They Were Expendable (1945)

Approved   |    |  Drama, War

They Were Expendable (1945) Poster

The PT boat unit Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three defends the Philippines from Japanese invasion during World War II.

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  • John Wayne and Donna Reed in They Were Expendable (1945)
  • Donna Reed in They Were Expendable (1945)
  • John Wayne and Donna Reed in They Were Expendable (1945)
  • John Wayne and Donna Reed in They Were Expendable (1945)
  • John Ford in They Were Expendable (1945)
  • Robert Montgomery in They Were Expendable (1945)

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Cast & Crew

Top Billed Cast


John Ford , Robert Montgomery


William L. White (book), Frank Wead (screenplay)

Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

27 May 2003 | waha99
| Probably the greatest WWII film of its era.
Rather than re-hash Tom Martin's excellent review of the film, I would rather provide some personal reflections.

This really is the most human of all the late-era WWII films, minus much of the blatantly propagandistic speeches that mar so many movies from that era. Rather, the dialogue is beautifully understated. Robert Montgomery's "looking for the Arizona too" comment to Wayne sums up the feelings of its time much more than a five minute speech on how important it is to win the war could ever do.

The cinematography is top notch, as it is in most of Ford's films. Watching this I believe we can definately see how Orson Welles would be influenced by his work over the years.

Robert Montgomery's work here is fantastic; again, as Martin states in his review, probably his best work in front of the camera. He seems war-weary (and in one of the Duke's biographies this is probably how Montgomery really was at this time, as he had seen quite a bit of action during the war before the film was made). John Wayne's character provides us with proof that he truly was a great actor. Watch the scene where he sits in a bar listening to a broadcast from San Francisco about the fall of Coregidor; his emotions are completely shown by the camera; no "let's get them dirty so-and-so's" speeches here, this is pure, wordless acting.

All in all, a great film; the best of the WWII era, and certainly one of the best of the 1940's. No hesitations here on my score: 10* out of 10.

Critic Reviews

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Did You Know?


It is often supposed that John Wayne's salute to the late Harry Carey--his tableau at the end of "The Searchers" in which he holds his right elbow with his left hand as Carey did in some of his movies--was for the benefit of Carey's widow Olive Carey who watched off-camera. This would suggest that this was a one-time-only pose by Wayne in a film. However, it is preceded by this film, in which Wayne makes the same move at the back of a PT Boat.


'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c: Mr. Ryan, this has gone far enough! That 41 boat is always hoggin' the good jobs, sir.
Seaman Jones: We'll get all the soaking we need on our way up to hit the Japs, sir.
'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c: What are we gonna do, sit around on our duffs till they get back, sir?
Ens. 'Snake' Gardner: 41 can't handle this ...


In one of the first battle action scenes of a torpedo being fired you can see a stray 50 cal. shell rolling across the starboard deck just to the left of the torpedo tube. Several minutes later in another battle on another PT boat you can see the same shell rolling across the deck in the same place, indicating they used the same sequence of footage twice.

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Manila Bay In the Year of Our Lord Nineteen hundred and Forty-one

Alternate Versions

MGM produced a different version, dubbed and with credits in Spanish, probably to be used by television stations. This version omits the final sequence (nearly more than 15 minutes of running time) and the film ends a previous scene with Robert Montgomery and John Wayne saying farewell to the soldiers that had to remain in the Phillipines, then the scene cuts to a plane leaving the island and to a "The End" title in Spanish. This version aired in Argentina in a cable station called "Space". Turner Network Televsion, in all Latin American countries, used to air the film in its original form. However, they lifted the Spanish language dubbing from the old version and, without any explanation why, the last minutes of the film play in English.


You're in the Army Now
Music by
Isham Jones and lyrics by Tell Taylor and Ole Olsen
[Instrumental version heard when the boat crews march off to be secunded into the army.]


Plot Summary


Drama | War

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