Dramatization of President John F. Kennedy's wartime experiences during which he captained a PT boat, took it to battle and had it sunk by a Japanese destroyer. He and the survivors had to make their way to an island, find food and shelter and signal the Navy for rescue.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
WILHELM SCREAM: When the 109 is cut in half, one of the men screams the Wilhelm scream. See more »
Several American flags, in long shot, are 50-star flags (48 in 1943). See more »
[after Rogers finds out his transfer back to the U.S. was cancelled]
I don't understand it Mr. Kennedy, I had it all sewn up. I should have gone to Harvard.
Lt. John F. Kennedy:
[in a Boston accent]
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I well remember PT 109 coming out in movie theaters during the summer of 1963. It was still playing in the hinterlands when the events of November 22, of that year occurred.
Probably Cliff Robertson wisely decided not to try for a Boston accent in his portrayal of the 35th president of the United States during his World War II years. If he had he might have come off as imitating Vaughn Meader imitating John F. Kennedy. As it is the only concession he made to the role was a bit of reddish tint in his hair to suggest the man he was playing. It worked rather well and still works today.
Ironically though had their been other U.S. Navy craft near the PT 109 when the Japanese battleship Amagiri sliced it like a loaf of bread in the middle of the night who could have picked up survivors, Lieutenant j.g. John F. Kennedy probably would have been facing a court martial for losing his boat that way. It was the only PT boat in World War II lost to the Japanese in that manner.
But the story is not about that as it was the survival of all, but two of his crew who were killed in the collision. It's about Lieutenant Kennedy towing an injured man while swimming for a deserted Pacific island and keeping his men alive until they could be rescued. The Navy was not about to court martial a hero.
Warner Brothers filled out the rest of the cast with some tried and true players, some like Ty Hardin and Grant Williams from their television series which was rapidly taking over the Warner Brothers lot. Particularly I liked James Gregory as the career naval officer in charge of the PT squadron and Michael Pate as Australian coast watcher Reg Evans. This is one of the few American made films where Michael Pate plays someone from his own country.
I remember on Jack Paar's Friday night variety show he devoted an entire hour to one long commercial for this film. He reunited all of the surviving PT 109 survivors with Australian coast watcher Reg Evans who had a big hand in rescuing them. Evans had met Kennedy of course, but had never met the rest of the crew. The whole living crew was there except the skipper who was in the White House and who could know he'd be the next one to die.
If JFK had lived and been running for re-election in 1964 what a great piece of election propaganda PT 109 would have been. The story also had a lot to do with his successful campaign in 1960. Kennedy was running under the cloud of his father Joseph P. Kennedy being a supporter of appeasement back in the day. This story and the death of his older brother Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in combat in the European theater blunted a lot of the criticism of the actions of his father.
PT 109 is a nicely done war film and a great piece of nostalgia for the Kennedy years.
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