7.2/10
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90 user 30 critic

They Were Expendable (1945)

Approved | | Drama, War | 31 December 1945 (USA)
The PT boat unit Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three defends the Philippines from Japanese invasion during World War II.

Directors:

John Ford (as John Ford Captain U.S.N.R.), Robert Montgomery (uncredited)

Writers:

William L. White (book), Frank Wead (screenplay) (as Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N. {Ret})
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Montgomery ... Lt. John Brickley (as Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R.)
John Wayne ... Lt. (J.G.) 'Rusty' Ryan
Donna Reed ... Lt. Sandy Davyss
Jack Holt ... General Martin
Ward Bond ... 'Boats' Mulcahey C.B.M.
Marshall Thompson ... Ens. 'Snake' Gardner
Paul Langton ... Ens. 'Andy' Andrews
Leon Ames ... Major James Morton
Arthur Walsh Arthur Walsh ... Seaman Jones
Donald Curtis ... Lt. (J.G.) 'Shorty' Long / Radio Announcer
Cameron Mitchell ... Ens. George Cross
Jeff York ... Ens. Tony Aiken
Murray Alper ... 'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c
Harry Tenbrook ... 'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c
Jack Pennick Jack Pennick ... 'Doc'
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Storyline

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 Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

M-G-M's Picture of the Year! See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 December 1945 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

They Were Expendable See more »

Filming Locations:

Florida Keys, Florida, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During production, John Ford had put John Wayne down every chance he got, because Wayne had not enlisted to fight in World War II. Ford commanded a naval photographic unit during the war, rising to the rank of captain and thought Wayne a coward for staying behind. After months of Ford heaping insults on Wayne's head, co-star Robert Montgomery finally approached the director and told him that if he was putting Wayne down for Montgomery's benefit (Montgomery had also served as a naval officer in the war), then he needed to stop immediately. This brought the tough-as-nails director to tears and he stopped abusing Wayne. See more »

Goofs

When Brick is briefing his officers on the route they are to take in evacuating McArthur, he draws the route on the map in a thick, heavy line. Seconds later, when the map is picked up to be folded, the lines are gone. See more »

Quotes

Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: Listen Brick, for years I've been taking your fatherly advice, and it's never been any good. So from now on, I'm strictly a one man band!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing quote: "We Shall Return" Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army See more »

Alternate Versions

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Five Came Back: The Price of Victory (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Marcheta
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Gem
14 July 2005 | by nick_ellistonSee all my reviews

Very few, if any, WW2 films are better than this. I first saw it several years ago on a wet miserable Saturday afternoon in winter and subsequently taped it at the next showing. I have seen it several times since then.

Despite not living through this difficult time I can imagine it capturing how the US forces felt in the early days of the Pacific war. As the film states, these are the men who laid down the initial sacrifice that others built on. They were no doubt aware of this, and that escape before the Japanese arrived was their only real chance of survival.

John Ford created a basically solemn film in keeping with the times. Action is pretty minimal but this does not detract from the film at all. Solid performances from all the caste and one of John Wayne's best performances. Some of the action sequences could have been better (but it was made over 50 years ago), a bit too much of men jumping on and off MTB's, and the dinner scene between Wayne and Donna Reed did nothing for me. A downbeat ending with some crew going off to help plan for later battles and others marching off to almost certain death, but it is in keeping with what the US forces faced at the time.

Recent good WW2 films such as Saving Private Ryan and Thin Red Line show what can be achieved now with a big budget and huge technical advances, but it doesn't make them any better than this film.

I only hope it comes out in DVD in the UK. 9 out of 10.


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