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They Were Expendable (1945)

Approved | | Drama, War | 31 December 1945 (USA)
The PT boat unit Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three defends the Philippines from Japanese invasion during World War II.

Directors:

(as John Ford Captain U.S.N.R.), (uncredited)

Writers:

(book), (screenplay) (as Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N. {Ret})
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Lt. John Brickley (as Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R.)
... Lt. (J.G.) 'Rusty' Ryan
... Lt. Sandy Davyss
... General Martin
... 'Boats' Mulcahey C.B.M.
... Ens. 'Snake' Gardner
... Ens. 'Andy' Andrews
... Major James Morton
Arthur Walsh ... Seaman Jones
... Lt. (J.G.) 'Shorty' Long / Radio Announcer
... Ens. George Cross
... Ens. Tony Aiken
... 'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c
... 'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c
Jack Pennick ... 'Doc'
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Storyline

In the wake of Pearl Harbor's surprise attack, World War II hero, Lt. John Brickley's experimental squadron of agile fast-attack Patrol Torpedo boats is sent to warm and humid Manila to avert a potentially imminent Japanese invasion. As he and his second-in-command, Lieutenant "Rusty" Ryan, desperately try to prove the newly-founded naval unit's worth, the enemy launches a devastating all-out attack--and despite the PT boat flotilla's undeniable success--the considerably outnumbered and outgunned American soldiers are fighting a losing battle. Little by little, the Philippine campaign is doomed to cave in, as comrades-in-arms perish in the sea. Is there glory in defeat? Written by Nick Riganas

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Taglines:

M-G-M Presents one of the Greatest Pictures of all Time See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

31 December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fuimos los sacrificados  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film had its first television showing in Los Angeles Friday 7 December 1956 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Minneapolis Saturday 29 December 1956 on KMGM (Channel 9), by Seattle Friday 11 January 1957 on KING (Channel 5), by Philadelphia Friday 25 January 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6) and by Altoona PA Saturday 16 February 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10); it was first aired in Chicago 11 May 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), in San Francisco 1 February 1958 on KGO (Channel 7), and in New York City 1 March 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »

Goofs

In the bar scene after the funeral for Squarehead Larsen and Slug Mahan, the radio station playing music and announcing the fall of Bataan is identified as WBKR San Francisco. Stations with call signs beginning with W are in the eastern US. WBKR is currently assigned to an FM station in Owensboro, KY. See more »

Quotes

Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: Listen sister, I don't dance!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Manila Bay In the Year of Our Lord Nineteen hundred and Forty-one See more »

Connections

Referenced in Forecast (1945) See more »

Soundtracks

Red River Valley
(uncredited)
Traditional
Instrumental version heard when Dad is left alone to meet the oncoming Japanese.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Geography Made Them Expendable
13 March 2006 | by See all my reviews

They Were Expendable is John Ford's first Hollywood feature since his discharge from the U.S. Navy and the same can be said for Robert Montgomery. Both had served in the Navy and Montgomery in fact on P.T. Boats. From the last presidential election we now know them as Swift Boats.

It's an unusual John Ford film because the usual heavy comedic monkeyshines are rather subdued here. I'm thinking that John Ford wisely decided that World War II being recently over, the country's mood was joyous, but somber in terms of the heavy human cost.

They Were Expendable has the benefit though of the American audience knowing the ultimate victory. The story begins in the Phillipines in 1941 with Robert Montgomery as real life naval hero John Bulkeley, renamed Brickley for the film, trying to convince the brass of the usefulness of the P.T. Boat in combat, not just for scouting and courier duty. Of course that experiment is cut short and the P.T. Boats and their crews are rushed into some on the job experience.

During the film MacArthur, you might recall Gregory Peck saying that he was going to be evacuated from Corregidor by "one of Johnny Bulkeley's torpedo boats." That scene is dramatized as a wordless Robert Barrat plays MacArthur traveling on the boat commanded by John Wayne.

Wayne is Montgomery's second in command of the P.T. boat squadron who is not thrilled to be there. He'd like to be on at least a destroyer. He gradually comes around though. He also gets a fling in the romance department with Navy nurse Donna Reed.

During that interlude John Ford had some of the crew outside singing Dear Old Girl in a comic vein. Ford was never one to not let a good bit of business die with one film. You might remember in Fort Apache and Rio Grande there was some serenading done. And Donna Reed got serenaded on her "Hawaiian" honeymoon with James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life with Ward Bond once again being one of the serenaders. I'm sure Frank Capra would have conceded he stole that from Ford.

The story is first and foremost about some very desperate American armed forces who after Pearl Harbor were at the Japanese mercy. Pearl Harbor had totalled our Pacific fleet and no supplies could get through. Still the troops there fought on bravely, they were in fact by geography expendable.

Wayne and Montgomery give good but subdued performances. No do or die heroics here, just a sobering reminder of a terrible beginning for the Americans in the Pacific theater of World War II.


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