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They Were Expendable (1945)

Approved | | Drama, War | 20 December 1945 (USA)
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})
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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.)
...
Lt. (J.G.) 'Rusty' Ryan
...
...
...
...
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'
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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:

Schnellboote vor Bataan  »

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

Following the end of WW2 most of the PT boats remaining overseas were burned to save the expense of bringing them home. Since they were made of plywood, rather than metal, they were not considered to be useful for anything. They were stripped of engines and armament and then torched. Only a few that were still in the US escaped destruction. See more »

Goofs

When Brickley and Rusty (John Wayne) are receiving orders about the evacuation of Army and Navy personal, Rusty's "Fly" is unzipped. At Military burials, you do not have "Firing squads" you have an "Honor Guard" Rusty uses the phrase "firing squad" when burying two sailors from his Boat. See more »

Quotes

Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: Listen Brick, for years I've been taking your fatherly advice, and it's never been any good. So from now on, I'm strictly a one man band!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Manila Bay In the Year of Our Lord Nineteen hundred and Forty-one See more »

Connections

Features Hell Divers (1931) 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

 
One of the Greatest War Films
1 January 1999 | by (Hollywood) – See all my reviews

I have very strong feelings about this film. As a baby boomer, I have always felt that mine and future generations owe an eternal debt to those who didn't come back.

One way of acknowledging this debt is the way we watch war films, not as bloody spectacles but as tributes and reminders.

And what kind of tribute and reminder is "They Were Expendable"? Consider the rueful irony of the title. Such a sentiment is quite uncharacteristic of director John Ford's other work, especially his westerns (possibly excepting "Fort Apache"), which border on jingoism. Yes, there's a scene that's pretty hard to take: When the boats are detailed to take MacArthur out of harm's way, Ford tries to make out like they're rescuing Lincoln, complete with "Battle Hymn of the Republic" soundtrack. Today we know MacArthur as an overrated blow-hard, but 1945 was too early to see past the hype. And yes, there's some of the usual Ford corn-ball and the familiar Ford players, with John Wayne and Ward Bond doing their thing. But then, there's the great Robert Montgomery, who did active duty (unlike Wayne), and I truly believe he was playing this film, both as actor and co-director, straight from the heart. You can see it in a scene in which he realizes his duty means his death. Much of that scene is shot in shadow, but paradoxically the darkness serves to enhance Montgomery's underplayed emotions. The emotions are similar when Montgomery and Wayne are later confronted with an order that saves their lives but dooms their men.

Implicit in the belief that war is sometimes necessary is the inevitability of some of the most excruciating moral dilemmas imaginable. And when I see these dilemmas imposed on men and women, boys and girls, demanding their lives in payment for their sacred honor, I'm humbled beyond words.

Life magazine used to do huge layouts of kids killed in World War II combat. When I look at these faces and think of the words "They Were Expendable," I . . .


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