They Were Expendable

They Were Expendable

4.0 2
Director: John Ford

Cast: John Ford, Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed


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John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) believes in PT boats, and as a lowly U.S. Navy lieutenant stationed in the Philippines, that makes him a radical thinker. "Your boats maneuver beautifully," an admiral (Charles Trowbridge) tells him, "but if I'm going into combat, I prefer something a little more substantial." The gently delivered but stinging dismissal stirs the… See more details below


John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) believes in PT boats, and as a lowly U.S. Navy lieutenant stationed in the Philippines, that makes him a radical thinker. "Your boats maneuver beautifully," an admiral (Charles Trowbridge) tells him, "but if I'm going into combat, I prefer something a little more substantial." The gently delivered but stinging dismissal stirs the resentment of Lt. "Rusty" Ryan (John Wayne), who tartly tells Brickley that he wants to be transferred to destroyers. The Pearl Harbor bombing makes transfer impossible, especially with the Japanese preparing to invade the islands. So Brickley and Ryan go to work, first as message carriers between the Philippines and Corregidor, then, finally, as ship hunters. They record some successes, but it's a doomed effort: The Americans are hopelessly outnumbered by the Japanese, and with almost all of the Pacific Fleet destroyed at Pearl Harbor, they know help won't arrive to save them. As the Japanese push the U.S. forces back, Brickley and Ryan and their crews hop from island to island, scrounging supplies and taking casualties but keeping up the fight. Just as it appears that they will be forced to fight on Corregidor against the Japanese, they get rescued; they're ordered home to promote their PT-boat successes, and they take the last plane out, hoping to return and avenge their defeats. ~ Nick Sambides, Jr.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
A major work in the career of John Ford, They Were Expendable reflects the great director's love of the U.S. Navy and admiration of the men and women who fought the Second World War. It's a product of wartime, meant to be stirringly patriotic and occasionally saccharine. It almost qualifies as a U.S. Navy product: Star Robert Montgomery was a PT boat captain and Ford and screenwriter Frank "Spig" Wead were high-ranking Navy men. Yet They Were Expendable is nevertheless an admirably restrained and somber work, especially compared to other jingoistic films of the period. As befits its subject, the Navy's post-Pearl Harbor losses, Ford's deep-focus camerawork is an often gorgeous collection of grays and blacks. Ford had just finished an Oscar-winning documentary, Battle of Midway, when he started this movie, and it shows. Wead's script is an appealingly nuts-and-bolts look at Navy men that mostly avoids obligatory flag-waving; even the subplot romance between John Wayne's Lt. "Rusty" Ryan and Donna Reed's Lt. Sandy Davyss is un-melodramatic. Ford uses realistic Florida locations and sprinkles documentary-like close-ups throughout the film. The close-ups get somewhat precious by film's end, but they're effective. Ford blessedly leaves out his banana-peel humor, and in Montgomery has an actor who centers the movie with an interestingly lean and modulated performance despite having no backstory and almost no emotional outpourings -- he scarcely raises his voice. They Were Expendable offers glimmers of the psychological complexity that marks later Ford films like The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It's a classic that hasn't received its proper recognition.

Product Details

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Mgm (Video & Dvd)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Montgomery Lt. John Brickley
John Wayne Lt. J.G. "Rusty" Ryan
Donna Reed Lt. Sandy Davys
Cameron Mitchell Ens. George Cross
Ward Bond Boats Mulcahey
Marshall Thompson Ens. Snake Gardner
Paul Langton Ens. Andy Andrews
Leon Ames Maj. James Morton
Jack Holt Gen. Martin
Arthur Walsh Seaman Jones
Donald Curtis Lt. J.G. "Shorty" Long
Jeff York Ens. "Lefty" Tony Aiken
Murray Alper Slug Mahan
Jack Pennick Doc Charlie
Alex Havier Benny Lacoco, Steward
Charles Trowbridge Adm. Blackwell
Robert H. Barrat Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Bruce Kellogg Lt. Elder Tompkins
Tim Murdock Ens. Brown
Louis Jean Heydt Ohio, flyer in hospital
Russell Simpson Dad Knowland
Vernon Steele Army Doctor at Corregidor
Stephen Barclay Actor
Danny Borzage Actor
Al Bridge Lt. Colonel
George Bruggeman Actor
Charles Calhoun Actor
John Carlyle Lt. James
Jack Cheatham Commander
Frank Donahue Actor
John Epper Actor
James Farley Mate
Art Foster Actor
Max Ong Mayor of Cebu
Almeda Fowler Actor
Sherry Hall Marine Major
Robert E. Homans Bartender at Manila Hotel
Harold Kruger Actor
Paul Kruger Actor
Jack Lee Actor
Leota Lorraine Actor
Jack Luden Naval Air Captain
William Lundigan Actor
George Magrill Actor
William McCormick Wounded Officer at Airport
Frank McGrath Slim
Karl Miller Actor
Henry Mirelez Filipino Boy
Jack Mower Officer
Charlie Murray Jeep Driver
Forbes Murray Navy Captain
Franklin Parker Navy Officer
Frank Pershing Actor
Nino Pipitone Bartender's Children
Ernest Sefton Actor
Reginald Simpson Actor
Leslie Sketchley Marine Orderly
Leonard Stanford Actor
Jack Stoney Actor
Robert Strong Actor
Robert Thom Actor
Roy Thomas Actor
John Trent Actor
Emmett Vogan Navy Doctor
Roque Ybarra Actor
Fred Coby Actor
Larry Dods Actor
Phil Schumacher Actor
William McKeever Riley Boat Crew Member
Jon Gilbreath Sub Commander
Dutch Schlickenmeyer Actor
Tony Carson Actor
Leonard Mellin Actor
Michael Kostrick Actor
Bruce Carruthers Actor
Eleanore Vogel Actor
Jane Crowley Officers' Wife
George Economides Actor
Mary Jane French Lost Nurse
Roger Cole Actor
Jack Carrington Actor
Philip Ahn Orderly
Betty Blythe Officer's Wife
William B. Davidson Hotel manager
Pedro de Cordoba Priest
Eve March Nurse
Lee Tung Foo Bartender
Sammy Stein Boat crewman
Blake Edwards Boat Crewman
Kermit Maynard Airport Officer
Billy Wilkerson Sgt. Smith
Harry Tenbrook "Cookie" Squarehead Larsen
Michael Kirby Boat crewman
Robert E. O'Connor Bartender at Silver Dollar
Stubby Kruger Boat crewman
Tom Tyler Capt. on plane
Trina Lowe Gardner's girlfriend
Pacita Tod-Tod Nightclub singer
Wallace Ford Actor

Technical Credits
John Ford Director,Producer
Joseph H. August Cinematographer
Douglas Biggs Editor
Earl K. Brent Songwriter
Malcolm Brown Art Director
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Arnold A. Gillespie Special Effects
Frank E. Hull Editor
Ralph S. Hurst Set Decoration/Design
Edward O'Fearna Asst. Director
Cliff Reid Producer
Michael Steinore Sound/Sound Designer
Herbert Stothart Score Composer,Songwriter
Frank Wead Screenwriter
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

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