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They Were Expendable (1945)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  20 December 1945 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 5,239 users  
Reviews: 77 user | 26 critic

A dramatized account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defense of the Philippines in World War II.

Directors:

(as John Ford Captain U.S.N.R.) , (uncredited)

Writers:

(book), (screenplay) (as Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N. {Ret}) , 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Lt. John Brickley (as Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R.)
...
...
...
...
...
Ens. 'Snake' Gardner
...
Ens. 'Andy' Andrews
...
Major James Morton
Arthur Walsh ...
Seaman Jones
...
Lt. (J.G.) 'Shorty' Long / Radio Announcer
...
Ens. George Cross
Jeff York ...
Ens. Tony Aiken
Murray Alper ...
'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c
Harry Tenbrook ...
'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c
Jack Pennick ...
'Doc'
Edit

Storyline

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, a squadron of PT-boat crews in the Philipines must battle the Navy brass between skirmishes with the Japanese. The title says it all about the Navy's attitude towards the PT-boats and their crews. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

M-G-M Presents one of the Greatest Pictures of all Time See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fuimos los sacrificados  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Though many had questioned John Wayne's staying getting an exemption from military service during World War II, it was not entirely his fault. Wayne was exempted from service due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status, classified as 3-A (family deferment). He repeatedly wrote to John Ford, asking to be placed in Ford's military unit, but consistently postponed it until "after he finished one more film", Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Pictures was emphatically resistant to losing him; Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract and Republic intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne's further deferment. See more »

Goofs

Both American aircraft shown in the film (a Piper J5A observation plane and a Douglas C-47 transport) carry the national insignia markings of a white star in a blue roundel, which was authorized on August 18, 1942. This is incorrect for the period depicted in the film (early December 1941 through late April 1942), when U.S. insignia was a white star inside a blue roundel with a red ball in the middle of the white star. See more »

Quotes

Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: [as they watch the inspectors drive away] Wonderful the way people believe in those high powered canoes of yours.
Lt. John Brickley: Don't you believe in them, Rusty?
Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: And I let you sell me that stuff about a command of my own.
Lt. John Brickley: You're skipper of the 34 boat, aren't you?
Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: I used to skipper a cake of soap in the bathtub, too.
[He walks off]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing quote: "We Shall Return" Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mister Roberts (1955) See more »

Soundtracks

You're in the Army Now
(uncredited)
Music by Isham Jones and lyrics by Tell Taylor and Ole Olsen
[Instrumental version heard when the boat crews march off to be secunded into the army.]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Geography Made Them Expendable
13 March 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

They Were Expendable is John Ford's first Hollywood feature since his discharge from the U.S. Navy and the same can be said for Robert Montgomery. Both had served in the Navy and Montgomery in fact on P.T. Boats. From the last presidential election we now know them as Swift Boats.

It's an unusual John Ford film because the usual heavy comedic monkeyshines are rather subdued here. I'm thinking that John Ford wisely decided that World War II being recently over, the country's mood was joyous, but somber in terms of the heavy human cost.

They Were Expendable has the benefit though of the American audience knowing the ultimate victory. The story begins in the Phillipines in 1941 with Robert Montgomery as real life naval hero John Bulkeley, renamed Brickley for the film, trying to convince the brass of the usefulness of the P.T. Boat in combat, not just for scouting and courier duty. Of course that experiment is cut short and the P.T. Boats and their crews are rushed into some on the job experience.

During the film MacArthur, you might recall Gregory Peck saying that he was going to be evacuated from Corregidor by "one of Johnny Bulkeley's torpedo boats." That scene is dramatized as a wordless Robert Barrat plays MacArthur traveling on the boat commanded by John Wayne.

Wayne is Montgomery's second in command of the P.T. boat squadron who is not thrilled to be there. He'd like to be on at least a destroyer. He gradually comes around though. He also gets a fling in the romance department with Navy nurse Donna Reed.

During that interlude John Ford had some of the crew outside singing Dear Old Girl in a comic vein. Ford was never one to not let a good bit of business die with one film. You might remember in Fort Apache and Rio Grande there was some serenading done. And Donna Reed got serenaded on her "Hawaiian" honeymoon with James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life with Ward Bond once again being one of the serenaders. I'm sure Frank Capra would have conceded he stole that from Ford.

The story is first and foremost about some very desperate American armed forces who after Pearl Harbor were at the Japanese mercy. Pearl Harbor had totalled our Pacific fleet and no supplies could get through. Still the troops there fought on bravely, they were in fact by geography expendable.

Wayne and Montgomery give good but subdued performances. No do or die heroics here, just a sobering reminder of a terrible beginning for the Americans in the Pacific theater of World War II.


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