IMDb > Flying Leathernecks (1951)
Flying Leathernecks
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Flying Leathernecks (1951) More at IMDbPro »

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Flying Leathernecks -- A no-nonsense WWII squadron leader whose unforgiving style clashes with that of his fellow officer, Robert Ryan.
Flying Leathernecks -- Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.
Flying Leathernecks -- Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.


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6.4/10   3,292 votes »
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Popularity: ?
Down 18% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
James Edward Grant (screenplay)
Kenneth Gamet (story)
View company contact information for Flying Leathernecks on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
28 August 1951 (USA) See more »
Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
FLYING LEATHERNECKS (Nicholas Ray, 1951) **1/2 See more (36 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

John Wayne ... Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby

Robert Ryan ... Capt. Carl 'Griff' Griffin
Don Taylor ... Lt. Vern 'Cowboy' Blithe
Janis Carter ... Joan Kirby

Jay C. Flippen ... MSgt. Clancy, Line Chief
William Harrigan ... Dr. Lt.Cdr. Joe Curran
James Bell ... Colonel
Barry Kelley ... Brigadier General
Maurice Jara ... Shorty Vegay

Adam Williams ... Lt. Bert Malotke
James Dobson ... Lt. Pudge McCabe

Carleton Young ... Col. Riley
Michael St. Angel ... Capt. Harold Jorgensen, Ops. Officer (as Steve Flagg)
Brett King ... 1st Lt. Ernie Stark
Gordon Gebert ... Tommy Kirby
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Hal Bokar ... Lt. Deal (uncredited)
Barry Brooks ... Squadron Commander (uncredited)
Charles Brunner ... Charlie's Father (uncredited)
Richard Condon ... 1st Pilot Replacement (uncredited)
Ralph Cook ... Lt. Kelvin (uncredited)
Inez Cooper ... Nurse (uncredited)

Chuck Courtney ... 3rd Pilot Replacement (uncredited)
James Craven ... Fleet CIC Commander (uncredited)
Victor Cutler ... 2nd Pilot Replacement (uncredited)

Gail Davis ... Virginia Blithe (uncredited)
Michael Devery ... Lt. Hoagland (uncredited)
Jayn Lee Dockstader ... Infant (uncredited)
Chris Drake ... Lieutenant (uncredited)
Jane Easton ... Girl (uncredited)

Sam Edwards ... Junior (uncredited)
Frank Fiumara ... Lt. Hawkins (uncredited)
Shela Fritz ... Charlie's Mother (uncredited)
Grady Galloway ... 4th Pilot Replacement (uncredited)
Fred Graham ... MP Sergeant (uncredited)
Chuck Hamilton ... Intelligence Officer (uncredited)
Douglas Henderson ... Lt. Foster (uncredited)
James Hickman ... Hicks (uncredited)
Frank Iwanaga ... Japanese Pilot (uncredited)
Milton Kibbee ... Indian Affairs Clerk (uncredited)
Mona Knox ... Annabelle (uncredited)
Keith Larsen ... Charlie (uncredited)
Harry Lauter ... Freddie (uncredited)
Tony Layng ... Lt.Woods (uncredited)
Frank Marlowe ... Taxi Driver (uncredited)
Gene Marshall ... 6th Pilot Replacement (uncredited)
Mickey McCardle ... Marine (uncredited)
Paul McGuire ... Major Benson (uncredited)
Eda Reiss Merin ... Mama Malotke (uncredited)
John Mitchum ... Lt. Black (uncredited)
Rollin Moriyama ... Japanese Pilot (uncredited)
Al Murphy ... Grease Monkey (uncredited)
Brit Norton ... Capt. Walter Tanner (uncredited)
Leslie K. O'Pace ... Peter (uncredited)
Jimmy Ogg ... Messenger (uncredited)
Peter Ortiz ... Captain (uncredited)
Patricia Prest ... Greta Malotke (uncredited)
Noel Reyburn ... Madden (uncredited)
Melville Robert ... Jack (uncredited)
Elaine Roberts ... Jill (uncredited)
Don Rockland ... Lt. Stuart (uncredited)
Mavis Russell ... Mrs. Jorgenson (uncredited)
Hugh Sanders ... General on Guadalcanal (uncredited)
Lynn Stalmaster ... Lt. Billy Castle (uncredited)

Milburn Stone ... Fleet CIC Radio Operator (uncredited)
Bernard Szold ... Papa Malotke (uncredited)
Mort Thompson ... 5th Pilot Replacement (uncredited)
Richard Ullman ... Jeep Driver (uncredited)
Harlan Warde ... Admiral's Aide (uncredited)
Dick Wessel ... Mess Sergeant (uncredited)
Mack Williams ... Colonel (uncredited)
Adam York ... Lt. Simmons (uncredited)

Directed by
Nicholas Ray 
Writing credits
James Edward Grant (screenplay)

Kenneth Gamet (story)

Beirne Lay Jr.  screenplay (uncredited)

Produced by
Edmund Grainger .... producer
Original Music by
Roy Webb 
Cinematography by
William E. Snyder (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Sherman Todd 
Art Direction by
Albert S. D'Agostino 
James W. Sullivan 
Set Decoration by
Darrell Silvera (set decorations)
John Sturtevant (set decorations)
Costume Design by
Michael Woulfe (uncredited)
Makeup Department
Mel Berns .... makeup artist
Larry Germain .... hair stylist
Production Management
Cliff P. Broughton .... production supervisor
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Sam Ruman .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
Frank McWhorter .... sound
Clem Portman .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Paul Mantz .... pilot: camera airplane (uncredited)
Cliff Shirpser .... aerial camera operator: Technicolor (uncredited)
Music Department
C. Bakaleinikoff .... musical director
Other crew
Howard Hughes .... presenter
Richard Hughes .... technical adviser (as Colonel Richard Hughes U.S.M.C.)
Morgan Padelford .... Technicolor color consultant
Sid Davis .... stand-in: John Wayne (uncredited)
Edmund Grainger .... fill-in director (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies
  • United States Marine Corps  dedicated to: and especially to Marine aviation. appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their participation and assistance which made this picture possible (as the United States Marine Corps)

Additional Details

Also Known As:
102 min
Color (archive footage) | Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Australia:PG | Finland:K-8 | Iceland:12 | Netherlands:12 (DVD rating) (2012) | Netherlands:14 (original rating) (1951) | Spain:T | Sweden:15 | UK:A (original rating) (passed with cuts) | UK:PG (tv rating) | UK:PG (video rating) (1986) (2004) | USA:Approved (MPAA rating: certificate #14994) | West Germany:16 (f)

Did You Know?

John Wayne's character in this movie, Major Daniel Xavier Kirby, was based on Captain John Lucien Smith, USMC Ace who was Commanding Officer in the Marine Fighting Squadron 223 at Guadalcanal in 1942 during World War II. Smith was a Medal of Honor recipient in 1943 and a leader of the "Cactus" Air Force. Smith, a wildcat fighter pilot, shot down nineteen Japanese airplanes over Guadalcanal in 1942. Smith's achievements and commendations were well known to the public prior to this film being made. Smith was eventually promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and likewise, Wayne's Kirby character is also promoted to the same rank in this movie. Moreover, there is also a physical likeness and resemblance between Wayne and Smith.See more »
Continuity: When the Colonel on Guadalcanal briefs the pilots on the close air support strike, he requests the pilots strafe parallel to the front lines. The footage shows the pilots making their runs perpendicular to the lines.See more »
Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby:Come on Wildcats, make us proud today!See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in The Majestic (2001)See more »


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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful.
FLYING LEATHERNECKS (Nicholas Ray, 1951) **1/2, 26 May 2007
Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta

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.

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