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Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Approved | | Action, Drama, War | 28 August 1951 (USA)
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Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

James Edward Grant (screenplay), Kenneth Gamet (story)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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 Maurice Jara ... Shorty Vegay
Adam Williams ... Lt. Bert Malotke
James Dobson James Dobson ... Lt. Pudge McCabe
Carleton Young ... Col. Riley
Michael St. Angel ... Capt. Harold Jorgensen, Ops. Officer (as Steve Flagg)
Brett King Brett King ... 1st Lt. Ernie Stark
Gordon Gebert Gordon Gebert ... Tommy Kirby
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

AIR-DEVILS OF THE SKY! See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 August 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Devil Dogs of the Air See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (archive footage)| Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

There was some controversy over the casting, since both John Wayne and Robert Ryan were clearly much older than real pilots during World War II. See more »

Goofs

When the squadron is arriving at Guadalcanal, Major Kirby keeps 3 planes with him to give close air support. After they do the strafing, the 4 airplanes are returning to the base. One pilot (Simmons) pulls out of formation and goes off on his own. Kirby determines the rest are low on fuel and must "pancake". When they arrive at the field, four (4) airplanes pull up to land. There should only have been 3, since Simmons had left the formation. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in The Rockford Files: The Queen of Peru (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not one of Ray's Masterpieces, but a potent character drama
19 July 2004 | by jjulian1009See 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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