CFS: They Were Expendable

Desiree Holm

History buffs and military film lovers alike applaud the announcement of the Cultural Film Series’ third feature film, “They Were Expendable,” in this semester’s series entitled “Hidden Treasures.”

“They Were Expendable” was filmed in 1945 at the end of World War II and set the precedent for today’s war films. It is based on actual events and credibly documents the integration and importance of the use of PT boats in the early months of the Pacific theater. Although characters’ names have been changed, the movie tells the story of the actions of two real-life heroes, John D. Bulkeley, a PT squadron commander and Medal of Honor recipient, and Robert Kelly, a skipper.

This classic film was directed by John Ford, who is better known for his Westerns. However, upon returning from serving time in the Navy and in combat, Ford decided to take on a war film. The result is a movie only a person with first-hand battle experience could construct. Actors in the movie brought their own element of realism to the film as well. The film’s star, Robert Montgomery, already had A-list Hollywood status and was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, complete with real-life PT boat experience prior to the making of this movie. It is rumored that Montgomery even filled in for Ford behind the camera for a couple of film’s boat scenes when the director suffered a brief illness. Other stars who lent their talents to the movie include Ward Bond and Donna Reed, who later went on to co-star in the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“They Were Expendable” will be shown four times in the Connelly Cinema: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 27 at 3:30 and 7 p.m.; and Monday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. Admission is free for students with a valid WildCard and $5 for everyone else. The Monday screening will feature guest speaker Rick Worland from Southern Methodist University, who will introduce the film and lead a discussion following the screening.