For, Friday, May 22, 2015

Robert Montgomery gets top billing in “They Were Expendable” (1945, b/w), but today second-billed John Wayne is the draw.

The John Ford World War II action drama about the development of PT Boats and their success in the Battle of the Philippines in 1941 and ’42 was released just after the war ended in December 1945.

But the drama of two Navy lieutenants (Montgomery and Wayne) trying to sell the military on the practicality of PT Boats was one that still resonated strongly with American audiences and the film was a great success.


    John Wayne, left, Donna Reed, George Montgomery

Donna Reed co-stars, providing romance for Wayne, but this one is mostly about the boats and the men who operate them (including Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson, Leon Ames and Cameron Mitchell), and the location shoot in Key Biscayne, Florida, was not only endorsed by the Navy Department, it was given access to actual Navy PT Boats and naval aircraft.

This is also the film that gave Montgomery the directing bug. When Ford fell ill, Montgomery went behind the camera for a few sequences until the great filmmaker could return. After “They Were Expendable,” Montgomery made only seven more films, and he directed five of them.


Just in time for Memorial Day (Monday, May 25), this exciting and engaging wartime drama will be presented on the big screen of the Harold B. Lee Library on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo.

“They Were Expendable” will be shown Friday, May 29, at 7 p.m. for free.