Published on February 11th, 2013 | by Chris1
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.
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.
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
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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 InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Original Release Date:
- James Cagney
- Dennis Weaver
- Richard Jaeckel
- Les Tremayne
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: What could have been an excellent biopic of a troubled yet noble figure in military history.... almost.