM
Manufacturer: MGM
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • James Cagney
  • Dennis Weaver
  • Richard Jaeckel
  • Les Tremayne

Features

  • Actors: James Cagney, Dennis Weaver, Richard Jaeckel, Les Tremayne
  • Genre: Action
  • Run Time: 116 Final Format: DVD - NTSC Year: 1960
  • This Disc is formatted for all Regions and has CSS Copyright Protection (will not play in some laptops)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16 X 9 1.66 Audio: Mono

Reviews

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I knew a lad who went to sea and left the shore behind him; I knew him well; the lad was me and now I cannot find him.", April 25, 2016
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One of the great WWII movies. Told with a style like no other. Cagney is simply brilliant and why he wasn't nominated for the Academy Award as best Actor will forever escape me. Once you meet Halsey you'll forget MacArthur. For five weeks Halsey does battle in his head with Yamamoto (portrayed just as effectively by James T. Goto) and out on the Ocean his sailors fight and die. The battle of wits between the two giants (but remember it was Halsey who said "There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.") is told in a semi-documentary fashion that works because the drama of the real war mixes with the drama of the script quite effectively.

The movie is directed by then Hollywood heavyweight, Robert Montgomery, who had served under Halsey during the war.

Cagney has a wonderful supporting cast that includes the only performance on screen by his son, James Cagney Jr. and one of the very few by the... Read more
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like great movies you will not be disappointed., November 11, 2015
By 
Bill (VA, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gallant Hours (Amazon Video)
A marvelous early 1960's B&W production which should satisfy anyone who wants to better understand the crucial months surrounding the pivotal Battle for Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theater. A measured study in leadership, Cagney does a great job depicting the personal issues and struggles which confronted Admiral Halsey during this time. Halsey consulted on this picture and added his take to various scenes so there is some authenticity to Cagney's portrayal. THERE ARE NO COMBAT SCENES IN THIS MOVIE. It is all speaking parts taking place on simple sets where the power is brought by the acting which is top drawer for nearly every player. This is a tour de force acting job by Cagney and his supporting cast against a soundtrack provided by the Roger Wagner Chorale. As another reviewer has stated: "If you happen to come upon this film keep it,view it,and know truly that this is what is meant by the golden age of Hollywood."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.", January 27, 2016
By 
J. Chambers (Georgia, United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Gallant Hours (Amazon Video)
The Gallant Hours is not your typical World War II film. For one thing, the film unfolds as a docudrama narrated by Robert Montgomery, the film's director. Also, there are no actual battle scenes. Instead, the progress of the war is learned through the characters' dialogue and the voiceover narration. The film covered a period of several weeks in the Guadalcanal Campaign, beginning when Admiral William F. Halsey relieved Vice Admiral Robert Lee Ghormley as Commander South Pacific (COMSOPAC).

There are a number of World War II - Pacific Theater films that I've watched several times, including films like Midway, In Harm's Way, Letters from Iwo Jima, and the HBO miniseries The Pacific. And I have to include Mister Roberts, Jimmy Cagney's other WWII film. But The Gallant Hours is arguably my favorite. Cagney is superb as Admiral "Bull" Halsey, and if you'll look up photos of Halsey during the war, Cagney even resembled him. Dennis Weaver, already well known for his role... Read more
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The Gallant Hours (1960) Chris

Summary: What could have been an excellent biopic of a troubled yet noble figure in military history.... almost.

3.0


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)

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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to The Gallant Hours (1960)

  1. the war movie buff says:

    I have never seen this movie. Just a bad vibe I have had about it. I am a Cagney fan, but not a Halsey fan. He strikes me as a publicity hound who overshadowed better admirals, Raymond Spruance in particular. I do think that a Pattonesque biopic could be interesting.

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