6.9/10
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20 user 16 critic

Wake Island (1942)

December, 1941. With no hope of relief or re-supply, a small band of United States Marines tries to keep the Japanese Navy from capturing their island base.

Director:

John Farrow

Writers:

W.R. Burnett (screenplay), Frank Butler (screenplay)
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Brian Donlevy ... Maj. Geoffrey Caton
Macdonald Carey ... Lt. Bruce Cameron
Robert Preston ... Pvt. Joe Doyle
William Bendix ... Pvt. Aloysius K. 'Smacksie' Randall
Albert Dekker ... Shad McClosky
Walter Abel ... Cmdr. Roberts
Mikhail Rasumny ... Ivan Probenzky
Rod Cameron ... Capt. Pete Lewis
Bill Goodwin ... Sgt. Higbee / Narrator
Damian O'Flynn ... Capt. Bill Patrick
Frank Albertson ... Johnny Rudd
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Storyline

In November 1941, Major Caton takes command of the small Marine garrison on Wake Island. His tendency toward spit and polish upsets the men's tropical lassitude, but Pearl Harbor changes everything. Soon the island is attacked and the Marines pull together day by day; but how long can they hold out? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Leathernecks . . writing another glorious chapter of purposeful courage in America's history! See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Japanese

Release Date:

11 August 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Heldenlegioen See more »

Filming Locations:

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$826,061 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Paramount began work on this movie before the real-life battle for Wake Island was over. See more »

Goofs

In a shot of the Japanese ships just before the Marines open fire, a patrol boat can be seen already on fire. See more »

Quotes

Pvt. Aloysius K. 'Smacksie' Randall: [Dressed in civilian clothes] World, here I come!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Wake Island: Alamo of the Pacific (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Marine Hymn
(uncredited)
Music by Jacques Offenbach ("Gendarme's Duet") 1867
Heard under opening credirs
See more »

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User Reviews

Rudimentary but engaging
25 December 2002 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Three plots are going on simultaneously in this movie. (1) The conflict between the Marines manning the small garrison at Wake Island and the no-nonsense Pan American construction crew preparing a berth for the Pan Am clipper. (2) The horseplay and bonding between Robert Preston (who must have had one of the longest careers as a supporting actor in Hollywood) and William Bendix as the Marine enlisted man who wants to unenlist so he can marry the delectable Myrtle. (3) Then there are all the Americans fighting against overwhelming Japanese naval and air forces.

This was one of the first war movies ground out after Pearl Harbor but it doesn't look especially hastily done. The Salton Sea location gives a good imitation of a flat, sandy Pacific island, which is pretty much what Wake Island was. The garrison was so tiny that only 47 enlisted men were available. The Marines and the Navy pilots fly F4F Wildcats, and this was crucial to the defense of the island. Most of them were destroyed on the ground or in accidents. But the few fighters available and the handful of relatively small caliber coastal defense guns inflicted serious damage on the first Japanese fleet, mostly by lying low until the invasion force was well within range. A second invasion attempt succeeded, after all the Wildcats were destroyed. The commander surrendered, along with the few survivors; they didn't sacrifice themselves to the last man as shown in the film. (What would that have accomplished?) But the movie was a great morale raiser at a time when the country desperately needed some morale raising.

The conflict in goals and styles between the Marines (all discipline and training) and the construction men (shabby, rough-and-ready improvisers) is, I suppose, designed to teach us that we all have to work together now that war is upon us. It's rather clumsily done. Albert Dekker as the construction boss is unnecessarily nasty and contemptuous, and Brian Donlevy as the commander of the Marine forces is the soul of patience and reason. The subplot gets the job done but it's something like having your kindergarten teacher beat the letters of the alphabet into you.

I rather liked the comedy relief provided by Preston and Bendix. Preston keeps trying to talk Bendix into reenlisting in the Corps but Bendix is determined to become a married civilian. Extolling Marine Corps life, Preston urges Bendix to close his eyes and think of what he REALLY wants. "All I see is Moitle," Bendix says. "No, no, no. Forget Myrtle. Close your eyes and put your hand over them and think -- now what do you really SEE?" Replies Bendix, "Nope. It's still Moitle." This is the kind of friendship you see only in the movies. They fall into fist fights at the drop of an insult, but are willing to sacrifice their lives for one another.

It is a bit tedious in parts. But the end, some hyperdramatic touches aside, sticks pretty close to the historical facts. No, we didn't mount a successful defense of Wake Island. How could we, with so few supplies and men? But, like Pearl Harbor, it was the kind of defeat that could almost be depicted as a victory, both honorable and inevitable.

And check out the cast! So many faces that were later to become so familiar, many of them uncredited. Dane Clark, James Brown.

It's worth watching, though there is little about it that's gripping. The photography is notable -- crisp, clear, sunny black and white, with the sun scintillating on the surface of the sea. And the war scenes are unusually well done for such an early example of the genre.


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