- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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Medal of Honor
- Lee Oldershaw
Two members of the USNA class of 1933, John Bulkeley and David McCampbell have won the medal. McCampbell became the all time highest naval aviator ace and the highest US ace to survive the war. They both went on to long careers in the navy. Because of budget restrictions in 1933 in the middle of the great depression, neither one went on active duty until about a year later. Buckley tried the Army Air Corp but both were finally commissioned as officers on cruisers. Watching an uncut docking scene in the movie I observed that Montgomery was steering the PT Boat. Later I learned he commanded one in the Panama Canal Zone. This movie is a male tear jerker when weopons are given to the crewmen left behind and the last plane leaves.
Noticing Robert Montgomery.
- Chaz Lester
I have always appreciated Montgomery as an actor but I just noticed how much better he was than John Wayne in this movie. I am a BIG Wayne fan, but I rarely see him look so second banana as he did there. He held up his end of the movie, but Montgomery was clearly the lead. The biggest indication of how Ford jabbed Wayne for not serving was near the end of the movie when they emerge out of the jungle to see the retreating troops. Ford has Wayne sit then lay down so we concentrate on Montgomery as the "fighting men" march by and not Wayne.Wayne is missed by many and to a slightly lesser degree Montgomery who was spectacular in this movie and in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" with Claude Rains.
One of the greatest war movies of all time
- Bob Castioni
I never get tired of watching this great film, which is poignant and inspiring as it recounts the heroism of the U.S. Navy in the opening days of World War 2 in the Philippines. They were outgunned and outnumbered by the Imperial Japanese Navy, but they fought with what they had to buy time for the United States to recover from the attack on Pearl Harbor, which extensively damaged our Pacific Fleet. The acting is first rate, especially by Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, and Donna Reed, as well as other members of the cast, including John Ford regulars Ward Bond, Jack Pennick, and Russell Simpson just to name a few. The directing by John Ford and Robert Montgomery is also excellent, as is the screenplay, sound, photography, and everything else about this film. As many times as I've seen it, it still brings a tear to my eye when I think about the sacrifices our servicemen made in World War 2, which are depicted so well in this masterpiece.
response to will
- kevin sellers
Clearly, if you had bothered to read my review you would have seen that I'm not bashing Wayne the actor, but rather the reviewer who was unfairly bashing him as an actor because of his draft dodging. My admiration for Wayne the actor is well chronicled on this site. You are right about one thing, though. I did attend UC Berkeley (with an "e," not a "u"). And as far as that "serious leg injury" that kept the Duke stateside during WW2 goes, John Ford, who did see combat, routinely ridiculed Wayne for it.
They Were Expendable
Reply to Kevin Sellers Your remarks about John Wayne being a draft dodger are so out of date Im suprised you have the nerve at this point in time, to try to Attempt to use this worn out excuse (LIE) to discredit him, as an actor and as a person. So you don't like John Wayne . Fine. This TCM site is Not a Burkley University radical hate propaganda student 1970s newspaper. Even they gave up bashing at John Wayne years ago, It was confirmed Long Ago, that John Wayne was turned down for U.S. military service due to serious back and leg injuries. A grade school student could see what your attempting to do here.
message to Dam8batta
- kevin sellers
I've said it before, I'll say it again. John Wayne's being a draft dodger (which he indubitably was) has zero to do with the goodness or badness of this film. It's like saying "Going My Way" stinks 'cause Bing Crosby's character relates well to kids while the real Bing was a lousy dad. If we were to judge the quality of a movie in direct relation to the lead actor's morality there would be about ten great films. Fewer, actually. The last time I looked the initials TCM stood for Turner Classic Movies, not Turner Classic Morality. So check your politics at the door and evaluate the movie based on the quality of the writing, directing, acting, and cinematography, not whether the star was a jerk.
One Of The Best Montgomery Movies Ever
Maybe others disagree,but this has become one of my all time fav WWII movies.Love Monty piloting his PT boat.One powerful film,shows sacrifice during war,pulls no punches.
A great, great movie
- John Tyson
People can say what they will, but in my opinion, John Wayne, despite never having been in the military, was and still is an American hero. They reason is, he INSPIRED men like me to respect the United States military and the men and women who served. THEY WERE EXPENDABLE is a classic because it reflects the resolve of those who suddenly found themselves trapped in a war they didn't expect or wanted. Yet, despite the odds against them, they served as they were trained. their boats were flimsy, but the courage they displayed was not. What isn't conveyed in this film is the fact that those who were left behind would eventually be captured and subjected to the most horrendous events in the history of the United States military, the was the Bataan death march. The movie in my opinion is one of the least appreciated movies of World War II. I first saw this movie on late TV more than 50 years ago, and it is still one of my favorites. Criticism notwithstanding, the movie is emotional as it is patriotic. And I'd be amiss if I didn't mention that Donna Reed is breathtakingly beautiful in this film. The haunting strains of the the "Marceta" makes it even more poignant, as Wayne and Reed find a simple but stirring moment of enchantment amid the sound of Japanese guns getting closer and closer. This a great, great film, and I never tire of watching it. As for you John Wayne haters, I just wonder if any one of you could inspire patriots like he did. All the Medals in the world couldn't come close to what this man did for his country.
Small errors make fools
- Mark Monahan
Robert Montgomery is not John Wayne's subordinate in this classic WWII movie. A naval Lt. outranks a Lt. J. G., plainly. But, one who watches with any sort of discerning eye, can't miss the relationship between Rusty and Brick.It makes me wonder whether the reviewer understood any part of this excellent script.
Something About This Film
Am not a fan of war films,but something about this one makes me watch whenever TCM has it scheduled!DVRd and can watch whenever I can,until it gets erased because of other films.Something about the definite respect between Brick & Rusty.
message to michael
- kevin sellers
Well, I see that TCM pulled the plug on our exchange. Don't really know why. It's not like we were engaging in obscene or racist rants. Just defending our different positions on the issue of real life vs. art. And isn't that what this website is supposed to be, a dialogue, instead of just random shout outs that are not meant to engender responses? Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed the debate. And I hope you read this before TCM yanks it as they undoubtedly will.
This movie is authenticated by the fact that Montgomery served in a PT squadron. Awesome. He is great as is Wayne and Donna Reed in a small role as a nurse. The supporting cast is superlative and the close-ups of the very young men's faces breaks your heart. As Sandy Davyss (Reed) says -- "They are such great guys". Thank you TCM for your Memorial Day marathons, I look forward to them each year.
Montgomery and who?
Great film with fine performances. Wayne must have been some actor. He convinced millions of people he was a heroic patriot. When the war broke out, he avoided the draft by claiming he had to support his ex-wife & kids. He then spent the war years crawling around studio backlots playing make-believe soldiers and filling his pockets with cash while true patriots like co-star Robert Montgomery, Jimmy Stewart, Tyrone Power, to name a few, really served their country. Wayne was a man with absolutely no shame.
- James Smith
Among the best war movies ever made. Based on a popular novel. Terrific performance by a WWII naval officer who commanded a PT boat and was offshore during D-Day, Robert Montgomery, and a touching performance by Donna Reed. Featuring the military service avoider John Wayne.
- Addie Appelbaum
John Ford was fortunate to have Lt. Robert Montgomery, winner of the Navy Cross for his heroism in the Pacific and at D-Day, portraying Pt Boat Squadron Commander. Lt. John Bulkeley, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, in Ford's 1945 movie "They Were Expendable". For all of his bravado, Ford never experienced the gritty combat that Montgomery went through, and John Wayne never served during a day in his life during the Second World War.Having said that, this is a proud chapter in the history of the United States Navy, and there is true realism in the lives of the PT boat personnel serving at the beginning of the Second World War. The delicate relationship between Wayne and nurse Donna Reed has a sweetness and dignity not often seen. Montgomery, who was indeed a PT boat commander, is understated as the stalwart officer who understands early on what will occur.
they were expendable
very good movie for 1945, would be good also in color
They were Expendable
- Dashiell Barnes
A fine WWII film from Naval commander & director, Ford. As an actual PT Boat Commander, Montgomery fully grasped the authenticity of being in war, giving an excellent performance along with Wayne & a too-brief Reed. The Oscar-nominated sound & special effects add deep realism to the battle scenes. A favourite film of Ford & a film definitely worth seeing. I give it a 4/5.
Expendable but not forgetable
Great tribute to US Navy and those that gave some or all!
Always wanted to catch this and finally saw for the 1st time recently and was extremely impressed by the quality of production and all performances. Bob Montgomery is phenomenal in the lead. Truly an underrated film- thanks for showing.
Surprisingly sensative Wayne
- Haig Tufankjian
One of John Fords great motion pictures. The stand out here is John Wayne's sensitive performance. I don't know what Ford told Wayne and Reed before shooting but their last phone conversation is simply one of the most beautifully played scenes Ford ever directed. Watch Wayne in this one and see one of his greatest performances. Wayne is not given credit for his ability to project the kind of tenderness he delivers in this film. Wayne was at his best when directed by Ford. So was anyone else who worked with Ford. I am glad to say John Ford hails from Portland, Maine. Hope some day they name a movie theater here for him. Has a nice ring to it, "The John Ford Theater".
They Were Expendable
- Lonnie Turner
Great acting and one of the World War II classics. I had three brothers and a sister in the armed forces during the time and I remember the flag in our window with 4 stars that let all in our town know that we had family members serving. I've heard many stories about the conditions in the Pacific from them. Thanks Turner Classic Movies for this history lesson!
they were expendable
This movie is fantastic, great everything esp to watch on Dec. 7th. So why did Turner schedule it for 4:15 am????? One of my personal favorites along with Tora, Tora, Tora and The Battle of the Bulge! We should make sure this p.c. society does not forget.
One of my all time favorite movies!
Great acting, direction, story, score - this movie has it all. It covers the early desperate days of World War 2 in the Philippines, where brave men fought a hopeless battle to buy time for America to mobilize against her enemies.
This Is Classic Story
Can never get enough of this movie.
- Cris Cannon
Nothing more to say. Depicts the early days of the war with the accuracy and desperation that was so real.
They Wer Expendable
- Jim Regan CSM, USA (Ret)
A thrilling account of the exploits of MTB3, the First Motor Torpedoe Boat Squadro!Ward Bond played the part of my DAD! Chief of Boats Richard A. Regan. He did a great job.Dad did not return from WWII, he and his fellow POWs were being transported to mainland Japan when their ship, the Arisan Maru was sunk in Manila bay by our submarines. on 24 Oct 1944.Of the 1800 POWs in the cargo hold of the Arisan Maru, only five survived! One of the worse losses of life in marine history. Never got to know my Dad as I was only two when he left for the Pacific. He has always been my Hero! RIP Dad, Your son,Jim RLTW (Rangers Lead the Way)Jim, RLTW (Rangers Lead the Way)
a very good film of the genre
- John Andrechak
a very good film, Donna Reed's role is especially poingnant (sic) when consdering that the American nurses captured in the Philipines were subject to mass rape (as were the their British conterparts when Hong Kong fell, as of course all women of all ages in Nanking)THe film does a very good job in depicting the sense of fatalism that must of gripped the men in that part of the war
They Were Expendable
- James Sheets
Not only is this a great movie, it is a true story. The movie is based on a non-fiction book with the same name, and the movie follows the book quite faithfully, with only the names of the characters changed. Lt. Brickley was actually John D. Bulkeley, who won the Medal of Honor and rose to the rank of Vice Admiral in the U.S. Navy. The four officers flew to Australia at the end of the movie, then back to the U.S. When they arrived back home, they were interviewed by William L. White, who then wrote the book.
They Were Expendable (1945)
- Jay Higgins
Director John Ford's very able direction lifts the Worl War II film to well above average. The cast is excellent. Robert Montgomery is particularly good. John Wayne gives his usual adequate acting job. Exciting and well filmed.
One of the Best War Films Ever
A must see. Through John Ford, Spig Wead, and the entire cast and crew, "They Were Expendable" set the standard for the maturation of the American World War II film that "Stagecoach" set for the American western.Not only are we treated to sharp dialogue and a story based on true events and people, the film also boasts some of the most realistic special effects ever filmed.The anachronisms of using newer boats than were employed in 1941-1942 is forgiveable.Robert Montgomery, a real-life naval commander and hero of WWII, and John Wayne under the combined direction of USN Commander John Ford and Montgomery lead a stellar cast; strangely, the film's love interest, employing the darling Donna Reed paired with Wayne, is seemingly so cliche for the movies of the time, that it's hard to believe that the romance just happened to be very true also - true enough to lead the real-life counterparts whom Wayne and Reed portray to file a lawsuit over the film for invasion of privacy!But I digress----The long lingering film shots allowing all actors to shine in moments of quiet contemplation and boisterous camaraderie are matched by epic scale spurts of naval warfare. And throughout, the viewer is treated to not only cynically funny exchanges, but also to despairingly real minimalistic dialogue, a seamless mix that makes this one of the greatest American war films ever made. "They Were Expendable" depicts gallantry without celebration; heroism without glory; the irreplaceability of death vivid and final. Depicting war's impact on the men and the women who endured the real-life experiences that "They Were Expendable" encapsulates on screen, the film manages to wrap the viewer's emotions into experiencing the angst of separation and eternal parting of friends that could only be felt by those who survived.John Ford and Robert Montgomery were among those who survived. And who better to tell such a story?
Been curious about that piece for years. What a poignant scene; The two of them making that connection with such uncertain futures. Although born in 1946, I suspect that typified many romances of the time.
the title of the song is "marcheta",30's vintage.
what is the music??
would love to know the name of the music John Wayne and Donna Reed dance to, and that he later hears on the radion when the fall of Bataan is announced.
Herbert Stothart Song Selection
- Stan Cunningham
I'd be very interested in knowing the title of the waltz melody that played during the dance and again during the officers dinner party that Sandy attended.
A great film
Great film about sacrifice, heroism and "holding the line" at a time when the US was on its heels after the Pearl Harbor attack. The film conveys the hopelessness of the situation but also the sense of duty and honor these men felt. One of my favorite films!
Its really a patriotic film
"They were Expendable" is not really a story about defeat. Based on the true exploits of a torpedo boat squadron in the Phillipines at the beginning of the war, it is more about the sacrifices made by the "citizen soldiers" of that time. These individuals knew they were expendable and were there to hold out as long as they could against insurmountable odds.They did their job knowing they were going to loose, but that others would win eventually.It is one of the better films about why we fought WW2.
Actually, Ford did intend the film to be more on the grim side, but as I understand it, the studio wouldn't go with it.
Elegy of Defeat
This is a strange movie from an American perspective because it is about defeat. The collapse of our defense of Phillipines in the early days of WW II. John Wayne is marvelous as is Donna Reed. Robert Montgomery is good and gritty as the lead commander. The supporting cast of John Ford regulars are fine. The photography is excellent and so is the screenplay. Despite all these good qualities there is something missing... maybe it is a sense that there is no real resolution. Perhaps the film should have been a bit more grimmer but Ford just could not let it be. Still it is one of Ford's better films and one which is rarely included in his pantheon of great movies.Wat