Flying Leathernecks (1951)

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    There are 97 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by lasbugas.

    • Flying Leathernecks (1951)



      Photo with the courtesy of lasbugas


      Plot Summary
      Marine Major Dan Kirby is tough on his group of World War II aviators,
      tougher than his subordinate Captain Carl Griffin thinks is necessary.
      But Kirby proves that his method is more suited to the demands of war.

      Full Cast
      John Wayne .... Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby
      Robert Ryan .... Capt. Carl 'Griff' Griffin
      Don Taylor .... Lt. Vern 'Cowboy' Blithe
      Janis Carter .... Joan Kirby
      Jay C. Flippen .... MSgt. Clancy, Line Chief
      William Harrigan .... Dr. Lt.Cdr. Joe Curran
      James Bell .... Colonel
      Barry Kelley .... Brigadier General
      Maurice Jara .... Shorty Vegay
      Adam Williams .... Lt. Bert Malotke
      James Dobson .... Lt. Pudge McCabe
      Carleton Young .... Col. Riley
      Michael St. Angel .... Capt. Harold Jorgensen, Ops. Officer (as Steve Flagg)
      Brett King .... 1st Lt. Ernie Stark
      Gordon Gebert .... Tommy Kirby
      Milburn Stone .... Fleet CIC radio operator
      Lynn Stalmaster .... Lt. Billy Castle
      Charles Brunner .... Navajo father on reservation (uncredited)
      Ralph Cook .... (uncredited)
      James Craven .... Fleet CIC commander (uncredited)
      Gail Davis .... Virginia Blithe (uncredited)
      Michael Devery .... (uncredited)
      Sam Edwards .... Junior (uncredited)
      Fred Graham .... MP sergeant (uncredited)
      Douglas Henderson .... (uncredited)
      Milton Kibbee .... Indian Affairs clerk (uncredited)
      Keith Larsen .... (uncredited)
      Harry Lauter .... Freddie (uncredited)
      John Mitchum .... Lt. Black (uncredited)
      Brit Norton .... Capt. Walter Tanner (uncredited)
      Melville Robert .... (uncredited)
      Elaine Roberts .... (uncredited)
      Harlan Warde .... Admiral's aide (uncredited)
      Dick Wessel .... Mess sergeant (uncredited)
      Mack Williams .... (uncredited)
      Adam York .... (uncredited)

      Writing Credits
      Kenneth Gamet story
      James Edward Grant screenplay
      Beirne Lay Jr. screenplay (uncredited)

      Original Music
      Roy Webb

      William E. Snyder (director of photography)

      This movie is often considered merely another assignment of Nicholas Ray's at RKO for Howard Hughes to prove his political and professional alliance during the Red Scare. A blatant pro-war movie that Hughes cared about and Ray did not, Ray disagreed with the film's politics and is said, along with Robert Ryan, to intentionally over-act. Ryan and Ray, who were leftist liberals, constantly fought against John Wayne and Jay C. Flippen, who were conservatives and supported the Blacklist.

      There was some controversy over the casting, since both John Wayne and Robert Ryan were clearly much older than real pilots during World War II.

      This was Nicholas Ray's first film in color.

      Even though this film is in color, the RKO Studio's film logo seen at the beginning of the movie is in black-and-white.

      The film's dedication states: "Dedicated to the United States Marine Corps, and especially to Marine aviation. Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their participation and assistance which made this picture possible."

      John Wayne's character in this movie, Major Daniel Xavier Kirby, was based on Captain John Lucien Smith, USMC Ace who was Commanding Officer in the Marine Fighting Squadron 223 at Guadalcanal in 1942 during World War II. Smith was a Medal of Honor recipient in 1943 and a leader of the "Cactus" Air Force. Smith, a wildcat fighter pilot, shot down nineteen Japanese airplanes over Guadalcanal in 1942. Smith's achievements and commendations were well known to the public prior to this film being made. Smith was eventually promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and likewise, Wayne's Kirby character is also promoted to the same rank in this movie. Moreover, there is also a physical likeness and resemblance between Wayne and Smith.

      The Leathernecks of the film's title is military slang. Leatherneck is a common nickname for marines of the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

      Robert Ryan was cast by director Nicholas Ray because he had been a boxer in college and believed that he was the only actor that could play opposite John Wayne and "kick Wayne's ass."

      The film utilized actual color aerial battle footage. According to the book "Brassey's Guide to War Films", this movie utilized combat footage from newsreels of the Korean War [the Korean War was fought in its entirety between 1950-1953 but the footage would be circa 1950-1951 due to the production dates of the film]. Yet this is a World War II movie about the Battle of Guadalcanal which predates the Korean War.

      This film is about marine pilots fighting in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal is situated in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, north-east of Australia. Its local name is Isatabu and contains the country's capital, Honiara. The island is humid and mostly made up of jungle with a surface area of 2,510 square miles or 6,500 square kilometers. Guadalcanal was named after Pedro de Ortega's home town Guadalcanal in Andalusia, Spain; de Ortega worked under Alvaro de Mendana de Neira who charted the island in 1568.

      This is a Howard Hughes production as the opening credits declare. It is well known that Hughes himself was an aviation aficionado who also produced Hell's Angels (1930), Sky Devils (1932) and Jet Pilot (1957), the latter of which also starred John Wayne.

      The squadron's designation in the movie was VMF-247 but in the real life campaign the movie was based on the designation was VMF-223. VMA 223 stands for Marine Attack Squadron 223. This was the United States Marine Corps fixed wing attack squadron that comprised mainly AV-8B Harrier (V/STOL) jets. It has been active since 1st May 1942 and is still presently today an active air force squadron.

      The fighter planes seen in the early part of the film are not the actual Grumman F4F Wildcat planes which were part of the Guadalcanal air campaign but Grumman F6F Hellcat planes. Hellcats were more readily available at the time the movie was made in 1951 as not many Wildcats had actually survived World War II. Moreover, Hellcats painted white and red also doubled as enemy Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter planes of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS).

      Marines got the nickname of "Leathernecks" from the fact that early uniforms had a collar made of leather which was intended to protect the throat from knife wounds.

      * Crew or equipment visible: Wires used to pull the canopy away are visible when Cowboy bails out over point Zebra.

      * Anachronisms: When Major Kirby is just home from the war, he takes a letter from a mailbox which in a full-screen shot is shown to have a six-cent stamp. Six-cent stamps weren't issued until 1949, four years after the war ended.

      * Anachronisms: Early in the movie, it states the date was summer 1942. This would make the planes and insignia incorrect. After Pearl Harbor, the insignia removed the red circle inside the white star, but didn't have the white sidebars. Further, the planes shown are Grumman F6F Hellcats. In 1942 the Navy/Marines used the Grumman F4F Wildcat. The Hellcat didn't tangle with Japanese planes until the later half of 1943.

      * Continuity: During the 1st patrol off Guadalcanal after the nightly ship bombardment, "Jigsaw 4" is returning to base due to an engine problem (assumed cowardice by Pilot). Later in the same patrol, another Pilot is leaving formation and is shot down (later killed by Japanese Infantry) also under codename "Jigsaw 4".

      * Continuity: At about the 56 minute mark, the Navajo Indian pilot is shot in a dogfight. In the initial scene he is wounded in the right leg; in subsequent scenes, the wound is in the left leg.

      Filming Locations
      Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, San Diego County, California, USA
      El Toro Marine Base, Lake Forest, California, USA

      Watch the Trailer


      Some earlier discussion:-

      Flying Leathernecks
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 11 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Flying Leathernecks is a 1951 action film directed by Nicholas Ray,
      produced by Edmund Grainger, (who had produced Sands of Iwo Jima)
      and starring John Wayne and Robert Ryan.
      The movie details the exploits and personal battles of
      United States Marine Corps aviators during World War II.
      Marines have long had the nickname "leatherneck," hence the title.

      I enjoy this film.
      Once again it proved that Duke's war effort was better
      served in his films, than it probably would have been, in real life.
      He acts well as a Commander, and his embodiment, of how to do it,
      shows, Robert Ryan, the right way to go.
      With a good supporting cast, overall a decent movie.
      The critics found it an exciting film, but found the characters cliche,
      and some of the dialogue absurd.
      Ah well, you can't win them all, anyway I liked it!!

      User Review
      Author: lbliss314 from USA

      On one level this is a standard flag-waving WW2 film--which was what audiences wanted. On another level, though, this movie says some pretty harsh things about war. Mixed in with the combat footage are several scenes of wounded soldiers covered in blood, the sort of images that were censored from pictures made during the war. Some have objected to this... but I think it adds an extra layer of realism. Yes, they are shocking images--maybe that was Ray's point. We should be shocked that men get killed like this. The interplay between Robert Ryan and John Wayne is fascinating. Ryan turns in a splendid performance and Wayne surprised me with the depth of emotion he displayed, particularly when he visits his family. The movie shows us the emotional toll of ordering men to their deaths. The movie has pacing problems, particularly in the final battle, and Jay C. Flippen's scrounging sergeant wears a little thin. Still, this is a well-done war film.
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 3 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Flying Leathernecks is quality like war movie which has a good storyline and character development.
      Wayne & Ryan work well together. The action scenes are inter cut with actual war footage to give it credibility and on the whole the scenes gel together when you consider when the movie was made .

      I wouldn’t rate it as highly as Sands of Iwo Jima but it is workman like and enjoyable film.
    • i enjoyed this movie for its realism about sending men into battle and how hard it would be on their comanding officer one scene that stands out the most is the one where duke is getting on the plane to leave (he has a broken arm) and he gives that speech to griff i feel it says it all and then some.

      the movie also shows the aging of griff in that he becomes older and wiser and begins to fill the part of the second incomand the place that shows this the most is when cowboy has engine trouble and is attacked by the zeros on the way back and he tells him to bail out this would have been hard in that cowboy was not only a pilot but his brother-in-law.

      the old timer gives it some charater as there were such men on the lines loveable but shifty in that they could get anything if they tried hard enough.

      on the whole a good movie

      hooroo smokey
      " its not all black and white, but different shades of grey"
    • Not to get too picky here, but the name of this film is simply Flying Leathernecks (1951), instead of "The Flying Leathernecks."

      Boy, that was picky!!!!!

      This was an OK film that borrowed elements from both Sands of Iwo Jima and Flying Tigers (which in its turn borrowed from Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings). Not that that's a bad thing, though.

      Duke and Robert Ryan were at polar opposite ends of the political spectrum, yet this probably wasn't a bad thing considering the tension between their characters in the storyline. They played off each other well and both gave good performances.

      The actual combat footage wasn't cut in nearly as well on this one as was done on Sands of Iwo Jima. The combat footage is very scratchy compared to the rest of the film. Maybe this just stands out more because this film is in color.


      "I am not intoxicated - yet." McLintock!

    • Originally posted by ejgreen77@Jan 30 2006, 02:02 PM
      Not to get too picky here, but the name of this film is simply [b]Flying Leathernecks (1951), instead of "The Flying Leathernecks."

      Boy, that was picky!!!!!


      Hey, I understand your pain :wacko: . I try to include the "The" when it is part of a title, and sometimes it's not supposed to be, as you so rightly point out. :rolleyes:

      Flying Leathernecks is a good movie, especially if you are a US Marine :) .

      I didn't feel it was quite as good as Flying Tigers or The Fighting Seabees, but I did enjoy the movie, especially colorized.

      For a mere $7.26 and free shipping, it is available from Deep Discount DVD.

      Chester :newyear:
    • This is one of the rare John Wayne movies that I do not have much time for. I find the action scenes poorly interwoven with real life footage, some of the dialogue is stilted and better character developement would have been necessary.

      Dukes character is hard bitten and well enough acted but he could have been explored more.

      Overall not a favourite although probably Dukes best movie for Howard Hughes. To add further insult to injury what sort of cover is this to have for the DVD version of the movie? :angry:

    • Re: Flying Leathernecks (1951)

      I really enjoy this film, and think its one of Wayne's better war movies. It has a special place for me for the following reason...Please read ....

      I grew up out in the country, and the folks that lived right across the road from us were nice people. The kind that would always wave and say hello. They would stop and chat a while, they would come over to help if you had a need, and you would help them in turn. I really didn't know anything their past, but I knew the man was hard working, and never sat still. He seemed younger than he really was. When I was a ten year old kid he seemed like he would be about 50 or so, but I didn't realize he was actually already 60-something. In recent years, I was stunned to learn more about this man. It turned out that he was a World War II vet. That's nothing too unusual to discover. He was the typical vet, in that he never talked about it. Finally, in his late 80s, he told his story to my sister, a journalist. It turns out that he was a real life Flying Leatherneck. He was exactly what was portrayed in this 1951 film. His job was to run high-risk straffing missions in the South Pacific islands to blast open the enemy lines for the ground troops. He lived what you saw in the film. He flew 50 some missions, and on his last one, he could see his buddy in the plane ahead of him wrestle with the controls of his stricken plane, and hoped that he could reach the water to ditch it. His friend never made it, and he had to watch him plunge into the jungle in a ball of flame. When asked to re-enlist, he figured it was time rather to go home and be with his wife, and meet his 1 year old son. In recent years he was awarded the Silver Star in addition to his other awards previously earned. I say all this, in that I just learned of his failing health, as he is around 90 years old now. I would just ask each of you who love this country, and understand that what you see in a film like Flying Leathernecks is based on real men who sacrificed for our freedoms, to give this man a salute and say a prayer for him.

      "...all of this and General Price that baby sister makes it back to Yell county" --Rooster Cogburn, True Grit.
    • Re: Flying Leathernecks (1951)

      chester7777 wrote:

      Amen brother ! ! !
      Thank you for this story. I know many of us have known of WW-2 veterans with similar experiences, and it always seems to humble one every time.

      Chester :newyear:

      It couldn't be, have been said any better, by GSP and Chester
      Best Wishes
      London- England
    • Re: Flying Leathernecks (1951)

      DukePilgrim wrote:

      Thank you for sharing this story with us GSP.

      Is this the only time Robert Ryan acted with John Wayne?



      Throughout a film, yes!!

      He was in The Longest Day,
      without checking, I think he
      was in one scene with Duke,
      when they were checking the maps!!
      in the briefing room!!
      Best Wishes
      London- England
    • Re: Flying Leathernecks (1951)

      Thank you to Clive Woollands for allowing me to share his past Film Facts (from his Yahoo forum, johnwaynefans) here on the JWMB.

      Howdy friends, here's another film fact for you. This time it's from the film, Flying Leathernecks.

      Producer: Edmund Grainger. Screenplay: James Edward Grant.
      Cinematographer: William E. Snyder. Art Directors: Albert S.
      D'Agostino, James W. Sullivan. Composer: Roy Webb. Editor: Sherman
      Todd. Distribution: RKP Pictures. Location: California, USA. Date of
      production: 1951.

      Like Robert Ryan, actor Dan Taylor also served in US armed forces during World War2. Though he served in the army, not in the Marines.

      The initials `VMF' in the name of Colonel Kirby's squadron were part of standard designation for Marine Corps flying groups. The `V' indicates that they are flying heavier-than-air craft (as opposed to dirigibles, which could have the letter `Z') The `M', unsurprisingly, stands for Marine Corps, while the final letter lets you know what
      type of squadron it is. `F'= Fighter (as opposed to say, `SB' or `TB', standing for Scout Bombing and Torpedo Bombing, respectively)

      Producer Edmund Grainger was a war-movie specialist. His CV includes not only Sands of Iwo Jima, but Flying Tigers (both starring John Wayne), One Minute to Zero, Torpedo Run and Never So Few.

      Child actor Gordon Gebert, who plays Major Kirby's son, went on to play the young Audie Murphy in another World War2 film, To Hell and Back. The most decorated soldier in US military history, Murphy played himself as an adult.

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