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
Robert Montgomery was a real-life PT skipper in World War 2. He helped direct some of the PT sequences for the film when John Ford broke his leg three weeks into filming. Montgomery finished the film and was complimented by Ford for his work. Ford claimed he couldn't tell the difference between his footage and Montgomery's, who took no screen credit. See more »
Brickley tells Rusty he can't go on the mission and takes "Shorty" in the 31 boat instead. The scene that shows Brickley departing the dock, Rusty is on the bow of the 34 boat moored to the left of the 41 boat. The scene shifts to behind the 41 boat and shows the 31 boat leaving the mooring on the left side of the dock where Rusty and the 34 boat were shown in the earlier scene. See more »
Opening credits prologue: Manila Bay In the Year of Our Lord Nineteen hundred and Forty-one 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 »
One of my earliest recollections of late night TV as a child was of boats speeding across the water with guns blazing and explosions going off all around them. I was mesmerized by how real everything looked even though it was in black and white. For reasons I didn't understand at the time, I saw those scenes several times as a small child. Obviously, my father enjoyed the movie! Didn't know who was in the movie, just knew I liked the big tall guy with the baseball cap. LOL Years later my father spoke of the movie as one of his favorites, and one Saturday night while up late working on model airplanes or ships, They Were Expendable came on and I realized that the guy in the baseball cap was my favorite actor John Wayne. A movie without all the patriotic jingoism of the day, just real people fighting a losing battle and, like Douglas MacArthur, hoping to "return" one day to fight again. Decades later a friend gave me a 2nd or 3rd edition hardbound copy of the book the movie was based on, a story of real people and real events, and I found that John Ford did the book proud. As I've gotten older and wiser, this movie has gotten better and better, with those special effects explosions still amazing me after all these years.
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