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They Were Expendable

Original theatrical poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by John Ford
Written by William L. White (book)
Frank Wead (screenplay)
Starring Robert Montgomery
John Wayne
Donna Reed
Jack Holt
Ward Bond
Marshall Thompson
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography Joseph H. August
Editing by Douglass Biggs
Frank E. Hull
Studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) December 20, 1945
Running time 135 min.
Country  United States
Language English
DVD cover

They Were Expendable is a war film released in 1945. The movie was directed by John Ford.

The film is based on the book by William L. White, relating the story of the exploits of John D. Bulkeley, a motor torpedo boat squadron commander and Medal of Honor recipient, and Robert Kelly, a skipper, during the World War II Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941–1942. The characters of John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne) are fictionalized name changes of the actual subjects. While both book and film depict actions which did not occur, they were believed to be real during the war and the film is noted for its verisimilitude.

Contents

Plot summary

The film opens with a demonstration of the capabilities of PT boats in Manila Bay, Philippines in December 1941. Lieutenant (junior grade) 'Rusty' Ryan (John Wayne) becomes disgusted when his superiors refuse to see the small boats as viable naval craft and is in the process of writing his request for a transfer when news arrives of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ryan and Lieutenant John Brickley's (Robert Montgomery) demands for combat assignments for their squadron are frustrated for a time, but they are eventually allowed to show their capabilities. From there on, there are mostly 'action' scenes, with the exception of Ryan's romantic interludes with Army nurse Sandy Davyss (Donna Reed). With the mounting Japanese onslaught against the doomed American garrisons at Bataan and Corregidor, the squadron is sent to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur, his family, and a party of VIPs.

This done, they resume their attacks against the Japanese, who gradually whittle down the squadron. As boats are lost, their crews are sent to fight as infantry. Finally, the last boat is turned over to the Army for messenger duty. Brickley, Ryan and two ensigns are airlifted out on one of the last planes because the PT boats have proved their worth. The remaining men, led by Mulcahey, are left behind to continue the fight.

Cast

Production

According to Ben Mankiewicz, a host of Turner Classic Movies, Ford, a well-known taskmaster, was especially hard on Wayne, who did not serve in the armed forces, during filming. When Ford had health problems, he turned to Montgomery — who had actually been a PT boat commander — to take over for him, rather than Wayne. Montgomery did so well, he was directing in his own right within a couple of years.

Academy Award nominations

The film earned two Academy Award nominations, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Recording.

See also

External links

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