They Were Expendable (1945)

135 mins | Drama | December 1945

Director:

John Ford

Writer:

Frank Wead

Cinematographer:

Joseph August

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown, Howard Campbell

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Onscreen credits include the following written acknowledgment: "We hearby tender our deep appreciation to the United States Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Office of Strategic Services whose splendid cooperation made this production possible." The film also contains the following written foreword, signed by General Douglas MacArthur: "Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won...I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way." John Ford's onscreen directing credit reads, "Directed by John Ford, Captain U.S.N.R.;" Frank Wead's onscreen credit reads and "Screenplay by Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N., Ret;" Robert Montgomery's onscren credit reads: "Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R."
       Aug 1942 HR news items note that M-G-M agreed to pay $30,000, plus royalties up to $20,000, for the motion picture rights to William L. White's book. As part of the agreement, one third of the purchase price was to be donated to the Navy Relief Fund. The title of White's book was derived from a World War II naval communiqé, reporting the sacrifice of several U.S. P-T boats in Manila Bay in order to sink several Japanese cruisers, destroyers and cargo ships. White's book was the first book ever to receive an "I" (for "imperative") award from the Publishers' Committee of War Books. The committee was composed of top publishers and government representatives who identified books that contributed to the war effort. Much of the film's story is based on actual events that took place in the Philippines during World War II. Although some of the participants' names were changed, ... More Less

Onscreen credits include the following written acknowledgment: "We hearby tender our deep appreciation to the United States Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Office of Strategic Services whose splendid cooperation made this production possible." The film also contains the following written foreword, signed by General Douglas MacArthur: "Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won...I speak for the thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the jungles and in the deep waters of the Pacific which marked the way." John Ford's onscreen directing credit reads, "Directed by John Ford, Captain U.S.N.R.;" Frank Wead's onscreen credit reads and "Screenplay by Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N., Ret;" Robert Montgomery's onscren credit reads: "Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R."
       Aug 1942 HR news items note that M-G-M agreed to pay $30,000, plus royalties up to $20,000, for the motion picture rights to William L. White's book. As part of the agreement, one third of the purchase price was to be donated to the Navy Relief Fund. The title of White's book was derived from a World War II naval communiqé, reporting the sacrifice of several U.S. P-T boats in Manila Bay in order to sink several Japanese cruisers, destroyers and cargo ships. White's book was the first book ever to receive an "I" (for "imperative") award from the Publishers' Committee of War Books. The committee was composed of top publishers and government representatives who identified books that contributed to the war effort. Much of the film's story is based on actual events that took place in the Philippines during World War II. Although some of the participants' names were changed, many of the characters in the film were based on real-life persons. Lt. John B. Bulkeley, the real-life commander of the Manila Bay P-T boat operation, is portrayed by Robert Montgomery in the production. Contemporary news items in HR relate the following information about the film: M-G-M bought the story as a starring vehicle for Spencer Tracy, and initially planned to film it in Technicolor. In late Oct 1942, the studio hired Sidney Franklin to produce the film and assigned two veterans from the Philippines campaign to supervise the script development. Producer Sam Zimbalist and director Mervyn LeRoy also were assigned to the project. Filming was originally scheduled to begin in the summer of 1943 but the picture was placed on M-G-M's "inactive" list in late Sep 1943 due to concerns that the popularity of war films was declining, and because the story was thought to be too similar to another M-G-M project, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (see below). Pre-production work on the film resumed in mid-1944, when a HR news item reported that Frank Wead was working on the script. According to an Oct 1944 HR news item, They Were Expendable was taken off the "inactive" list following a revival of military action in the Philippines.
       Actor Ian Keith was offered the role of General MacArthur, but declined the part. HR production charts list actor Hank Daniels, Jr. in the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In mid-May 1945, Montgomery briefly took over the direction of the film when Ford fractured his leg in a fall on the set. Many of the men who worked on the film were actively involved in the war or were war veterans, including Ford, a Navy captain, who was placed on inactive status so that he could direct the film. Montgomery was a former Navy lieutenant commander, who was awarded the Bronze Star and was decorated as a Chevalier of the French Foreign Legion of Honor. According to a Feb 1945 HR news item, Ford donated his entire salary on the film to a fund for the rehabilitation of 168 Navy men who had worked on his films in the past. Modern sources indicate that Ford shot scenes around actor Ward Bond while Bond was recovering from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. Bond delivered most of his lines standing still, and appears walking in the film only once. Some filming took place at various locations in Florida, including Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Sound Recording and Best Special Effects. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Nov 1945.
---
Daily Variety
19 Nov 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Nov 1945.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1942.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 43
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 44
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 44
p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 44
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 45
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 45
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 45
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 45
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 45
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 45
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 45
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 45
p. 14.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Nov 45
p. 2725.
New York Times
21 Dec 45
p. 25.
Variety
21 Nov 45
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Wm. McKeever Riley
Phillip Ahn
Eve March
Jim Farley
Lee Tung Foo
Patrick Davis
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Ford Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
2nd unit dir
Fill-In dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
Unit mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Mus mixer
Mus mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Matte paintings
Matte paintings, cam
Miniatures asst
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Research dir
Asst research dir
Tech adv
Scr clerk
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book They Were Expendable by William L. White (London, 1942).
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1945
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Washington, D.C.: 19 December 1945
Production Date:
23 February--mid June 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 November 1945
Copyright Number:
LP13661
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
135
Length(in feet):
12,121
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
11113
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In 1941, the 3rd Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron of the U.S. Navy is sent to Manila Bay to help defend the Philippine Islands against invasion by the Japanese army. The squadron, under the command of Lt. John Brickley, arrives at its island post only to be ridiculed by some of the top military leaders, who do not believe that the small torpedo boats can be effective. Brick, who is fiercely proud of his squadron, is angered by the insults and vows to prove his detractors wrong. His first opportunity to put the squadron to good use finally comes when news arrives that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Though initially assigned to messenger duty, Brick's squadron is later pressed into combat duty when Japanese warplanes descend on the island in a surprise attack. The torpedo squadron shoots down three of the Japanese planes, but the Japanese succeed in destroying much of the base, which is later ordered closed by Admiral Blackwell. Brick's squadron is then sent to Sisiman Cove, on the island of Bataan, to run a messenger service. The new assignment infuriates one of Brick's men, Lt. "Rusty" Ryan, who is eager to be involved in serious combat and has repeatedly asked Brick to be reassigned to a destroyer. When Blackwell assigns the 3rd Squadron to send two boats to sink a Japanese cruiser that is shelling positions at Bataan, Brick chooses his boat and Rusty's for the job. Just as they are about to ship out, though, Brick notices a cut on Rusty's arm and sends him to a military hospital for treatment. There, Rusty is diagnosed with blood poisoning and placed under ... +


In 1941, the 3rd Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron of the U.S. Navy is sent to Manila Bay to help defend the Philippine Islands against invasion by the Japanese army. The squadron, under the command of Lt. John Brickley, arrives at its island post only to be ridiculed by some of the top military leaders, who do not believe that the small torpedo boats can be effective. Brick, who is fiercely proud of his squadron, is angered by the insults and vows to prove his detractors wrong. His first opportunity to put the squadron to good use finally comes when news arrives that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Though initially assigned to messenger duty, Brick's squadron is later pressed into combat duty when Japanese warplanes descend on the island in a surprise attack. The torpedo squadron shoots down three of the Japanese planes, but the Japanese succeed in destroying much of the base, which is later ordered closed by Admiral Blackwell. Brick's squadron is then sent to Sisiman Cove, on the island of Bataan, to run a messenger service. The new assignment infuriates one of Brick's men, Lt. "Rusty" Ryan, who is eager to be involved in serious combat and has repeatedly asked Brick to be reassigned to a destroyer. When Blackwell assigns the 3rd Squadron to send two boats to sink a Japanese cruiser that is shelling positions at Bataan, Brick chooses his boat and Rusty's for the job. Just as they are about to ship out, though, Brick notices a cut on Rusty's arm and sends him to a military hospital for treatment. There, Rusty is diagnosed with blood poisoning and placed under the care of nurse Lt. Sandy Davyss. While Rusty awaits surgery at the hospital, Brick's boats destroy the Japanese cruiser. Rusty pursues a romance with Sandy after his operation, but their romance is cut short when Brick orders Rusty to return to the squadron. The torpedo squadron's attacks against the Japanese forces continue with great success, though Brick loses some of his men and boats in combat. One day, Brick and Rusty are assigned the important task of transporting Admiral Blackwell and General Douglas MacArthur to the island of Mindanao. Before embarking on the dangerous journey, Rusty telephones Sandy to bid her what may be a final farewell. When only three of the four boats in Brick's squadron arrive at their destination, Brick sends out a search party for the missing boat. It is eventually found, but because it has suffered serious damage, it is taken out of service. Brick's force is now reduced to only two boats, his and Rusty's. Brick is assigned his most challenging mission yet when he is ordered to destroy a Japanese cruiser headed toward Corregidor. The two torpedo boats encounter a barrage of enemy fire at sea, but succeed in destroying their target. Though both boats survive the mission, Rusty's boat is later destroyed in an aerial attack. When news arrives that 36,000 American soldiers have surrendered at Bataan, and that the Japanese are now battling at Corregidor, the last American strong point in the Philippines, Rusty and Brick are given orders to leave their squadron and go to Australia to train a new torpedo boat force. Despite promises by the Army that they will be returned to the Philippines with a stronger force to fight the Japanese, Brick and Rusty refuse the reassignment and try to stay on the island with the rest of their squadron. Their attempt to stay fails, however, and they are flown out on the last plane leaving the Philippines, not knowing if they will ever see their squadron again. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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