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Alan Hale Biography

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Alan Hale Bio

Alan Hale, born Alan Hale MacKahan, jr., arrived on March 8, 1921 despite sources listing his birth year as 1918. He was 68 when he died January 2, 1990. Alan was legally a junior but his name came from his dad's STAGE name Alan Hale(the elder actor's legal name was Rufus Edward MacKahan and he was sometimes known as Alan Edward Hale). Alan was the oldest child. He had a sister Karen Hale Wookey who was an actress and later a script supervisor. Some quick facts about Alan: he was known for his story/joke telling and booming laugh. Alan also fancied himself as quite the chef at home.

Hollywood was in his blood as his mom Jeanne "Gretchen" Hartman( also known as Gretchen Ahrbin,  the "Shirley Temple of Chicago." She was later called Sonia Markova by the movie studios and shopped around as some exotic Russian import) was also a performer. Alan's first foray into films was at the age of 13 when he needed money to buy a bike. It was called "Wild Boys of the Road" however he would have been required to jump on and off freight trains. The film's director(a family friend) thought it would be too dangerous so Alan sat behind the camera but still got paid and billed(there are reports he made his debut on film as an infant but I cannot find more than one source  to confirm this). Alan actually got his professional acting start even earlier. He was just 10 when he appeared on Broadway. His first show was called "Caught Wet." Alan appeared on and off the Great White Way(billed as Allan Hale) through the 1950's. 

Alan's house was smack dab in Hollywood. The famous Schwabs drug store(where actress Lana Turner was supposedly "discovered") was a girls school that later made room for Alan and another neighborhood boy to attend. Alan's home was behind the famous drug store and his home as an adult was not far away. He later attended the prestigious Blacke-Fox Military School. Despite being raised in the Hollywood lifestyle, Alan did not grow up as a prima dona nor did he live his life as one.

Alan, nicknamed Buddy by family and friends, got into movies to make extra money but he eventually got bitten by the acting bug in his 20s. Reportedly he got homesick when appearing in his first film. However, as the roles came in, World War II happened and Alan joined the Coast Guard. Keep in mind these early roles were not huge (Alan was uncredited in most of the roles) so Alan took on a second career and became a vacuum cleaner salesman. He bragged about selling several vacuums to a household of people who didn't speak English too well and the event turned into a party. Another time he sold one to a woman with no rugs in the home! 

The 50's were bittersweet for Alan. He was the star of two series, "Biff Baker, U.S.A" and "Casey Jones." However, neither lasted past the first season which must have been a tough blow. Alan continued to get parts here and there and at one point figured if it didn't get better, he would go into real estate since he had a wife and 4 children to support.

Then the role of a lifetime, "Gilligan's Island," came along. Creator Sherwood Schwartz came upon Alan by accident. Both were eating in a restaurant and Alan was still in costume for the film "Advance to the Rear." When it came time to do a screen test for the show (actually Sherwood wanted Alan as the skipper all along but the network wanted film of him) Alan was shooting "Bullet For A Badman" with Audie Murphy, Ruta Lee, Darren McGavin and Ed Platt. He couldn't take time off so during downtime Alan rode from the set to the main road by horse, hitchhiked to Las Vegas and flew to LA...traveling through a total of 4 states! He did the test and returned to the movie set with no one the wiser. Needless to say, he got the part as skipper Jonas Grumby.

Because of The Skipper, Alan became world famous. His image has been on t-shirts, books, board games, even a nintendo game! Russell Johnson(the professor) mentioned in his book that Alan was doing a film called "Curse of The Unfaithful Wife" in Yugoslavia in 1968(don't think this film was ever released). The crew made a stop over in Beirut and Alan's second wife wanted to deplane. A young man with a gun aimed it at Trinket and told her to get back but when Alan came running to the rescue the man yelled, "Skipper! Skipper!" Even C.B. DeMille said Alan had a great future and that he could act, however DeMille said the senior Hale was a GREAT actor. Father and son never worked together. Alan senior died of liver failure shortly before he and his son were set to work in the film "At Swords Point" about the sons of the three Musketeers. Alan, of course, played Porthos jr. the son of Porthos(a role Alan Sr. played in "Man In the Iron Mask'). Alan mentioned this during an interview for the tv show Here's Hollywood: "unfortunately the situation arose where dear dad took off, so to speak, during the middle of a picture that we were going to be father and son in. As a matter of fact it was a picture about the Musketeers. He was to play my father. I was young Portho’s and he was going to be the old Porthos.  He took off during the last part of the picture. But in the sense of it, as people say, ‘Is your dad dead now?’ He is not dead because, delightfully so, we are still talking about him and it’s a wonderful heritage to live up to , plus the fact that my children now have a wonderful thing, seeing dad on television. Though they never knew him, they all know grandpa."

Alan didn't seem to mind the comparison to his father who was also an inventor(invented a greaseless potato chip and sliding theater seat). Alan himself invented a few items including a chair and table that folded into its own carrying case and weighed just 32 pounds. He was also working with a company in the 1980's on a special engine lubricant. Alan was a wise businessman, buying the Lobster Barrel restaurant on La Cienega boulevard in L.A.(re-naming it Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel) and later his own travel agency during the 80's. 

Alan was an avid golfer and joined the Hollywood Hackers instead of a private country club which his dad belonged to. Bob Denver played a joke on Alan and Jim Backus. The two were hitting golf balls during down time on "Gilligan's Island" and arguing whose shot went farther. Bob had a security guard come to the set and claim a golf ball had smashed a car windshield. Jim Backus immediately admitted that Alan outdrove him by several yards! Alan appeared in many charity golf events often donating one of his skipper caps to raise money. Quite the humanitarian, Alan also visited sick children in the hospital even when HE himself was losing his battle with cancer. 

Alan was often compared to a big Teddy Bear, but he never made his weight public. He was plagued by health problems in the 1970's when he suffered a blood clot in his leg. He was told to quit smoking and lose weight. Russell Johnson admitted Alan was much thinner when it came to the final "Gilligan's Island" reunion movie in the early 80's.  During Alan's other roles in this time period you could see he looked leaner and healthier. However, Alan developed cancer of the Thymus(a small organ above the heart that helps provide cells that fight disease in our body). He died the second day of 1990 and was surrounded by his second wife, a priest and his sister. The Coast Guard offered to give him a funeral with full military honors but his second wife politely declined. Alan was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific by the Neptune Society. Alan felt a kindred spirit with the sea, he was a Pisces. The day of his service tabloid helicopters swarmed the area to take pictures. His family was not pleased. Actress Dawn Wells represented the Gilligan's Island crew that day.

Alan was married twice. First to his childhood sweetheart Bettina, but the two were divorced. In 1964 he married singer Naomi Ingram whom he called Trinket(she was a petite woman). 

Alan loved kids and he and Bettina had 4 children together. In an interivew for an entertainment news show in 1962 called "Here's Hollywood," Alan was quite the proud father. Here is a transcript from that interview:

HELEN O’CONNELL:“You have four children?”

ALAN HALE JR.:“Yes, I have four children. As a matter of fact that’s a picture of them over there in the hallway there. I’m very pleased about them too.”

HELEN O’CONNELL:“That’s something to be proud of .”

ALAN HALE JR.:“Yes, truly. Thank you for that. I’m very proud of them. As a matter of fact I’m about to pop a button.”

His children, from eldest to youngest are: Alan Brian Hale MacKahan(he went by Brian), Christopher James Hale MacKahan, Lana Victoria Hale MacKahan(her name is a take on Alan's name, with the letters reversed) and Michael Dorian MacKahan(he went by Dorian). None of the children actively pursued acting as a career but did dable in movies and music. Alan also has a grandson and 2 granddaughters. Sadly Alan's two wives, his sons Brian and Dorian and his sister Karen are no longer with us.

Throughout his career Alan was hardly ever filmed without his gold pinky ring with the diamond and emerald, it belonged to his father. If he didn't wear it, a very prominant ring line could be seen on his pinkie. A story line was included in "Gilligan's Island" where the skipper said the ring belonged to his "pop" and was over 200 years old. He even wore this ring while playing roles in Westerns. How many blacksmiths or sheriffs have a pinky ring? Another item he favored, a necklace with a triangular stone. He was never without it during the Gilligan years.

Alan was truly a loveable actor and person. He certainly made his mark in this world and I think it's a better place because of him.

 

(Alan's senior class yearbook photo from Hollywood High.)

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