They Were Expendable

John Ford
USA 1945
131 min

John Ford's poetic adaptation of William White's book about a PT boat squadron in the South Pacific during World War II may be the best feature film on the war (...) and is considered by some scholars (...) as Ford's greatest work. (...) Lt. John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) is assigned to take his Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron to Manila Bay to defend against a possible Japanese attack in the Philippines. Once there, he finds that the top brass, amused by the idea that the small crafts can be of use in combat, relegates the PT boat to messenger duty. Angered by that reaction, Brickley and his crew must wait for the war to begin to show what they can do. When it does, they shoot down three Japanese planes during an attack on their base, but when the base is closed Brick's squadron is reassigned to Bataan, where they once again are ordered to run messages, and Brickley's fiery executive officer, Lt. Rusty Ryan (John Wayne), fed up with such meaningless duty, asks to be transferred to a destroyer. The embodiment of Milton's tag that \"they also serve who stand and wait,\" Ford's elegiac film pays tribute to all who donned a uniform during the war, whatever their role. Montgomery, who shared in the film's direction, gives the best noncomic performance of his career as the evenhanded CO. But in a visually arresting film that could provide a formidable emotional impact even without the use of sound, it's the eloquent compositions of director of photography Joseph H. August that resonate most powerfully.

What was in my mind was doing it exactly as it had happened. It was strange to do this picture about Johnny Buckley I knew him so well. He was the most decorated man of the war a wonderful person. He was the fellow in Guantanamo who, when Castro cut the lines off, quickly installed the water system. We were very close friends and during the war, in the ETO, the Eastern Theatre, I worked with him a lot. My district was around Bayeux, practically on the Coast, and it was pretty well populated with the SS and Gestapo. So instead of dropping an agent in, we took a PT boat, which Johnny always skippered himself he refused to let me go in unless he skippered the ship. We used to go back and forth we could always slip in there, if the Signals were right because the Resistance had told us the Germans never thought of guarding this one creek. Wed go in there on one engine, drop an agent off or pick up information, and disappear. <i>
</i>John Ford talking with Peter Bogdanovich, 1966

  • John Wayne - Henry, genannt «Ringo Kid»
  • Ward Bond
  • Robert Montgomery
  • Donna Reed
  • Jack Holt
  • Marshall Thompson
  • Paul Langton
  • Leon Ames
  • Arthur Walsh
  • Donald Curtis
  • Cameron Mitchell
  • Jeff York
  • Frank Wead
  • Joseph H. August
  • Douglas Shearer
  • Douglass Biggs
  • Frank E. Hull
  • Herbert Stothart
  • Cedric Gibbons
  • Malcolm Brown
  • Yvonne Wood
  • «They Were Expendable» von William L. White
35 mm