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.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Merian C Cooper, Lowell J Farrell, John Ford
  • Writers: James Warner Bellah, Frank S Nugent, Laurence Stallings
  • Genres: Western
  • Actors: John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr

On the verge of his retirement at Fort Starke, a one-troop cavalry post, the aging US Cavalry Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles (John Wayne) is given one last patrol, to take his troop and deal with a breakout from the reservation by the Cheyenne and Arapaho following the defeat of George Armstrong Custer. His task is complicated by being forced at the same time to deliver his commanding officer’s wife and niece, Abby Allshard (Mildred Natwick) and Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru)), to an east-bound stage, and by the need to avoid a new Indian war. His troop officers, 1st Lt. Cohill (John Agar) and 2nd Lt. Pennell (Harry Carey, Jr.) meanwhile vie for the affections of Miss Dandridge while uneasily anticipating the retirement of their captain and mentor. Rounding out the cast are Capt. Brittles’ chief scout, Sgt. Tyree (Ben Johnson), a one-time Confederate cavalry officer; his First Sergeant, Quincannon (Victor McLaglen); and Major Allshard (George O’Brien), long-time friend and C.O.

After apparently failing in both missions, Capt. Brittles returns with the troop to Fort Starke to retire. His lieutenants continue the mission in the field, joined by Capt. Brittles after “quitting the post and the Army”. Unwilling to see more lives needlessly taken, Capt. Brittles takes it upon himself to try to make peace with Chief Pony That Walks (Chief John Big Tree). When that too fails, he devises a risky stratagem to avoid a bloody war.

Stagecoach

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Walter Wanger
  • Writers: Ernest Haycox, Dudley Nichols, Ben Hecht
  • Genres: Action, Western, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, John Carradine, Andy Devine, George Bancroft

In Arizona Territory in 1880, a motley group of strangers boards the east-bound stagecoach to Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory. Among them is Dallas (Claire Trevor), a prostitute who is being driven out of town by the members of the “Law and Order League”; an alcoholic doctor, Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell); Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), who is traveling to see her cavalry officer husband; and whiskey salesman Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek).

When the stage driver, Buck (Andy Devine), looks for his normal shotgun guard, he is told by Marshal Curly Wilcox (George Bancroft) that he has gone out to look for a fugitive, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne). Buck tells Marshal Wilcox that Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) is in Lordsburg. Knowing that the Kid has vowed to avenge the deaths of his father and brother at Plummer’s hands, the marshal decides to ride along.

As they start to pull out, U.S. cavalry Lieutenant Blanchard (Tim Holt) informs them that Geronimo and his Apaches are on the warpath, and that they will have no escort until they get to Dry Fork. Gambler and Southern gentleman Hatfield (John Carradine) joins them to provide protection for Mrs. Mallory. At the edge of town, the stage is flagged down by pompous banker Henry Gatewood, (Berton Churchill), who is sneaking away with $50,000 embezzled from his bank.

When the passengers finally arrive in Lordsburg, Gatewood is arrested by the local sheriff, and Lucy is told that her husband’s wound is not serious. Dallas begs Ringo not to go up against the Plummers, but he is determined to settle matters. In the ensuing shootout, the Kid dispatches Luke and his two brothers. He returns to Wilcox, expecting to go back to jail. He asks the lawman to take Dallas to his ranch. However, when Ringo gets on a wagon to say goodbye to her, Curly and Doc laugh and start the horses moving, letting him “escape”.

My Darling Clementine

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Samuel G Engel
  • Writers: Story, Stuart N Lake, Sam Hellman, Screenplay, Samuel G Engel, Winston Miller
  • Genres: Drama, Western
  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Walter Brennan

In 1882 (the wrong year is marked on the tombstone of James, since Oct 26th, 1881 was the date of the Gunfight at the OK Coral) the Earp brothers, Wyatt, James, Morgan and Virgil, are driving cattle to California when they cross the Clanton family led by the “Old Man”. Told of a nearby town, Tombstone, the older brothers ride in, leaving the youngest brother James to watch over the cattle. The Earps quickly find Tombstone a lawless town. When they return to their camp, they find the cattle rustled and James dead.

Seeking vengeance, Wyatt returns to Tombstone and takes the open job of town marshall, meeting with the local powers, Doc Holliday and the Clantons, again and again in order to find out who was responsible. In the meantime, a young woman from Boston named Clementine Carter arrives in town…

How Green Was My Valley

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Darryl F Zanuck
  • Writers: Story, Richard Llewellyn, Screenplay, Philip Dunne
  • Genres: Drama, Family
  • Actors: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall

The story is told through the eyes, and with the voice-over narration of Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall), now a middle-aged man leaving the mining town of Cwm Rhondda, recalling the events that most impressed his younger self. The boy Huw is played by Roddy, but the voice-over is not Roddy’s voice.

His first memories are of the marriage of his brother, Ivor (Patric Knowles), and the burgeoning romance of his sister, Angharad (Maureen O’Hara) with the new preacher, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon). Still too young to work in the local coal mine like his father, Gwilym (Donald Crisp), and his five older brothers, he senses the seriousness of an imminent strike by the rift it creates between his father and the other boys when three of them move out of the family abode.

During the tensions of the strike, Huw saves his mother (Sara Allgood) from drowning and in so doing temporarily loses the use of his legs. As Gruffydd aids in Huw’s recovery, insisting on a positive attitude, he suggests that it is only the first of many trials the boy will have to face. The film concludes with the death of the father in a mining accident.

The Searchers

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: C V Whitney
  • Writers: Alan Le May, Frank S Nugent
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Western
  • Actors: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood, Ward Bond, Vera Miles

The year is 1868. Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns from the American Civil War, in which he fought for the Confederacy, to the home of his brother Aaron (Walter Coy) in rural northern Texas. Despite hints and supposition that Ethan has been up to no good, the movie’s early scenes never explicitly frame Ethan for wrongdoing. However, Ranger Captain Clayton (Ward Bond), who is also the local preacher, dourly observes, after Ethan refuses to take an oath of allegiance to the Texas Rangers (“no need to, wouldn’t be legal anyway”) “you fit a lot of [wanted poster] descriptions.” Ethan has a medal that he gives to his niece Debbie (Lana Wood), which suggests he has been in Mexico during the period of the Emperor Maximilian. He also gives Aaron two pouches of freshly minted Double Eagle $20 dollar gold pieces to help with the ranch. Martha and Aaron wonder, but do not ask, where they came from. Shortly after his arrival, a Comanche raid leaves his brother and sister-in-law Martha (Dorothy Jordan), his nephew, Ben (Robert Lyden), all dead, and his two nieces, Lucy (Pippa Scott) and Debbie, abducted, and the family homestead burned down.

After the funeral, a group led by Captain Clayton goes in search of the raiding party. When they discover the location of the encampment, Ethan wants to attack immediately, before daylight. Clayton points out to Ethan that the Comanche generally kill their hostages at the first notice of a raid, which is something that Ethan already knows. This is the first sign that Ethan is willing not to bring the girls back alive. Captain Clayton gives the order that they will sneak in easy and scare off the band’s horses. By the time they get to the encampment the Indians are gone. The Rangers are then caught in a pincer movement trap and have to make a run for the river. As they cross the river, one of the group, Nesby (William Steele), is wounded. The Rangers take up a defensive position using the river as a buffer, and they manage to repel the attack. The Indians retreat. When Ethan attempts to kill one more Comanche, Clayton stops him by knocking his rifle barrel down. This enrages Ethan who says that from now on he will do the job by himself. Captain Clayton decides that they are too few to continue and must get Nesby back home to treat his wound.

Eventually Ethan, Martin, and the Texas Rangers find Debbie again. Martin kills Scar and Ethan scalps the dead chief. Martin tries to prevent Ethan from killing Debbie, but it is Ethan himself who realizes how close he has come to destroying the last link to his family and how, in the act of scalping Scar, he himself has become what he hated so much. Instead of killing Debbie, he lifts her in his arms just as he did when she was a child. Ethan brings Debbie to the safety of friends and then walks away. The film, which opened with a near-identical shot of another doorway, slowly revealing the film’s landscape, finishes with a reversal: the film’s players enter the darkness within the doorway, and the door closes, just before the end title, leaving Ethan isolated outside where he turns and wanders away into the wilderness.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Willis Goldbeck, John Ford
  • Writers: James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck, Dorothy M Johnson
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, Western
  • Actors: John Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef

The film opens on preparations for a funeral. A U.S. Senator and his wife have come back to the small town of Shinbone, in an unnamed Western state. The senator is prevailed upon by a newspaper editor to explain why he has come to bury an apparent nobody. The senator explains and the film unfolds in flashback, to a time before the railroad came to Shinbone, to when the region was a western territory and statehood was the pressing issue.

Ransom “Rance” Stoddard (James Stewart) is an attorney who believes in law and order, but refuses to carry a gun. Robbed and violently attacked on his way to town by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), an outlaw with a silver-handled whip, Stoddard is brought to town by a man named Tom Doniphon, who brings the injured stranger to the care of friends in town.

Doniphon (John Wayne) is a rancher, who believes there is no law and one “needs a gun in these parts.” Doniphon feels that Stoddard is a hopeless tenderfoot who is unable to handle himself in the kind of fights that are common in the West. Stoddard in return cannot understand Doniphon’s thinking, which is exactly like Liberty Valance’s — might makes right. Caught in between is Hallie (Vera Miles), a woman widely regarded to be the love of Doniphon’s life.

The movie ends with Senator Stoddard and Hallie returning to Washington by train, melancholy about the lie that led to their prosperous life. Stoddard asks a conductor how long it will take to get to Washington. The conductor tells them that the train is traveling at high speed and that at an upcoming junction they are holding the express train for him. “Nothing’s too good,” he says, “for the man who shot Liberty Valance.”

The Grapes of Wrath

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Darryl F Zanuck, Associate Producer, Nunnally Johnson
  • Writers: Screenplay, Nunnally Johnson, Story, John Steinbeck
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Shirley Mills, John Qualen, Eddie Quillan

The film opens with Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) being released from prison and hitchhiking his way back to his family farm in Oklahoma only to find it deserted. Tom finds an itinerant ex-preacher named Jim Casy (John Carradine) sitting under a tree by the side of the road. Tom remembers that Casy was the preacher who baptized him, but now Casy has “lost the call” and his faith. Casy leads him to find his family at Tom’s uncle John’s place. His family is happy to see Tom and explain they have made plans to head for California in search of employment as their farm has been foreclosed by the bank. The large Joad family of twelve leaves at daybreak, packing everything into an old and dilapidated modified truck in order to make the long journey to the promised land of California.

The trip along Highway 66 is arduous and it soon takes a toll on the Joad family. Weak and elderly Grampa is the first to die on their journey. After he dies, they pull over to the shoulder of the road, unload him, and bury him. Tom writes the circumstances surrounding the death on a page from the Family Bible and places it on the body so that if his remains were ever found his death would not be investigated as a possible homicide. They park in a camp and they meet a man, a returning migrant from California, who laughs at Pa’s optimism about conditions in California and who speaks bitterly about his awful experiences in the West. He hints at what the Joads will soon find out for themselves. The family arrives at the first transient migrant campground for workers and find the camp is crowded with other starving, jobless and desperate travelers. Their truck slowly makes its way through the dirt road between the shanty houses and around the camp’s hungry-faced inhabitants. Tom says, “Sure don’t look none too prosperous.”

I ain’t never gonna be scared no more. I was though. For a while it looked like we was beat. Good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kinda bad and scared too, like we was lost and nobody cared…. Rich fellas come up and they die, and their kids ain’t no good and they die out, but we keep on coming. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out, they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever Pa, cos we’re the people.