The Life & Career of Alan Hale, Jr.

Steve Arino

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Hello everyone,

I'd like to share with you information on the life & career of one of my favorite actors of all time: Alan Hale, Jr. (best known for his role as The Skipper on the hit '60s sitcom "Gilligan's Island")

The son of Rufus Edward MacKahan (known professionally as Alan Hale, Sr.) & Gretchen Hartman (both movie stars in their era), Alan Hale MacKahan, Jr. was born with Show Business in his blood.

Per his official website located at http://alanhale.com Alan Hale, Jr. was born on March 8, 1918 in Los Angeles, California. He was raised in Los Angeles, having graduated from Hollywood High School in 1938 at age 20, where he was classmates with, among others, Joe Yule, Jr. (real name of Mickey Rooney), a famous child movie star in his own right.

After graduating from Hollywood High School, Alan Hale, Jr. followed his famous father into Acting, appearing in several movies himself as well as the short-lived series "Biff Baker" & "Casey Jones."

In 1963, while having Dinner with future wife Trinket (whom he married in 1964 & remained happily so until he died), Sherwood Schwartz decided to cast Alan on the spot for the role of Jonas Grumby, the "Skipper" to first mate Willy Gilligan (Bob Denver, fresh from TV's "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis") in a situation comedy pilot he created called "Gilligan's Island," pitching the concept to execs at United Artists Television (a TV subsidiary of MGM), which greenlit the concept to pilot as did the CBS Television Network soon afterwards.

The pilot episode, "Marooned," was filmed in November 1963 entirely on location in Honolulu, Hawaii, with 7 Stranded Castaways on a fictional uncharted Desert Island; joining Alan Hale, Jr. as The Skipper were Bob Denver as Gilligan, Jim Backus (TV's "Mr. Magoo") as Thurston Howell III, a multimillionaire who never worked a day in his life, Natalie Schafer as Thurston's wife, Lovey, John Gabriel as High School Educator Roy Hinkley, Kit Smythe as secretary Ginger Grant, and Nancy McCarthy as Bunny Summers, also a Secretary.

After some misgivings, CBS greenlit "Gilligan" to series, with several changes. Gone was John Gabriel as Roy Hinkley (replaced for series by Russell Johnson), Kit Smythe as Ginger (who became a movie star as played by Tina Louise), and Nancy McCarty as Bunny (name changed to Mary Ann and played by Dawn Wells). Also, rather than film the series entirely on location in Hawaii, filming moved to CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles, California on a Studio Lot.

On September 26, 1964, "Gilligan's Island" began a successful 3-year Tour on CBS, airing initially on Saturday nights at 8:30 P.M. ET/PT (airing right after the short-lived series "Fanfare").

Its debut season was filmed in Black & White, later Colorized, before switching full-time to Color in 1965 at the start of Season 2, when the show moved to Thursday nights at 8 P.M. ET/PT; later, the show moved to Monday nights at 7:30 P.M. ET/PT opposite NBC's "The Monkees" for Season 3.

The show had respectable ratings to continue for a Season 4, and was in fact renewed as such by CBS; however, the network President loved "Gunsmoke" so much that he insisted the show be renewed, and while "Gunsmoke" continued for another 8 years on CBS (eventually ending after 20 total years in 1975), due to the "Gunsmoke" renewal, the castaways on "Gilligan's Island" went home--PERMANENTLY--after CBS canceled "Gilligan's Island" after a 3-year tour.

Despite the cancellation, "Gilligan's Island" continued to thrive in Syndication Heaven, having aired on local stations ever since, as well as cable networks such as TBS, TNT, Turner South, Nickelodeon, TV Land and most recently ME-TV & The Hallmark Channel, with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution owning "Gilligan's Island" since Ted Turner sold his company.

Later in life, Alan Hale, Jr. owned a restaurant called "The Lobster Barrell," eventually selling the restaurant in the late 1980s.

On a personal note, I admire Alan Hale, Jr. as a human being because, during his last 3 1/2 years on Earth, while battling Cancer, he continued to work whenever he could, appearing on such films & shows as "Back to the Beach," "ALF" & "Growing Pains," with his final ever appearance on an episode of "Murder She Wrote" before succumbing to Cancer at age 71 on January 2, 1990.

An interesting footnote: on the episode of "Growing Pains" he appeared on, Alan Hale, Jr. played his same "Gilligan's Island" character (Jonas Grumby, "The Skipper") as a Cabbie.
 

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