They Were Expendable

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: John Ford
  • Writers: William L White, Frank Wead
  • Genres: Drama, War
  • Actors: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson

A demonstration of the capabilities of PT boats is shown in Manila Bay, Philippines in December 1941. Lieutenant (junior grade) ‘Rusty’ Ryan (John Wayne) becomes disgusted when his superiors refuse to see the small boats as viable naval craft and is in the process of writing his request for a transfer to destroyers when news arrives of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ryan and Lieutenant John Brickley’s (Robert Montgomery) demands for combat assignments for their squadron are frustrated for a time, but they are eventually allowed to show their capabilities. From there on, there are mostly ‘action’ scenes, with the exception of Ryan’s romantic interludes with Army nurse Sandy Davyss (Donna Reed). With the mounting Japanese onslaught against the doomed American garrisons at Bataan and Corregidor, the squadron is sent to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur, his family, and a party of VIPs.

This done, they resume their attacks against the Japanese, who gradually whittle down the squadron. As boats are lost, their crews are sent to fight as infantry. Finally, the last boat is turned over to the Army for messenger duty. Brickley, Ryan and two ensigns are airlifted out on one of the last planes because the PT boats have proved their worth and they are needed stateside to train replacement PT boat officers and crews. The remaining enlisted men, led by Chief Mulcahey, are left behind to continue the fight with remnants of the U.S. Army and Filipino guerillas.

From Here to Eternity

  • Directors: Fred Zinnemann
  • Producers: Buddy Adler
  • Writers: James Jones, Daniel Taradash
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, War
  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine

Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is transferred to Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu. When Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) learns of his reputation as a talented boxer, he pressures Prewitt to join the regimental boxing club that he heads, but the enlisted man stubbornly refuses. 1st Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) suggests that he try to get Prewitt to change his mind by making life as difficult as possible. He gets the other non-commissioned officers to help. Prewitt is supported only by his friend, Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra).

Behind his commander’s back, Warden begins an affair with Holmes’ neglected wife Karen (Deborah Kerr). As their relationship develops, she asks him to apply for officer training, so she can divorce Holmes and marry him. When he is finally forced to admit that he doesn’t want to be an officer, she sadly ends the affair.

Meanwhile, Maggio antagonizes bigoted Staff Sergeant James R. “Fatso” Judson (Ernest Borgnine). When the undisciplined Maggio goes AWOL, he is sentenced to the stockade, under Judson’s charge. Judson takes the opportunity to beat the defiant prisoner repeatedly. Maggio manages to escape and find Prewitt; he tells him of the abuse he endured, then dies. Prewitt finds Judson and kills him in revenge in a knife fight, but suffers a serious wound across the stomach in the process. He then goes into hiding in the apartment of his girl Lorene (Donna Reed), a nightclub “hostess” with whom he had become acquainted. His wound refuses to heal.

When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Prewitt tries to return to camp, but is shot dead by a sentry. At the end, Lorene and Karen meet on a ship leaving for the mainland. Lorene tells Karen that her fiancé was an air force pilot shot down in the attack, but Karen recognizes Prewitt’s name.

It s a Wonderful Life

  • Directors: Frank Capra
  • Producers: Frank Capra
  • Writers: Screenplay, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, Frank Capra, Short Story, Philip Van Doren Stern
  • Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • Actors: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers

On Christmas Eve 1946, George Bailey (James Stewart) is deeply depressed, even suicidal. Prayers for George Bailey are heard by angels appearing as stars in the night sky. Clarence Odbody, an Angel Second Class, is sent to Earth to save him—and thereby earn his wings. Joseph, the head angel, is told to review George’s life with Clarence.

As a 12-year-old boy in 1919, George (Bobby Anderson) saved the life of his younger brother Harry from falling through ice, though George caught a cold that became an ear infection and left him hearing-impaired in one ear. Returning weeks later to his job as errand boy in a pharmacy, George stopped his boss, local druggist Mr. Gower (H.B. Warner), from accidentally filling a child’s prescription with poison while grief-stricken over the death of his son from influenza.

From childhood, George’s greatest ambition has been to see the world and design bridges and skyscrapers. However, George repeatedly has to sacrifice his dreams for the well-being of the people of Bedford Falls. Four years older than Harry, he puts off going to college to help in the family business until Harry graduates from high school and can replace him at the Bailey Building & Loan Association, essential to many of the disadvantaged in town. But on Harry’s graduation night in 1928, as George discusses his future with Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) — who has had a crush on him since she was a little girl — family friends arrive after George and Mary were throwing rocks at an old house to make wishes, and break the news to George that his father has had a stroke. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a vicious slumlord, seizes this opportunity and tries to persuade the Board of Directors to end the “sentimental hogwash” of home loans for the working poor. George persuades the board members to reject Potter’s proposal; they agree, but only on condition that George himself run the Building and Loan. George reluctantly stays in Bedford Falls and gives his school money to his brother.

George returns to the bridge and calls upon Clarence and God to let him live again. His prayer is answered and George is returned to the moment he met Clarence. Small changes that had occurred while he didn’t exist, such as his daughter’s petals in his pocket, his crashed car, and even the weather being windy instead of snowy, are now just as they were, but George runs home filled with a new appreciation of what he has accomplished. There, he finds that his friends and family have collected a huge amount of money to save George and the Building & Loan from scandal and ruin. The newly arrived Harry proposes a toast to his brother, “the richest man in town.” Seeing how many lives he has touched, and the difference he has made to the town (and having helped Clarence earn his wings), George Bailey realizes that despite his problems, he “really has a wonderful life.”