2014 Symposium Highlights
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE
Venue: Savoy Cinema
Date: Sunday, 8th June 2014
Price: €7.00 (conc €6.00)
Closing the 2014 Symposium and part of this year’s prominent themes of Ford at War is a Screening of They Were Expendable, the director’s own personal tribute to the United States Navy on which he served during World War II. The Screening poignantly falls on the anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy and is a fast-paced account of America’s defending of the Philippines against Japanese invasion during The Battle of Philippines. They Were Expendable is possibly one of Ford’s most overlooked films and has been cited by key figures as being a seminal film on the theme of War and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin who calls it “one of the finest (and most underrated) of all WW2 films.”
The film stars Robert Mountgomery and John Wayne and starts at Pearl Harbour in December, 1941 tracing the true story of a Torpedo Boat squadron as they travel to Philippines to help against a potential Japanese invasion. Against this backdrop the film also follows the romance of Lieutenant Ryan (Wayne) and Army nurse Sandy Davyss, until the unit suffers casualties and loses boats as the Philippine campaign slowly collapses around them. In a poignant touch showing Ford’s great admiration for the men and women who fought the Second World War the director included military ranks alongside names in the credits. His own onscreen directing credit reads, "Directed by John Ford, Captain U.S.N.R."
They Were Expendable earned two Academy Award nominations upon release in 1945 and its reputation has only increased in the intervening years from many directors, while acclaimed director and Ford authority Lindsay Anderson said it is “Ford’s greatest work”, praising Joseph August’s epic cinematography and describing the film as “a heroic poem”.