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.

Rio Bravo

  • Directors: Howard Hawks
  • Producers: Howard Hawks
  • Writers: B H McCampbell, Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett
  • Genres: Western, Romance, Drama
  • Actors: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, John Russell, Harry Carey Jr 1

In the town of Rio Bravo, Dude (“Borachón”; played by Dean Martin), the town drunk, enters a saloon wanting a drink. Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), seeing Dude eying his glass, throws a silver dollar into a spittoon to mock him. Just as Dude goes for the spittoon, Presidio County, Texas, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) kicks the spittoon away, looking at Dude with pity and disgust. As Chance turns to face Joe Burdette, Dude grabs a small piece of firewood and clubs Chance on the head, knocking him unconscious. Dude then starts toward Burdette, but two of his hired cow punchers grab Dude. Burdette starts to beat Dude with the two men holding him. A bystander grabs Burdette’s arm so he can’t swing on Dude again. Burdette draws his gun and shoots the bystander in the stomach. The close-up of Joe’s revolver discharging is the first close-up in the film. Burdette then leaves the saloon and heads for another one thinking that he can do no wrong.

In the second saloon, after Burdette has another drink, Sheriff Chance enters with his Winchester aimed at Burdette, to arrest him for the murder of the bystander. One of Burdette’s men then draws his Colt revolver on Chance and creates a stalemate. Dude enters behind two of Burdette’s men and then takes the revolver of the man standing in front of him and shoots the gun out of the hand of the Burdette man. Chance then whips Burdette across the face with the rifle, knocking him unconscious. Chance and Dude drag Burdette out of the saloon, headed for the jail.

Joe Burdette is the brother of a powerful rancher, Nathan Burdette (John Russell). The rancher’s men then quarantine the town in preparation to breaking Burdette out of jail. The only help Chance has are his deputies Dude and Stumpy (Walter Brennan), an old cripple. Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond), a wagoneer, enters town with a wagon load of supplies from Fort Worth. Tensions are further strained by the presence of a young gunslinger hired by Wheeler to guard his wagons, Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), and the arrival of a mysterious woman, Feathers (Angie Dickinson), who becomes romantically involved with Chance.

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.