Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War, Action  |  28 August 1951 (USA)
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Reviews: 36 user | 16 critic

Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.



(screenplay), (story), 1 more credit »
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Directors: John Ford, Robert Montgomery
Stars: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed


Complete credited cast:
Capt. Carl 'Griff' Griffin
Don Taylor ...
Janis Carter ...
Joan Kirby
MSgt. Clancy, Line Chief
William Harrigan ...
Dr. Lt.Cdr. Joe Curran
James Bell ...
Barry Kelley ...
Brigadier General
Maurice Jara ...
Shorty Vegay
Lt. Bert Malotke
James Dobson ...
Lt. Pudge McCabe
Col. Riley
Michael St. Angel ...
Capt. Harold Jorgensen, Ops. Officer (as Steve Flagg)
Brett King ...
1st Lt. Ernie Stark
Gordon Gebert ...
Tommy Kirby


Major Daniel Kirby takes command of a squadron of Marine fliers just before they are about to go into combat. While the men are well meaning, he finds them undisciplined and prone to always finding excuses to do what is easy rather than what is necessary. The root of the problem is the second in command, Capt. Carl 'Griff' Griffin. Griff is the best flier in the group but Kirby finds him a poor commander who is not prepared to the difficult decision that all commanders have to make - to put men in harm's way knowing that they may be killed. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


From Guadalcanal to Okinawa...the Marine air-devils blazed a trail of glory...while the women they left behind fought battles of their own! (1956 reissue poster) See more »


Drama | War | Action


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

28 August 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Devil Dogs of the Air  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)


(archive footage)| (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film's dedication states: "Dedicated to the United States Marine Corps, and especially to Marine aviation. Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their participation and assistance which made this picture possible." See more »


Near the end of the movie, just prior to Kirby (John Wayne) boarding the plane to leave, we see a wounded soldier being loaded onto a 2 engine C-47. In the next scene as Kirby is boarding the plane and is saying farewell to Griff (Robert Ryan), at the ladder, the plane is a 4 engine C-54. See more »


Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby: Are we all buttoned up?
Joan Kirby: Cat's out... doors locked. All secure sir.
See more »


Featured in La guerra en el cine (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

Not one of Ray's Masterpieces, but a potent character drama
19 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

I saw this overlooked Nicolas Ray film for the first time this week and was surprised by the director's ability to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear within the tight limitations of the post WWII propaganda war genre. Of course, the jingoism, the low budget fx and the formula finishing lines are dated and tedious, but the core of the film is the fascinating relationship between Wayne, as the tough Major with a good heart, and Robert Ryan as his compassionate second-in-command with a tough mind. If you zapped past the battle and home front scenes, you would have a highly charged exploration of male-bonding issues. As well, the film seems to be covertly raising questions which go as far back in our literature as ancient Greece when officers initiated their men into rites of passage. The intensely rich Technicolor and the interior tent sets evoke a crucible environment which powerfully thrusts along the character development. Ray draws from Ryan a brilliant portrayal and from Wayne a solid effort that seems to prepare him for his splendid characterization in a similar conflicted relationship with Maureen O'Hara for his very next film, John Ford's "The Quiet Man", for which Wayne got an Oscar nomination in 1952.

"Flying Leathernecks" has the virtue of a director taking on a run of the mill commercial film project, infusing it with his idiosyncratic style and providing the audience with some thematic depth and many fine moments. The most interesting example for me is a scene two-thirds into the film when John Wayne receives orders to depart immediately for another assignment and seeks to explain to Robert Ryan why the command of the squadron will be passed to another officer and Ryan not promoted into the job. Instead of an explosive argument, the conflict is conveyed mainly through non-verbal signals that each man is unable or unwilling to read from the other. A frustrated Wayne finally shrugs his shoulders and strides out of the tent while a tight-jawed Ryan keeps his backed turned away from him. Fortunately, there are enough of such involving scenes to make this a worthwhile film, even though this is not in the same league as Ray's great ones like "Rebel Without a Cause".

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