Happy New Year everyone!! We woke up this morning to an unpleasant -16°F. I really hate winter. Not because of the snow or the shortened days, but just those frigid temperatures. If it would just stay around 25-30 degrees, I’d be fine. But -16!! And one of our cars sits out in the driveway and, even after driving it around last night, it refused to start today. The battery had plenty of juice, but it was so darned cold that it just couldn’t start. Maybe tomorrow. Anyways, we’ve warmed all the way up to -1, so I’m feeling…still really cold.
Alan Hale, Jr. lived to be almost 72 years old, and he spent a good number of those years in front of camera. But just three of those years would largely define his legacy as an actor. In 1964, the first of nearly 100 episodes of Gilligan’s Island was shown on TV, and Hale would forever be known as “The Skipper”. The somewhat portly captain of the S.S. Minnow spent a lot of time working with the Professor to get off the island. He struggled to get any sleep at all in his hammock with the clumsy Gilligan (who slept in the hammock above him) constantly falling or tripping over him. And he must have hit Gilligan with his hat at least a thousand times.
The show only lasted three seasons, but it developed a huge following and has achieved something of a cult status. And Alan Hale remained “the Skipper” long after the tapes had been worn thin in syndication. But his response to it all was somewhat unusual. Many actors and actresses that have such defining roles – I think of Henry Winkler as Fonzie or maybe Ted Danson as Sam. Bob Crane’s Colonel Hogan comes to mind as well – often come to resent them, because it so badly pidgen-holes their careers. Rather than taking on broader roles or assuming new and different characters, they are repeatedly cast as characters of the same mold as that “one role” that made them.
What’s more, the public maintains such a strong name/face recognition that I imagine it’s difficult, even in everyday life, to leave those characters, long dead and gone, behind. But Alan Hale was different. Even though played dozens of different characters in dozens of different movies, he was always best remembered as the Skipper…and it seemed to be something he completely embraced. Alan owned a seafood restaurant in Hollywood, and was often seen with his captain’s hat.
I’ve seen Alan in so few roles outside that of the Skipper. As you know, I’m a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a couple of movies with Hale made it the screens. In The Giant Spider Invasion (episode 810), we see Hale in the role of a Sheriff. Angels Revenge (#622) seems to be a knock-off of Charlie’s Angels…and not a very good one at that. In it, Hale plays Manny, an agent of a female pop-singer whose current hit, “Shine Your Love”, is actually pretty terrible and draws the ire of Mike and the Bots. The Crawling Hand (#106) again has Hale as a Sheriff, but while I have this episode, I’ve yet to watch it.
But I’m guessing that I could probably watch everything in which Alan Hale ever acted, and he would still be “The Skipper” to me. I think it’s nice to know that Hale, who died of thyroid cancer on January 2, 1990, would probably be just fine with that.
Recommended Viewing: Angels Revenge – You’ve seen him as the Skipper, now see him as agent to the stars!!