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Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Approved | | Action, Drama, War | 28 August 1951 (USA)
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Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

James Edward Grant (screenplay), Kenneth Gamet (story)
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Cast

Complete credited 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 Maurice Jara ... Shorty Vegay
Adam Williams ... Lt. Bert Malotke
James Dobson James Dobson ... Lt. Pudge McCabe
Carleton Young ... Col. Riley
Michael St. Angel ... Capt. Harold Jorgensen, Ops. Officer (as Steve Flagg)
Brett King Brett King ... 1st Lt. Ernie Stark
Gordon Gebert Gordon Gebert ... Tommy Kirby
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Storyline

Major Daniel Kirby takes command of a squadron of Marine fliers just before they are about to go into combat. While the men are well meaning, he finds them undisciplined and prone to always finding excuses to do what is easy rather than what is necessary. The root of the problem is the second in command, Capt. Carl 'Griff' Griffin. Griff is the best flier in the group but Kirby finds him a poor commander who is not prepared to the difficult decision that all commanders have to make - to put men in harm's way knowing that they may be killed. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

From Guadalcanal to Okinawa...the Marine air-devils blazed a trail of glory...while the women they left behind fought battles of their own! (1956 reissue poster) See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 August 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Devil Dogs of the Air See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (archive footage)| Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Wayne's character in this movie, Major Daniel Xavier Kirby, was based on Captain John Lucian 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. See more »

Goofs

When Kirby is telling his crew to get over to Graves Registration to view Jorgensen's body, he's wearing his dog tags. Walking along the flight line in the following scene, Kirby isn't wearing his dog tags. In the next close up, Kirby's dog tags reappear. See more »

Quotes

Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby: Are we all buttoned up?
Joan Kirby: Cat's out... doors locked. All secure sir.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Rockford Files: The Queen of Peru (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

Take Off Those Boots, Mister.
30 April 2004 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

The central story is elementary. Wayne arrives to command a group of Hellcats on Guadalcanal. His executive officer is Robert Ryan. Wayne is a taciturn, no-nonsense typa guy who doesn't suffer humanitarians easily. Ryan is a humanitarian. (A fairly decent reflection of offscreen attitudes here.)

Ryan is always saying things about his wisecracking, fun-loving men like, "They're just kids." And Wayne's first priority is to force them to become disciplined and efficient warriors. He's distant enough that when he sends the men a bottle of saki, he tells the messenger not to reveal the identity of the donor. Not that Ryan is a namby-pamby. He's shown as gentle but not coddling. And he's smart too. One of his men complains that every time he goes up, his chances of coming down alive are narrowed. Ryan explains Baldt's theorem, or whatever it is, which states that your chances remain the same no matter how many times you've flown. Just like flipping a coin. With each flip, your chance of getting heads or tails is even, no matter how many times you've flipped it. (This ignores something called The Law of Limits, I think, but I don't want to get in over my head here so I'll quit.) Okay, maybe Ryan thinks too much, but at least statistics isn't as bad as a taste for Shakespeare, which was John Agar's failing in "Sands of Iwo Jima." Math is a man's job, finally, whereas Shakespeare is only one step removed from fairyhood.

Anyway the conflict intensifies and Ryan finally turns on Wayne, saying, "I've had a belly full of you!" There is a fierce confrontation and Wayne departs to train pilots elsewhere in ground support using Corsairs, a legendary Pacific fighter. He does not recommend Ryan as his replacement because Ryan, as we all know, hasn't got the guts for command.

Now -- you've got the picture of the conflict. We have, on the one hand, the stern, distant, not unfeeling Wayne leader. And on the other hand we have the casual, humanitarian Ryan who identifies with his men too much. Okay. The conflict is resolved at the end of the picture and the two men agree to meet later and get drunk together. I ask you: in whose favor is this conflict resolved? No power on earth could drag the answer from me.

This movie was directed by Nicholas Ray, although you'd never know it. Comedy relief is provided by the scrounging line chief, J. C. Flippen, who refers to non-aviation types as "mud Marines" and is patronizingly tolerated by Wayne. All the combat footage is from official Navy film. You have seen every shot exactly one thousand, two hundred, and forty-two times before.

Those F4U Corsairs were marvelous airplanes with a top speed of about 450 miles an hour.


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