Hale, Nathan, 1910-1994

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Mormon dramatist from Utah.

From the description of Plays, 1930-1970. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122535592

Mormon dramatist from Utah.

A ruggedly handsome actor, Nathan was also a producer, and a theater owner. Teamed with his wife, Ruth Hale, he founded community theaters in California and Utah. His children and grandchildren continue in this family legacy of the stage to this day, and some grandsons have become successful film directors.

Soon after Nathan met and married Ruth, they were asked to serve as drama leaders in their ward. They began writing their own plays to avoid paying royalties, with Ruth doing most of the writing, and for 8 years they staged their productions around the Salt Lake Valley. Already having four children, Nathan was not eligible for the draft, but he also was not happy with his job at Utah Copper, with the dust and grime of the mining operation. After reading in the paper about a lack of leading men in Hollywood due to WWII military service, Ruth mentioned that he might make a go at professional acting. Nathan replied that she had a better chance with her acting and plays. Despite the negative reaction from family and friends, they decided to move to southern California in 1943. Nathan took a job as a milkman leaving days and evenings available for acting work. He had some roles with the Altadena Players at the Pasadena Playhouse, but film work remained elusive. However, the Hales did participate in the production of two films in 1946 about the LDS welfare program, made in spare time by a team of Mormons in the film industry assembled by Disney animator Judge Whitaker. This was the start of film production within the LDS Church.

With film careers not materializing, they opened the Glendale Centre Theatre in Glendale, Ca. in 1947 (125 seats) to provide a venue for their acting. Their success soon led to a move and expansion. They staged plays that were free of profanity and illicit love affairs, leading to bookings of entire performances by church groups of various denominations. Ruth drew from her personal experiences in writing, and Nathan's favorite role was playing his own feisty English father-in-law in "Thank You Papa" penned by Ruth. Several actors would get their start at the Hale's theater including Gordon Jump, Mike Farrell, Connie Stevens, Richard Hatch, and Melissa Gilbert.

The Hales did initiate some film work of their own, independently producing three Mormon-themed films from 1955 to 1957 assisted by their nephew William Hale, and many members of the Glendale West Ward. "Choice Land" was a 20 minute film about America, including Book of Mormon scenes such as Lehi leaving Jerusalem (shot in the desert) and one with Jaredites. The earthquake leveling Zarahemla at the time of Christ's crucifixion was shot using a model of the city on a ping pong table. The Pilgrims were shot wading knee deep in snow at Mr. Wilson. "Oliver Cowdery" was filmed for $2,500 with a ten minute court scene rehearsed and shot in one evening. A third film was entitled "Is Fast Day a Headache?"

Nathan and his children would all later appear in one or more films produced for use by the Mormon Church. Nathan was well-cast as a leader of a Mormon colony in Mexico facing a threat from Pancho Villa in the film "And Should We Die" (1966), and as the grandfather in the 1986 re-make of "Man's Search for Happiness" (1964).

In 1983 the Hales retired to Utah, leaving their daughter Sandra and her husband running the Glendale theater. Soon bored, they decided to open the Salt Lake Hale Center Theatre with other family members. Hale Center theaters have continued to be opened elsewhere after Nathan's death. Grandsons Kurt Hale and Will Swenson have entered the ranks of directors in LDS cinema with "The Singles Ward" (2002) and "Sons of Provo" (2004).

Biographical information from IMDb mini biography by Brian Greenhalgh.

From the guide to the Nathan and Ruth Hale plays, 1930-1970, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf AV 2516, Hale, James Nathan 1910-1994. Hale Family audiovisual collection. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church History Library
referencedIn Associated Latter-day Media Artists. Associated Latter-day Media Artists records, 1956-1992. Harold B. Lee Library
creatorOf Hale, Nathan, 1910-1994. Plays, 1930-1970. Harold B. Lee Library
creatorOf Nathan and Ruth Hale plays, 1930-1970 L. Tom Perry Special CollectionsArts & Communications Archives
referencedIn David Kent Jacobs collection on Mormon films, 1955-1988 L. Tom Perry Special CollectionsUniversity Archives
referencedIn Associated Latter-day Media Artists records, 1956-1992 L. Tom Perry Special CollectionsArts & Communications Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Associated Latter-day Media Artists. corporateBody
associatedWith Cowdery, Oliver 1806-1850 person
associatedWith Hale, Edward Hunter 1883-1964 person
associatedWith Hale, Hunter person
associatedWith Hale, Richard Walden 1909- person
associatedWith Hale, Ruth, 1908-2003. person
associatedWith Jacobs, David Kent, 1937- person
associatedWith Sugarhouse Stake corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Performing Arts
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences


Birth 1910-11-21

Death 1994-01-31


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