11 fascinating facts about Alan Hale, Jr.
The Skipper went to school with Mickey Rooney, served at sea, owned a lobster restaurant and booked boat cruises in real life.
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale of a remarkable actor. Alan Hale, Jr. was born with showbiz in his blood. Hale, Sr. swashedbuckled alongside Errol Flynn, while his mother, Gretchen Hartman, was a star of the silent screen. Heck, even his grandmother appeared in early films.
Of course, we associate Hale, Jr. with his role of the Skipper on Gilligan's Island — and Hale was okay with that. He embraced his role as the popular castaway, continuing to slip on the blue shirt and sailor's cap to delight children and fans. The Hollywood native had a career that ran deeper than his time on the island. Let's take a look back at some things you might not know about Alan Hale, Jr.
1. Graduated high school with Mickey Rooney.
Hale was part of the class of '38 at Hollywood High School (go Sheiks!) alongside Mickey Rooney. Also in that graduating class was actress Alexis Smith, who would play the love interest of Errol Flynn in 1942's Gentleman Jim, which of course co-starred Alan Hale, Sr.
2. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
He held the rank of Seaman E-3 when he served between 1942 and 1945. When Hale died in early 1990, his ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
3. He played a spy in 'Biff Baker, U.S.A.'
Hale's first major television role came in this CBS espionage series of the 1952-53 season. The Cold War drama centered on a couple of married secret agents posing as importers behind the Iron Curtain. In one episode, art thieves are attempting to smuggle the Mona Lisa into Eastern Europe by painting over it. Charles Bronson played a Czech spy on two episodes of the lone season.
4. The train from his series 'Casey Jones' was used in 'Petticoat Junction'
Five years after Biff Baker, Hale landed the lead role in the family railroading western Casey Jones, which looked to tone down the violence prevalent in its peers of the time. Hale was the titular engineer of the Cannonball Express. That name should sound familiar to 1960s sitcom fans. The working locomotive that stood in for the Hooterville Cannonball on Petticoat Junction, the Sierra No. 3, was a famous Hollywood train in dozens of productions, including Casey Jones.
5. He played both murder and murder victim on 'Perry Mason.'
Spoiler alert! Hale is the guilty party in the 1961 episode "The Case of the Unwelcome Bride." Two years later, he played a Texan named Nelson Barclift who is offed in "The Case of the Bouncing Boomerang." Fun fact: actress Diana Millay of Dark Shadows also appeared in both episodes.
6. The Skipper's real name was Jonas Grumby and he served with JFK and McHale.
His character's name Jonas Grumby is mentioned in the pilot, though it is hardly uttered again. The cast and crew were shooting that pilot episode when President Kennedy was assassinated. Speaking of JFK, the postmodern 2003 novel Gilligan's Wake, which is not officially tied to the show, crafts a backstory for the Skipper than explains he served on a PT with both Kennedy and McHale of McHale's Navy. It may not be official, but we like to believe it to be true.
7. He played a chef named Gilligan on 'Batman.'
In the episode "The Ogg and I," one with Vincent Price as Egghead, the Police chief enters a diner and sidles up to the counter. The cook comes out and it is Alan Hale. The chief says to him, "Right, Gilligan, one large milk and a hot pastrami."
8. He owned a seafood restaurant called Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel.
Hale got into the restaurant business for real in the 1970s when he opened his Lobster Barrel at 826 N La Cienega Boulevard off the Sunset Strip. A postcard of the Skipper was laid at each place setting and Hale would often appear in costume at the shellfish joint.
9. He later owned a travel agency that arranged boat cruises.
After leaving the restaurant business, Hale got into the travel sector. The actor started his Alan Hale's Quality and Leisure Travel office. Yes, he did indeed arrange for customers to go on boat cruises.
10. He appeared as the Skipper on two 1980s sitcoms, 'The New Gidget' and 'ALF.'
The good-natured Hale embraced his stereotype as the Skipper and continued to don the costume throughout his life. He appeared on the season two premiere of The New Gidget, "Gilligidge Island," and reprised his character alongside Bob Denver, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells in the second season ALF outing "Somewhere Over the Rerun."
11. The Skipper could be spotted selling cars in Canada in the 1980s.
In the mid-'80s, Hale also helped sell automobiles for Ensign Chrystler Plymouth in Victoria, Canada. "Tell 'em the Skipper sent you," he proclaimed in the television ad.