Cast & Crew
In the spring of 1942, the remaining crew of the U.S. Navy's 3rd Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron, the last of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's escort in the retreat from the Philippine island of Corregidor, wash ashore on the island of Leyte. When the crew discovers that the United States has lost possession of Bataan to the Japanese, their commander orders them to pair off and make their way to the nearest airfield on Mindanao for transport to Australia, where they will rejoin the main American forces. Ensign Chuck Palmer and sailor Jim Mitchell depart together, eventually joining hundreds of Filipinos fleeing the advancing Japanese army. At Tacloban, Chuck seeks assistance from Col. Benson, who informs him that with the collapse of Mindanao, all U.S. forces in the Philippines have been ordered to surrender. Chuck requests a boat, intending to sail over a thousand miles to Australia. Benson provides money and, with the ground crew from the fallen airfield, Chuck and Jim organize an outrigger sailboat for their journey. Jeanne Martinez, a Frenchwoman married to a Filipino, expresses dismay that the men are leaving when resistance on the island is necessary, and also warns the Americans about the upcoming monsoon season, but Chuck insists that without proper equipment and manpower, it is useless to stay. Within three days of sailing, the boat crashes in a storm and those that are able attempt to swim ashore. A young Filipino fisherman, Miguel, rescues an exhausted Chuck and Jim and the other crew members, despite the Japanese's threat to kill anyone found aiding Americans. Miguel is part of the local guerrilla movement, and with his and the villagers' assistance, Chuck and the men spend the summer and fall evading the Japanese across Leyte, while still hoping to make their way to Australia. In one village, some unscrupulous Americans are cheating the locals, and Chuck's disgust with the profiteering is noticed by Juan Martinez, a wealthy businessman, who invites the Americans to his house. There, Chuck is reintroduced to Jeanne, who is Juan's wife. Juan, a strong supporter of the local resistance, takes the men to Filipino Col. Dimalanta, who offers to provide the Americans with a boat, if they will first inform American Col. Phillips, head of guerrilla activities on Mindanao, that Gen. MacArthur wants all resistance movements unified. Chuck and Jim agree, and with Miguel as guide, cross the Leyte gulf to Mindanao, where they find Phillips' base surrounded by stranded American soldiers smoking cigarettes stamped with MacArthur's promise, "I Shall Return." Phillips informs Chuck that MacArthur has ordered the islands to organize a spy network to report on Japanese movements and demands that Chuck assist Dimalanta in establishing a radio post on Leyte. Upon returning to Leyte, Chuck, Jim and the other men, with the help of the locals, collect scrap material to build equipment necessary to establish a provincial free government in defiance of the Japanese occupation. In addition to military and medical training, the resistance creates printed money, a newspaper and eventually strings up over 150 miles of crude telegraph wire for the radio post. While waiting for supplies from the U.S. Navy, Chuck gets to know Jeanne and Juan and learns more about Philippine customs. When U.S. submarines break through the Japanese lines with the radio equipment, Leyte makes its first broadcast, which is received as far away as San Francisco and is also picked by the local Japanese, who immediately launch a raid in which Jim is nearly caught. Many of the villagers are tortured for information, including Jeanne and Juan. Hoping to force a confession from Jeanne, the Japanese beat Juan to death in front of her. Chuck, his remaining men and Jeanne then are forced to go into hiding to evade the Japanese search and during their enforced time together, Chuck and Jeanne fall in love. When Miguel is badly injured during a raid, Chuck attempts to save him, but fails and in frustration disparages MacArthur's promise of salvation for the Philippines. Throughout the following year, U.S. submarines carrying critical supplies break through frequently, and the guerrillas are gradually able to take offensive action against the Japanese. On one mission, Chuck goes behind enemy lines to radio reports on shipping lane traffic and barely escapes a heavy bombardment. The Japanese follow Chuck and his squad back to the village and confront them in a church. Suddenly, loud explosions issue from the harbor and a squadron of American planes pass over, announcing the return to the islands of U.S. forces. The Japanese retreat and within days, Gen. MacArthur's forces reclaim the Philippine islands, as promised.
Capt. Slim Martin
Cris De Vera
Maria Del Val
Rosa Del Rosario
Maj. Urbano C. Francisco
Lt. Robert Garcia
F. E. Johnston
R. A. Klune
Harry M. Leonard
Sgt. Lorenzo Maganto
Capt. Orlando "slim" Martin
Lt. Iliff David Richardson
J. Russell Spencer
After the opening credits of this film, written titles state: "This picture was photographed in the Philippine islands with the assistance of the Philippine government and its armed forces, many of whose leaders were themselves active in the guerrilla movement which led to the liberation of the Philippines. Grateful acknowledgement is also made to the United States Department of Defense, both in the United States and in the Philippines, for its invaluable assistance." War correspondent Ira Wolfert's book was based on the experiences of U.S. naval lieutenant Iliff David Richardson, a member of the famed 3rd Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron, who fought with Filipino guerrillas for two years while waiting for the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. A condensed version of the book appeared in the March 1945 issue of Reader's Digest.
According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Richardson "narrated the story" to Wolfert, and when the studio purchased the screen rights to the book in May 1945, it also "acquired additional, unpublished material, written or owned by Wolfert and Richardson, relating to the life, exploits and adventures of Richardson connected with his life with the guerrillas in the Philippines." While in the islands, Richardson became involved with a Filipino woman named Rosario Corominas, with whom he had a child, and who is portrayed in the book as "Curly." Richardson acquired a waiver of privacy release from Corominas, who was still living in the Philippines, in October 1945. The project had already been shelved in June 1945, however, and when it was reactivated in 1950, the studio decided to change the character of Curly to a Frenchwoman, to be portrayed by Micheline Prelle. The legal files indicate that Richardson acted as a technical advisor on the script in 1945.
According to Hollywood Reporter news item, when the studio initially began the project in the spring of 1945, Henry King was assigned to direct the picture, which would star Fred MacMurray, William Bendix and Tom Moore and be shot on location in Puerto Rico. In summer 1945, however, plans were changed, and Bruce Humberstone was scheduled to direct John Payne and Linda Darnell in the film, which would be shot on location at Catalina Island, off the coast of California. Although the legal files indicate that Jerome Cady worked on the film's screenplay in 1945, the extent of his contribution to the completed picture has not been ascertained.
As noted in the onscreen credits, the picture was eventually shot on location in the Philippines, with the primary sites being Manila and Subic Bay. According to a April 2, 1950 New York Times article, it marked the first time that a Hollywood picture was "shot in entirety on an actual battle locale." As noted in studio publicity materials, many of the speaking roles and extras were played by Filipino actors. Robert Barrat's portrayal of Gen. MacArthur marked the first time that the war hero had been depicted onscreen, according to a May 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item.
According to an November 8, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, after the Philippine Embassy staff viewed a special preview of the picture, Embassy officials issued a statement declaring: "The picture is not only a landmark in cinema history but is also a guidepost to future historians." According to studio records, when the picture was exhibited in the Philippines, numerous protests were received because the Filipino actors who appeared in the film were not credited onscreen. After the studio was threatened with a boycott, the onscreen credits of Wolfert, wardrobe director Charles LeMaire and other technicians were deleted from Philippine prints so that a new Technicolor card crediting seventeen Filipino actors could be inserted. In addition to the actors' names, the following onscreen acknowledgment was included: "Twentieth Century-Fox wishes to express its deepest gratitude and to pay tribute to the stirring performances of the following renowned Filipino artists appearing in the filmization of American Guerrilla in the Philippines." Actors from Cris De Vera through Odilon Diaz, as listed above, were included on the title card, which was used only for prints exhibited in the Philippines. A studio press release also includes Filipino actor Urbano Dumdum in the cast, but his participation in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Sabu Camacho (Bo) and Kathy Ruby (Partisan) to the cast.
As reported in a June 24, 1950 Los Angeles Daily News article, two Philippine Air Force pilots were injured during the filming of a battle sequence, when a mis-timed explosive shot a spout of water into their plane. The pilots, Lt. Robert Garcia and Sgt. Lorenzo Maganto, were compensated by the studio's insurance company for their injuries, and the studio also purchased a new plane for the Philippine Air Force to replace the damaged plane. According to a July 3, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck was "rushing the cutting, editing and scoring" of the picture because it tied in with "the Korean situation" [North Korea had crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korean on 25 June 1950]. Bosley Crowther, the reviewer for New York Times noted the film's "timely appearance," commenting: "Now that Americans are again battling in another Far Eastern land where the nature of warfare is erratic in the face of a grim, deceptive foe, there is a fitful contemporary graphicness about" American Guerrilla in the Philippines.