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Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War, Action  |  28 August 1951 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 3,263 users  
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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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
See  »

Did You Know?


Robert Ryan was cast by director Nicholas Ray because he had been a boxer in college and believed that he was the only actor that could play opposite John Wayne and "kick Wayne's ass." 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 »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: City Limits (1992) See more »

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User Reviews

FLYING LEATHERNECKS (Nicholas Ray, 1951) **1/2
26 May 2007 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

I had previously watched this one on TV, but I recall being underwhelmed by it: I liked the film better a second time around, but it’s clearly no classic (despite director Ray and co-star Robert Ryan’s involvement); contrary to Ray’s best work, which is marked by his personal touch, he’s strictly a director-for-hire on this particular title.

The film is one of several war-themed Wayne vehicles from this era, a good number of which I’ve yet to catch up with – FLYING TIGERS (1942), THE FIGHTING SEABEES (1944), BACK TO BATAAN (1945) and OPERATION PACIFIC (1951). It’s similar to Wayne’s FORT APACHE (1948), where he’s now portraying the martinet role played in that John Ford cavalry picture by Henry Fonda – though he’s well-matched with the long-suffering Ryan (cast against type as an overly sensitive executive officer dedicated to his squad). The latter element, then, links the film with such archetypal flying pictures as ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) and TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (1949) – where the group leader is constantly forced to make tough decisions in which the life of his men has to be put in jeopardy. For this reason, too, Wayne’s a generally glum presence here – apart from his interaction with Jay C. Flippen as an amiably roguish old-timer; from the remaining supporting cast, Don Taylor is equally notable as the wise-guy crew member who happens to be a relative of Ryan’s.

The action sequences are exciting (domestic asides are unsurprisingly dull but thankfully brief).even if utilizing an astonishing amount of grainy WWII stock footage which, while giving it a sense of raw authenticity, also tends to stick out rather too obviously alongside the soft yet agreeable Technicolor adopted for the rest of the film! In the end, FLYING LEATHERNECKS may be corny but it’s reasonably enjoyable – and occasionally stirring – for all that.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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