Chanin Hale

Biography

Chanin Hale never really made it in movies, apart from a relative handful in the mid-'60s in which she played prominent supporting roles. But on television as a wholesome-yet-voluptuous blonde, she was a memorable guest star and supporting player for years on programs as diverse as Dragnet and The Red Skelton Show. She was born Marilyn Victoria Chanine Hale Harvey in Dayton, OH, and survived a desperately unhappy childhood in a broken home from where even her adopted younger sister was given up. (According to Hale in a 1969 interview, her sister returned to the orphanage when her parents separated). Hale took her mother's family name. She was a creative and very athletic girl, winning art awards and was very competitive in sports. She was bitten by the performing bug while still in school. After graduating from high school and working as a secretary, she decided to do something about pursuing acting. Some limited work in student and community theater helped, along with dancing and singing lessons, but she felt out of place and somehow "off balance" when it came to performing, until one day she dyed her red hair platinum blonde and suddenly recognized herself. She joined the Dayton Y Players and gained experience in everything from Greek tragedy to low comedy, and enjoyed a taste of success in the title role of Annie Get Your Gun. A move to New York in 1955, at age 18, put her in position to be discovered. During her first six years, she toured in the revue High Time, performed in The Gazebo (with William Bendix), Come Blow Your Horn, and Bus Stop in regional theater. She also worked as a cocktail waitress at the Gaslight Club (a pre-Playboy club institution for the well-heeled man about town), fending off advances from the patrons (and from her employers) when she worked as a stenographer. She also did Annie Get Your Gun on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and sang at Manhattan's #1 Fifth Avenue, eventually landinga role in Little Mary Sunshine, playing a flirtatious character named Twinkle.

Hale also started doing television, playing secretaries, corpses, and everything in between. Her big break came from television in 1963 when she went to Los Angeles to appear in a comedy production at U.C.L.A. and was discovered by Jack Albertson, who offered her an introduction to Red Skelton. The veteran comic was always on the lookout for women with pantomime skills for his show, and after meeting Hale and seeing her work, immediately put her onto his weekly comedy variety show in the pantomime segment. She worked for him as a semi-regular for the next seven years. She also managed to appear in a handful of subsequent feature films, among them Gunn, Synanon, Will Penny, and The Night They Raided Minsky's, and in numerous dramatic television series. The most notable among them was the '60s revival of Dragnet on which she did three episodes -- in one, playing the seductive hostess for a crooked gambling ring, she came convincingly close to melting Jack Webb's by-the-book persona as Sgt. Joe Friday; watching the show today, Hale came off like the '60s answer to Gloria Grahame, and she may have had as good a career if only films were being made that included partly fallen-but-redeemable women in their casts of characters, but it was mostly Anne Francis and, on the much older side, Ava Gardner getting those parts. Hale's other television work includes appearances on Death Valley Days, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hey Landlord, Hondo, The Donna Reed Show, The Danny Kaye Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dating Game, and Girl Talk (the latter two as herself, out-of-character), as well as television productions of Brigadoon and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Hale was also a regular supporter of the USO and did tours of Vietnam and other overseas locations where American troops were stationed for more than a decade, well into the late '60s, working with John Welsh and John Malpezz on one tour. Indeed, she was one of the last fabulously successful pinups. In early 1969, a quarter century after the heyday of the pinup, when a picture of Hale in a homemade costume as "Eve" appeared in the New York Daily News, it generated so many requests from soldiers overseas that thousands of 8x10s had to be printed up and mailed. She continued working into the '70s on series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Adam-12, and Marcus Welby, M.D. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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