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
By the time the film was finished the Japanese had surrendered, so MGM pushed the release date back to December 1945. With the war over, the film opened to enthusiastic reviews but low turnout at the box office. As John Wayne later said, "People had seen eight million war stories by the time the picture came out, and they were tired of them." See more »
When one of the PT boats shoots down a Japanese plane it is seen crashing behind some trees. The fireball from the crash appears in a wrong spot from where the plane would have crashed.
Also it appears as soon as the plane is below tree height before the plane would actually explode. See more »
MGM produced a different version, dubbed and with credits in Spanish, probably to be used by television stations. This version omits the final sequence (nearly more than 15 minutes of running time) and the film ends a previous scene with Robert Montgomery and John Wayne saying farewell to the soldiers that had to remain in the Phillipines, then the scene cuts to a plane leaving the island and to a "The End" title in Spanish. This version aired in Argentina in a cable station called "Space". Turner Network Televsion, in all Latin American countries, used to air the film in its original form. However, they lifted the Spanish language dubbing from the old version and, without any explanation why, the last minutes of the film play in English. See more »
perhaps the best of the American war flicks made during the war
This movie is so exceptionally well-written, acted and directed. Although I am a big fan of some of John Wayne's other war pictures such as The Flying Tigers and The Fighting Sea Bees, these films are not exactly realistic and make it look like Wayne and his friends could have almost single-handedly beaten the Japanese! But, with They Were Expendible, the over-the-top heroism and exploits are instead replaced with grim determination against the odds and a quiet dignity. Because of that, to me, the impact of this film was much more lasting and heart-felt. Realism is key to this picture.
Oh, and by the way, Robert Montgomery gets top billing because when the film was made he was the bigger star--Wayne's rise to the top in Hollywood was still to come. I really see this more as Wayne's film as his part seemed BIGGER and he seemed to get at least as much screen time as Montgomery.
This would be an excellent film for teens, as it focuses on glory and heroism without glorifying death or trivializing our sacrifices.
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