|Directed by||Tay Garnett|
|Produced by||Irving Starr|
Robert Hardy Andrews|
|Edited by||George White|
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; United States Office of War Information|
Bataan is a 1943 American black-and-white World War II film drama from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, produced by Irving Starr (with Dore Schary as executive producer), directed by Tay Garnett, that stars Robert Taylor, Lloyd Nolan, Thomas Mitchell, and Robert Walker. The film follows the defense of the Bataan Peninsula by American forces in the Philippines against the invading Japanese.
The Battle of Bataan followed the Japanese December 1941 invasion of the Philippines and lasted from January 1 to April 9, 1942. The American and Filipino forces retreated from Manila to the nearby mountainous Bataan Peninsula for a desperate last stand, hoping for a relief force. The Allies, however, were being driven back on all fronts of the Pacific war and none could be sent. After three months of stubborn resistance, the starving and malaria-ridden defenders surrendered and were forced to undertake the infamous Bataan Death March.
The US Army is conducting a fighting retreat. A high bridge spans a ravine on the Bataan Peninsula. After the army and some civilians cross, a group of eleven hastily assembled soldiers from different units is assigned to blow it up and delay Japanese rebuilding efforts as long as possible. They dig in on a hillside, setting up heavy machine guns in sandbag fortifications. They succeed in blowing up the bridge, but their commander, Captain Henry Lassiter, is killed by a sniper, leaving Dane in charge.
One by one, the defenders are killed, while Ramirez succumbs to malaria. Despite this, the outnumbered soldiers doggedly hold their position. Malloy shoots down a Japanese aircraft with his Tommy gun before being killed. Dane and Todd creep up, undetected, on the partially rebuilt bridge and throw Mk 2 hand grenades, blowing it up.
There is also tension between Dane and Todd. Dane suspects that Todd is a soldier from his past named Danny Burns who was arrested for killing a man in a dispute, but escaped while Dane was guarding him.
Army Air Corps pilot Lieutenant Steve Bentley (George Murphy) and his Filipino mechanic, Corporal Juan Katigbak (Roque Espiritu), work frantically to repair a Beechcraft C-43 Traveler aircraft. They succeed, but Katigbak is killed and Bentley is mortally wounded. Dying, he has explosives loaded aboard and crashes the C-43 into the bridge's foundation, destroying it for a third time.
The remaining soldiers repel a massive frontal assault, inflicting heavy losses and ultimately fighting hand-to-hand with bayonets fixed on their M1903 Springfield rifles. Epps and Feingold are killed, leaving only Dane, Todd, and a wounded Purckett alive. Purckett is shot, while Todd stabbed through the back by a Japanese soldier who had only feigned being dead. Before he dies, Todd admits to Dane he is Burns.
Now alone, Dane stoically digs his own marked grave beside those of his fallen comrades. The Japanese crawl through the ground fog close to his position before opening fire and charging. Dane fires back. When his Tommy gun runs out of ammo, he switches to the larger M1917 Browning machine gun. He fires it directly into the camera as the film's end card states that the sacrifice of the defenders of Bataan helped slow down the Japanese, making possible America's later victories in the Pacific War.
- Robert Taylor as Sgt. Bill Dane, 31st Infantry
- George Murphy as Lt. Steve Bentley, United States Army Air Corps
- Thomas Mitchell as Cpl. Jake Feingold, 4th Chemical Company, Chemical Corps
- Lloyd Nolan as Cpl. Barney Todd (Danny Burns), Provisional Signal Battalion attached to the 26th Cavalry
- Lee Bowman as Capt. Henry Lassiter, 26th Cavalry
- Robert Walker as Musician 2nd Class Leonard Purckett, United States Navy
- Desi Arnaz as Pvt. Felix Ramirez, 194th Tank Battalion, California Army National Guard
- Barry Nelson as Pvt. Francis Xavier Matowski
- Phillip Terry as Pvt. Matthew Hardy, 12th Medical Battalion, Medical Corps (United States Army)
- Roque Espiritu as Cpl. Juan Katigbak, Philippine Army Air Corps
- Kenneth Lee Spencer as Pvt. Wesley Epps, 3rd Engineer Battalion, Corps of Engineers
- Alex Havier as Pvt. Yankee Salazar, 4th Engineer Battalion, Philippine Scouts
- Tom Dugan as Cook Sam Malloy, Motor Transport Service
According to one historian, the film "successfully made white viewers aware ... of the inherent sadism in the American lynching ritual". By the 1940s, publications were able to mass-distribute photographs taken of hanged men, so there was a "rewriting of the respective relations of the black and the Asian to the white norm, as the film adjusted to a wartime context [which raised questions of integration]". Regardless of this interpretation, this film was predated in release by the 20th Century Fox film The Ox Bow Incident, which depicts the lynching of a white man with all of the attendant ignorance and cruelty of the criminal act.
- The Lost Patrol, a 1934 RKO film with a similar plot to Bataan, and also co-written by Fort and Nichols.
- Back to Bataan, a 1945 RKO film directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring John Wayne
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Michael T. Toole. "BATAAN". Turner Classic Movies. Time Warner. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
So controversial was this film at the time that Bataan actually had trouble being shown in parts of the Deep South in the 1940s.
- Bataan at the TCM Movie Database
- Locke, Brian (Spring 2008). "Strange Fruit: White, Black, and Asian in the World War II Combat Film "Bataan"". Journal of Popular Film and Television. Heldref Publications. 36 (1): 9–20. doi:10.3200/JPFT.36.1.9-20. ISSN 0195-6051.
- Scott Eyman, Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, Robson, 2005 p 362
- "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
- Richard Slotkin (1992). "The Problem of Defeat: Bataan (1943) as Last Stand". Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-century America. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 318–326. ISBN 978-0-8061-3031-6.
- Slotkin, Richard (Fall 2001). "Unit Pride: Ethnic Platoons and the Myths of American Nationality". American Literary History. Oxford University Press. 13 (3): 469–498.