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PT 109 (1963)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, War | 19 June 1963 (USA)
During WW2, Lieut. John F. Kennedy takes command of PT 109 to fight the Japanese in the Solomon Islands.

Writers:

Richard L. Breen (screenplay), Howard Sheehan (adaptation) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cliff Robertson ... Lt. JG John F. Kennedy
Ty Hardin ... Ensign Leonard J. Thom
James Gregory ... Commander C.R. Ritchie
Robert Culp ... Ensign George 'Barney' Ross
Grant Williams ... Lt. Alvin Cluster
Lew Gallo ... Yeoman Rogers
Errol John Errol John ... Benjamin Kevu
Michael Pate ... Lt. Reginald Evans
Robert Blake ... Gunner's Mate Charles 'Bucky' Harris
William Douglas William Douglas ... Gerard Zinser
Biff Elliot ... Seaman Edgar E. Mauer (as Biff Elliott)
Norman Fell ... Machinist Edmund Drewitch
Sam Gilman ... Raymond Starkey
Clyde Howdy ... Machinist Leon Drawdy
Buzz Martin Buzz Martin ... Gunner's Mate Maurice Kowal
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Storyline

Dramatization of President John F. Kennedy's wartime experiences during which he captained a PT boat, took it to battle and had it sunk by a Japanese destroyer. He and the survivors had to make their way to an island, find food and shelter and signal the Navy for rescue. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The young JFK. A profile in courage. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Japanese

Release Date:

19 June 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

PT Boat 109 See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

There were only three "PT boats" - USAF 85' Air Sea Rescue boats converted to look like authentic 80' Elco PTs by the Miami Shipbuilding Co. - used in the film. This is why there are never more than three "PTs" seen onscreen at the same time in the finished film. The boats were purchased from the Air Force at Hurlburt Field near Panama City, Florida, ferried to Miami for conversion, then to the Florida Keys filming locations. See more »

Goofs

When Jack Kennedy is down in the boat inspecting his quarters and the land crab shows up by his feet, the big claw is on the crab's right side, when Ens. Leonard Thom appears in the scene approximately 35 seconds later with Jack Kennedy and Ens. Thom asked the size of the crew, Jack Kennedy replies one land crab. When the land crab appears, his large claw is on the left side of the crab. See more »

Quotes

Edmund Drewitch: [reading a brief on Kennedy] Seems like all he ever did was go to school. He's had no sea duty. Says here he wrote a book.
Leon Drawdy: Sounds like he oughta be in charge of a library.
Charles 'Bucky' Harris: What's the name of the book?
Edmund Drewitch: 'Why England Slept.'
Charles 'Bucky' Harris: [around a cigar stub] Got any pictures in it?
Edmund Drewitch: Pigeons?
Charles 'Bucky' Harris: Pictures, idiot!
Edmund Drewitch: He's lookin' for pictures and I'm an idiot.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Killing Oswald (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

99 Bottles of Beer
(uncredited)
Traditional
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A helluva good action-suspense-feel good war film.
3 September 2001 | by 8-FootSee all my reviews

Since movies based on true life stories often are less than memorable, my expectations here were minimal. However, after viewing this film (finally!), I was very impressed. This story is very well done, with minimal obvious Hollywood embellishments. (No, I've not read the underlying book, of the same title, but now I'd like to.)

In the big scheme of World War II, the events depicted here would have been forgotten except that the central heroic figure, John F. Kennedy, would later become U.S. President. For those of us who lived through the Kennedy years, this portrait of JFK in his 20's is quite consistent with the JFK we later saw when he became nationally prominent and subsequently president. (If "Private Ryan" deserves a movie, then JFK and his shipmates are surely no less entitled.)

The story begins when JFK arrives in the Pacific and is given command of a PT ("Patrol Torpedo") boat. PT boats were fast wooden craft with a crew of 12 and carried four torpedos and some small-bore guns, capable of quickly getting in and out while operating in shallow waters and doing various odd jobs on short notice. Without a lucky torpedo shot, any one boat was not going to be noticed by history.

PT 109 operated into an area of Pacific waters and small islands mainly controlled by the Japanese. One of Kennedy's first missions was to provide covering fire onto shore and extricate some stranded Americans. The boat remained under enemy fire until the rescue was complete, notwithstanding casualties both to crew and those rescued.

On PT 109's final mission, during darkness and limited visibility (radar was not yet on most PT boats), a Japanese destroyer, perhaps unwittingly, slices through PT 109, half of which sinks while the other half capsizes, but not before JFK and surviving crew members make an arduous swim to shore, taking along their wounded---and shoes. Aerial reconnaissance later sights the wreckage and reports "no survivors."

How the PT 109 crew is finally saved results partly from good luck and partly from daring, ingenuity, exhausting swims, and a refusal to give up. Yes, this is also a feel-good movie!

(The movie also acknowledges the part played and risks taken by "coast watchers," isolated individuals who infiltrated islands in Japanese-controlled areas, maintained lookouts from high ground, and radioed back critical information on enemy movements.)


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