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They Were Expendable is a war film released in 1945. The film is based on the book by William L.
White, relating the story of the exploits of John D. Bulkeley, a motor torpedo boat squadron
commander and Medal of Honor recipient, and Robert Kelly, a skipper, during the World War II
Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941–1942. The characters of John Brickley (Robert
Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne) are fictionalized name changes of the actual subjects.
While both book and film depict actions which did not occur in fact, they were believed as fact
during the war and the film is noted for its verisimilitude. The film opens with a demonstration
of the capabilities of PT boats in Manila Bay on the day Pearl Harbor is bombed. Ryan becomes
disgusted when his superiors refuse to see them as viable naval craft and is in the process of
writing his request for a transfer when war breaks out. Ryan and Brickley's 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 interlude with nurse Sandy Davis (Donna Reed). With the mounting Japanese
onslaught against the doomed American garrisons at Bataan and Corregidor, the squadron is sent
to evacuate General MacArthur and a party of VIP's. This done, they resume their attacks against
the Japanese, who gradually whittle the squadron down to a handful of men and a single boat. The
film ends with Brickley and Ryan and a few others being airlifted out to help rebuild the Navy
and the remaining men left to join the resistance.
Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, |
Director: John Ford
Producer: John Ford
Year Released - Dec. 1945
Length - 135 minutes
Music Composer: Herbert Stothart
Movie Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer
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