They Were Expendable
|They Were Expendable|
original theatrical poster
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Produced by||John Ford|
|Screenplay by||Frank Wead
Jan Lustig (uncredited)
|Based on||William L. White (book)|
|Music by||Herbert Stothart|
|Cinematography||Joseph H. August|
|Editing by||Douglass Biggs
Frank E. Hull
|Release dates||December 20, 1945 (US)|
|Running time||135 minutes|
They Were Expendable is a 1945 American war film directed by John Ford and starring Robert Montgomery and John Wayne and featuring Donna Reed. The film is based on the book by William L. White, relating the story of the exploits of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, a PT boat unit defending the Philippines against Japanese invasion during the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42) in World War II. It features the unit's commanding officer and Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley, and Lieutenant (j.g.) Robert Kelly, one of his boat skippers.
The characters of John Brickley (Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (Wayne) are fictionalizations of the actual subjects. Both the film and the book – which was a best seller and had excerpts published in Reader's Digest and Life – depict actions which did not occur, but were believed to be real during the war; the film is noted for its verisimilitude.
A demonstration of the capabilities of PT boats is shown in Manila Bay, Philippines in December 1941. Lt.j.g. "Rusty" Ryan (John Wayne) becomes disgusted when his superiors refuse to see the small boats as viable naval craft and is in the process of writing his request for a transfer to destroyers when news arrives of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ryan and Lt. John Brickley's (Robert Montgomery) demands for combat assignments for their squadron are frustrated for a time, but they are eventually allowed to show their capabilities. From there on, there are mostly "action" scenes, with the exception of Ryan's romantic interludes with Army nurse Sandy Davyss (Donna Reed). With the mounting Japanese onslaught against the doomed American garrisons at Bataan and Corregidor, the squadron is sent to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur, his family, and a party of VIPs.
This done, they resume their attacks against the Japanese, who gradually whittle down the squadron. As boats are lost, their crews are sent to fight as infantry. Finally, the last boat is turned over to the Army for messenger duty. Brickley, Ryan and two ensigns are airlifted out on one of the last planes because the PT boats have proved their worth and they are needed stateside to train replacement PT boat officers and crews. The remaining enlisted men, led by Chief Mulcahey, are left behind to continue the fight with remnants of the U.S. Army and Filipino guerillas.
According to Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, during filming, director John Ford, a well-known taskmaster, was especially hard on Wayne, who did not serve in the armed forces. When Ford had health problems, he turned to Montgomery – who had actually commanded a PT boat – to take over for him, temporarily--as director--rather than Wayne. Montgomery did so well that within a few years, he began directing films.
The film received extensive support from the Navy Department and it was shot on location on Key Biscayne, Florida, and the Florida Keys, since this region most closely approximated the South Pacific war zone. Actual U.S. Navy 80-foot Elco PT Boats were used throughout the filming, albeit remarked with false hull numbers that would have been in use in late 1941 and early 1942. Additional U.S. naval aircraft from nearby naval air stations were temporarily remarked and were used to simulate Japanese aircraft in the film. 
Awards and honors
- White, W. L. (1942-10-26). "They Were Expendable". Life. p. 114. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
- Blank 1996. p. 161
- [dead link]
- "The 18th Academy Awards (1946) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2012)|
- Blank, Joan Gill. Key Biscayne. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1996. ISBN 1-56164-096-4.
- At Close Quarters – PT Boats in the United States Navy by Captain Robert J. Bulkley, Jr., USNR (Retired)
- They Were Expendable at the Internet Movie Database
- They Were Expendable at allmovie
- They Were Expendable at Rotten Tomatoes
- They Were Expendable at the TCM Movie Database
- They Were Expendable: A Critique of John Ford's 1945 War Film