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They Were Expendable
They Were Expendable
Actors: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond
Directors: Robert Montgomery, John Ford
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Military & War
NR     2000     2hr 15min

Supplies are dwindling. Troops are hopelessly outnumbered. But even in defeat there is victory. The defenders of the Philippines ? including PT-boat skippers John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne) ? ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond
Directors: Robert Montgomery, John Ford
Creators: Joseph H. August, John Ford, Douglass Biggs, Cliff Reid, Frank Wead, William L. White
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Classics, John Wayne, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Black and White - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/16/2000
Original Release Date: 12/20/1945
Theatrical Release Date: 12/20/1945
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 2hr 15min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French
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Member Movie Reviews

SHIRLEY A. (chelseamom) from INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Reviewed on 11/2/2009...
very good
0 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

John Ford's Classic War Film
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 07/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"More than 60 years ago, Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor. During the months which followed, the United States struggled to recover as Japanese military victories continued throughout the Pacific. This film is based on William Lindsay White's interviews of four members of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, published as They Were Expendable in 1942. John Ford and Robert Montgomery co-directed and Montgomery also stars as Lieutenant John Brickley. Throughout much of this film, Brickley's squadron only provides courier service between Bataan and Corregidor. When given the opportunity, however, Squadron Three does manage to sink several of the enemy's ships as the Japanese complete their conquest of the Philippines, eventually forcing the American forces to surrender. With regard to the film's title, not all of those involved with resisting the Japanese were expendable. General Douglas Mac Arthur is ordered by President Roosevelt to relocate with his family and staff to Australia. Brickley's squadron makes their escape possible. As the film ends, he and Lieutenant J.G. "Rusty" Ryan (John Wayne) return to the United States on the last plane out. Their men will now be fighting on least for a while. In the final scene, as they trudge proudly down the beach and the plane carrying Brickley and Ryan rises above them, the soundtrack offers a muted choral rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." A distinctive Ford touch.The greatness of this film is best explained in terms of (a) the generally non-verbal but nonetheless close relationships between Brickley and Ryan, and, between them and their crews; (b) the romantic feelings shared by Ryan and Lieutenant Sandy Davys (Donna Reed) which Ford never permits to deteriorate into sentimentality; (c) Montgomery's highly-effective portrayal of a soft-spoken leader; and (d) Wayne's (for me) surprisingly subtle and sensitive performance, perhaps equaled (in terms of nuance) only by his performances in The Searchers and The Shootist. It is worth noting, also, that Ford as well as his cast and crew obviously had great respect for the men and women in the American military services. They avoid all of the pitfalls which ruin so many other war films. For example, character stereotyping (e.g. including a philosophical Jewish cab driver from Brooklyn) and using melodramatic music to manipulate a viewer's emotions during especially dramatic moments. This film has integrity in all respects, suggesting that although many of those whom it portrays may have been expendable, they are nonetheless admirable."
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
Steven Hellerstedt | 01/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE tells the story of the fledgling PT (patrol torpedo) boat branch of the US Navy and its valiant, and futile, defense of Manila immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Few directors possess the passionate affection Ford has for his subjects. Ford idolizes and idealizes his soldiers and sailors. As a consequence, his movies usually aren't very plot driven. Rather, they are tone poems, love letters to the warriors he so deeply admires. Not that TWE doesn't hit a major note or two - the PT boat role as a fighting arm is established, battles are fought and boats are sunk. Yet Ford never seems all that interested in serving plot points. He wants to paint Heroes. In any other director this romantic treatment would seem trite and contrived, but Ford practically built the cliché, so I suppose if anyone has the right to use it, it's Ford.
Ford's heroes die talking. Rare is the mortally wound Ford warrior who is not borne from the noisy cauldron of battle to a quiet corner and allowed a passing speech. I don't mean to mock this, but I've never experienced the well of grief such scenes are meant to evoke. It happens a brief time or two in TWE, but the moments are over quickly enough.
If Ford's choice and treatment of material is romantic and sentimental, it's fortunate that his actors usually aren't. Robert Montgomery and John Wayne star and both give restrained performances as PT boat commanders. Ford surrounds them with his usual cast of highly competent character actors - Ward Bond, Jack Holt, et al - and seamlessly integrates shots of real combat in battle scenes. There's a scene where two PT boats attack a Japanese cruiser that is one of the best action sequences I've ever seen.
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE is a great war movie.
No Mock Heroics -- This is the Real Thing. Beautifully Done
Great Movie Addict | New York City | 09/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you're looking for mock Hollywood heroics or a bloated 'action movie', try The Flying Tigers or The Fighting Seabees. This beautifully made, understated film is about the courage and dedication of the forsaken Phillipine defenders in 1941-42. In particular, the scene in which a radio announces the American surrender tells what those early days were really like. John Ford, who served in the Navy, casts Robert Montgomery as a PT squadron leader (in fact, Commander Montgomery served in the same PT squadron with John Kennedy). The b&w photography is outstanding, often mesmerizing, quite unique for a war film, with locations that are dead ringers for the originals. Adapted from the 1942 Pulitzer prize book by a reporter who was on the scene, it follows the true story fairly closely. Every performance is right-on, as are the combat scenes. Not a pumped-up excercise in flag waving; rather, it's a well executed tale of courage in desperate times. Every scene fascinates with the ambiance of its time and place, and with chilling historical accuracy. If the ending doesn't get a grip on you, you're a lost cause. And, yes, Doug MacArthur is treated like a god -- which, in those days, he was. No ostentatious preaching here; it's understated brilliance from start to finish, and an education in an earlier generation's attitude toward duty, integrity, and sacrifice. Bruce Willis fans stay clear; this is a war movie for grown-ups."