Monday, July 16, 2012

Stars of Public Domain: Hal Hackett

For those classic film fans who remembers sprightly Hal Hackett solely for his role as the hep student council chairman in the Andy Hardy comedy Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1947), now in public domain, the following CBS press release from 1957 should be somewhat illuminating:

Accident Leads Hal Hackett
Into Entertainment Field

Hal Hackett, now playing his first long-running dramatic role as Bob Lyle on CBS Radio's 'Ma Perkins' daytime serial, literally became an entertainer by accident.During World War II, when he was in his third year in pre-medical school at UCLA, he joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Division Surgeon's office. Beforethe end of his first month in France he was critically injured under fire and was sent back to Gardner General Hospital in Chicago. Lying in bed, encased in a cast from shoulders to knees waiting for his broken neck and back to mend, he whiled away the time singing. A Special Services officer heard him, learned the young soldier had won, a national music contest, baritone division, just before finishing high school in his native Madison S.D., and had refused three music scholarships, since his heart was set on a medical career. Next thing the avocational singer knew he was broadcasting locally three times a week, star of his own program, called 'A Soldier Sings.' Sophie Tucker heard him, came to the hospital to see him broadcast and asked him to 'guest' on her program. Following that he was signed to sing on the 'Chicago Theater of the Air.' An MGM talent scout saw the handsome young man, and although Hackett at that time was unable to walk, signed him to a contract. After release from the hospital he went to California where, still wearing a brace, he worked for two years. His film credits include Love Laughs at Andy Hardy, Summer Holiday, Under Cover, Campus Honeymoon and Cynthia's Secret.

(photo above: Jenny Lou Law and Hackett promoting the Broadway bound “Lend an Ear”)

Having established his acting ability, Hackett decided to try the stage, and signed with a musical that came east but unfortunately closed in Philadelphia before reaching Broadway. Back on the coast he joined another musical, 'Lend An Ear.' The day he signed the contract to come to New York he was hospitalized and spent nine months curing a rheumatic heart. Immediately after release he hastened to rejoin the show in New York for its last six months on Broadway which was followed by a nine months run in Chicago. There he resigned from the cast in order to enter the University of North Carolina to get a degree in physics. At the University, Al Templeton heard him and brought him back to New York to do a radio show. This led to a tour of night clubs across the country.

On the West coast he signed with the production of 'Kismet,' and again came to New York to enjoy a long and successful run. His voice is heard on the Columbia
Records album of the musical.

During the past summer he appeared in summer stock in 'Picnic,' 'Rainmaker, 'Tender
Trap,' 'Solid Gold Cadillac,' 'Seven Year Itch' and 'Wonderful Town' on the east coast, and in 'Carousel' on the west coast. Now settled in a midtown apartment near the CBS Radio studios, he continues his study of voice, piano and acting. Each day he exercises by swimming at a nearby YMCA or rides in Central Park. Versatile as the young bachelor is, he admits he can't cook.”

Sadly, Hal Hackett died at the young age of 43 in New York, NY, December 4, 1967.


Recently, I discovered that Hal Hackett was listed under his real name, Harold Piper, in the 1946 Academy Players (actual listing punctured below). According to the 1958 TV-Radio Times, the reason for the name change was his appearance in a bit part in the 1946 MGM release The Show-Off, a comedy starring Red Skelton as a character named "Aubrey Piper." Metro honcho Louis B. Mayer thought that was one Piper to many and demanded the name change. Which suggests that Piper/Hackett's role as a radio technician may originally have been more important. As is, he wasn't credited at all and the whole name confusion thus moot. 



  1. How did Hal die? He was a friend of my mother's. He last visited my family in 1963 when he was touring in some production with Marie Wilson. It says here that he died in 1967. He was only 43. Was it an accident? We never knew what happened to him.