Movie Version: “Hell to Eternity”
Cover Photo. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection via imfdb.org
Guy Gabaldon, born in 1926 and raised in East L.A., shined shoes on skid row from the age of ten. At twelve, he moved in with the Nakano family of Boyle Heights, where he learned Japanese. When the Nakanos were sent to camps in Arizona, 17 year old Gabaldon joined the marines and used “backstreet Japanese” to capture 1,500 Japanese troops on Saipan. In the movie version, he was played by a white actor named Jeffrey Hunter, who suffered a stroke at age 42 in 1969 and died falling down the stairs.
In the movie version, skid row was played by 1960s Bunker Hill and age 12 was played by a grasshopper flying in a summer field. Sweetness careened down the streets in buses and trolleys.
In the movie version, a ten year old boy shining shoes was played by Route 66 and the relocation camps were played by cars going by. Packards were played by Dodges.
In the movie version, the cold beer is played by country music nasal twang, and Jeffrey Hunter was played by slight nausea and nostril flare. His headache was played by the 20th century.
In the movie version, the actual colors of the rushing ocean were played by a whirr of a strip through the machine and the sizzling palm leaves were played by folded taco smell. Somebody was played by nobody.
In the movie version, the present is played by an off-camera past with seagulls added or removed and palm trees painted on a canvas backdrop of night. Popcorn smell was played by cotton candy.
In the movie version, wishes were played by a voice over of broken dishes and bouts of influenza were played by old magazines in the back. Smoke in a funnel over the hills was played by extras dressed like citizens.
In the movie version, East L.A. was played by the blood bursting an artery and dust specks thrown into a ray on the stairs. The golden moment balking.
On the set of Hell to Eternity. The cast poses with Guy “Gabby” Galbadon (seated). Standing from left to right are Jeffrey Hunter, Vic Damone, and David Janssen. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection via imfdb.org