PT 109 (1963) Poster


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Timely (in 1963) dramatization of President Kennedy's Naval service.
TxMike11 February 2005
Cliff Robertson was a good choice to play Lt. John F. Kennedy, new PT boat commander in 1944. He looked a bit like Kennedy and was able to recreate many of his mannerisms. This movie hit the theaters in the USA in June 1963, just after I graduated from high school, and only five months before President Kennedy died from a bullet in Dallas, Texas. I remember it well, it was perfect for the times, as it dramatized the events where the boat, PT 109, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and sank, but Kennedy was able to lead the survivors to safety in the hostile South Pacific waters.

The movie opens in August 1942, the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, the US Navy was using PT boats because they were fast, had a shallow draft, and carried a good complement of torpedoes. We first see Lt. Kennedy receiving his assignment aboard a destroyer, in 1943 or 1944, then landing on the island base. With no active boats available, he was offered the PT 109, which had been neglected and was not ship-shape. He was given a makeshift crew, and one week to get it seaworthy. Which he and his men do, and pass the inspection with flying colors. Kennedy is shown as a leader by example, working side by side with his men, and taking the time to thank them for a job well done.

The movie goes on to show the deployment of the 109 into regular service, and the incident which resulted in the sinking of the boat and subsequent fight for survival. Even though he was eligible for an assignment stateside, Kennedy took another boat and continued the battle. It is well made for a 1963 movie.

Kennedy was born in 1917 and was 26 when he enlisted in the Navy after Harvard. When he was 38 he completed his book, "Profiles In Courage" which won a Pulitzer Prize. When he was only 43, in 1960, he defeated Richard Nixon and became President of the USA. In November 1963, he was dead. In spite of his flaws as a man, as a leader and as a President he was remarkable, and this is a good movie to remind us of that.
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Surviving A Mid-Ocean Collision
bkoganbing19 April 2007
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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Good Saturday afternoon matinée
Homer90015 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was 9 when PT109 premiered in 1963 and like all small boys raised on our uncles' and fathers' stories of WWII and Korea, we were eager to see what our president did in the war. It was a rousing tale, especially since one of my uncles in fact was in the Solomon Islands with the Navy about the same time with a maintenance crew, maintaining PTs and some aircraft.

As I got older and read the real story of PT109, I was no less impressed with the movie; after all it is just that, a movie. It compresses Kennedy's time on two PTs into one. PT109 juxtaposes some of the events, but it gets the basic story correct. SPOILER: His boat was rammed and sunk with the loss of two of his crewmen. Kennedy did tow an injured sailor to a nearby island and did, with the help of coastwatchers and natives friendly to the allies' cause, get his crew back.

The support that the US Navy provided is evident and it is a tale that can be watched by the entire family. I'd recommend it as a way of introducing WWII history to younger children. While combat is shown, it is not graphic. 7of 10 stars.
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A helluva good action-suspense-feel good war film.
8-Foot3 September 2001
Since movies based on true life stories often are less than memorable, my expectations here were minimal. However, after viewing this film (finally!), I was very impressed. This story is very well done, with minimal obvious Hollywood embellishments. (No, I've not read the underlying book, of the same title, but now I'd like to.)

In the big scheme of World War II, the events depicted here would have been forgotten except that the central heroic figure, John F. Kennedy, would later become U.S. President. For those of us who lived through the Kennedy years, this portrait of JFK in his 20's is quite consistent with the JFK we later saw when he became nationally prominent and subsequently president. (If "Private Ryan" deserves a movie, then JFK and his shipmates are surely no less entitled.)

The story begins when JFK arrives in the Pacific and is given command of a PT ("Patrol Torpedo") boat. PT boats were fast wooden craft with a crew of 12 and carried four torpedos and some small-bore guns, capable of quickly getting in and out while operating in shallow waters and doing various odd jobs on short notice. Without a lucky torpedo shot, any one boat was not going to be noticed by history.

PT 109 operated into an area of Pacific waters and small islands mainly controlled by the Japanese. One of Kennedy's first missions was to provide covering fire onto shore and extricate some stranded Americans. The boat remained under enemy fire until the rescue was complete, notwithstanding casualties both to crew and those rescued.

On PT 109's final mission, during darkness and limited visibility (radar was not yet on most PT boats), a Japanese destroyer, perhaps unwittingly, slices through PT 109, half of which sinks while the other half capsizes, but not before JFK and surviving crew members make an arduous swim to shore, taking along their wounded---and shoes. Aerial reconnaissance later sights the wreckage and reports "no survivors."

How the PT 109 crew is finally saved results partly from good luck and partly from daring, ingenuity, exhausting swims, and a refusal to give up. Yes, this is also a feel-good movie!

(The movie also acknowledges the part played and risks taken by "coast watchers," isolated individuals who infiltrated islands in Japanese-controlled areas, maintained lookouts from high ground, and radioed back critical information on enemy movements.)
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Good historical drama
johno-218 May 2006
I first saw this film during it's initial theatrical release and have seen it several times since. This a good movie but at 2 hours and 20 minutes it runs a little long. This could have been made more concise and more adventurous and should have come in at 90 minutes and it would have been a better movie. Director Leslie Martinson only made nine mostly forgettable films in his long directorial career that was mostly in television. This was his best film. He was a much sought after television director and directed some of the most popular television series from the early 50's through the mid 80's. This was the last film in the long career of producer Bryan Foy. Foy was a producer and director from the 1920's and began producing full-time in the 1930's specializing in mainly B-movies. A great cinematographer here in Robert Surtees who had photographed Ben Hur, Oklahoma, quo Vidas and would go on to photograph The Graduate, The Summer of 42, The Last Picture Show and The Sting among his many films. A good editor on this film too in Folmar Blangsted who edited Rio Bravo and The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell and would go on to edit The Summer of 42 and ironically Camelot among his many films. This is the story of the naval career of future US President John F. Kennedy as a lieutenant in WWII. This is adapted from the best selling book PT 109 John F. Kennedy in WWII which was inspired by a 1944 article in the New Yorker magazine called Survival by John Hersey. The PT 109 story of the patrol boat in the South Pacific captained by Lt. John F. Kennedy that was cut in half in a collision with a Japanese destroyer was a big part of the Kennedy story. During his 1961 Inagural parade a full size replica float of the boat was featured in the parade route with all of the original crew members on the float as a surprise to the new president. He kept the coconut shell that he had written a message on encased in class in his Oval Office along with a model replica of a PT boat. Warren Beatty apparently was Kennedy's first choice to portray him in this film which would have made sense as when this was filmed in the summer of 1962 in the Florida Keys, Beatty was 25 years old, exactly the same age as Kennedy was in 1943 when the film's setting takes place. Beatty reportedly turned down the role and Kennedy's second choice was Cliff Robertson who at 36 years old when production was done on this film was a full 10 years older and quite a few pounds heavier than Kennedy was in 1943. Also in the cast are Robert Culp, Norman Fell, James Gregory, Ty Hardin and Robert Blake. Look for future Star Trekker George Takei on the Japaneses destroyer. Character actor Andrew Duggan narrates. This film has more of a look and feel of a made-for television movie but it's definitely worth a watch. I would give it a 7.0 out of 10.
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entertainment, but not history
kpcombs27 July 2006
I remember seeing this movie in the sixties, and have seen it several times over the years. It is entertaining, and very positive in it's portrayal of a young JFK. It is more of a love letter to JFK from Hollywood than a authentic retelling of history, however. This was done when the United States was in the midst of a romance with the new "Camelot", and accordingly much artistic license was taken at the expense of a authentic and unbiased depiction of the episode. Perhaps the film was meant to capture more of the spirit of the time than to portray strictly the hard facts of the event. In any case, it is still an enjoyable movie and is worth watching.
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Excellent little war movie
mrohlee13 January 2010
This movie has some great characters, some nice action, humor, and is really enjoyable to watch. The fact that it's based on real life incidents from JFK's time in the Navy makes it that much better. There are some nice touches that show that the boat wasn't the best in the fleet and JFK wasn't shown as a Superman. One of my favorite movie lines is from this movie. The boat has been sunk, several men are hurt and JFK gives a little speech to try to raise everyone's spirits and concludes his positive spin by saying the "odds are with us". Robert Culp very irritated says "We are trapped behind enemy lines, no food, no medical supplies, no one knows where we are, Japanese patrols are all around us, how can you stand there and say the odds are with us??" JFK says "I guess it's a character flaw".

The 60s and 70s would have been so much better for everyone if JFK had 8 years in the White House.
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Based on the true story of JFK and his experiences in the Solomon Islands during WW11.
grafspee28 March 2009
This movie has always been a great favorite of mine because I always regarded President John F. Kennedy to be one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century who championed the cause of Democracy throughout the world, particularly during the Cold War.

His service as a Naval Lieutenant in the Pacific during WW 11, in charge of a PT boat,(No. 109) which was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer during a night sortie in the Solomon Islands in August 1943 is one of heroic performance in which he paid vigilance to the safety of his disbanded crew, getting them to dry surroundings on a nearby island.

Their future looked bleak after being written off as dead by their own command,

But Australian Coast Watcher Lt. Reginald Evans (played by Michael Pate) and his loyal band of native Solomon Islanders refused to give up hope of their survival and after extensive searching discovered their whereabouts.

Kennedy sent a message to Evans carved on a coconut to confirm his presence and that of his men and they were subsequently rescued.

Kennedy's actions were very gallant on his part indeed, in order to keep his crew intact, and he did it with magnificent conduct in a role played superbly by Cliff Robertson.

Excellent supporting cast with James Gregory as local district Naval Commander Ritchie, and Ty Hardin, Robert Culp and Robert Blake making up as members of the crew.

A great well made movie of a true future leader - no wonder he became a U.S. President.

P.S. When President Kennedy paid a visit to Australia in 1962 he asked to meet once again with Lt. Evans and that was a bond of friendship renewed. I will never forget that terrible day one year later when he was assassinated in Dallas Texas on November 22nd 1963. I was 19 years old at the time.
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Good, entertaining depiction of JFK's WW2 exploits
grantss26 April 2016
Solomon Islands, 1943. US forces are slowly pushing the Japanese out of the region. Short of larger warships, and suited to the shallow, narrow waters of the Solomons, the US Navy is heavily reliant on Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats to harry the enemy and perform all manner of other duties. One such boat is PT-109. Based on a (mostly) true story, here we see PT-109's exploits in the Solomons campaign, especially one incident for which it would become famous. Moreover, the movie focuses on the exploits and derring-do of PT-109's commander, Lt (jg) John Fitzgerald Kennedy...

Good, entertaining depiction of JFK's wartime adventures in the Solomons, and the one famous incident in particular. Never dull, and with some degree of grit, this is a rollicking adventure story. Some liberties taken with regard to historical accuracy, but not major ones. Reasonably accurate, militarily. Is possibly a bit too folksy at times in terms of the crew interactions.

Good work by Cliff Robertson as JFK. Supporting cast put in solid performances too.

Possibly even more fascinating than the movie is the making of it. JFK was President when the movie was made. He had veto power over the choice of director (he blocked at least one chosen director), got to choose who played himself (Cliff Robertson got the nod) and had input into other areas of the movie too. He managed to see the movie (he was assassinated five months after it was released) and said he liked it, but also thought that, at 2 hrs 20 mins, the movie was perhaps too long.
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pt 109
Hawksvs19 November 2006
It was a excellent movies and well worth a viewers time.For a era piece I feel that it showed how Kennedy got hurt and how he saved the lives crew even after getting hurt bad himself. The locations for the filming of this piece was excellent and true to life. The life on those cardboard boats were tough and the men had to endure very severe living quarters as such. It also showed how Kennedy got his crew selected and how they came to help get the boat seaworthy in such a short time. i would recommend this file to all war film buffs and those who enjoy a action film. The acting was good for the times of the 60's when we were getting ready for Vietnam and the bay of pigs issue.
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Good War Movie
arsportsltd15 October 2011
As a Veteran I like War Movies and this film re tells the story of John F Kennedy's bravery in the Pacific theatre in WWII. John Kennedy had a mythic reputation while in office and Warner Bros was surely not going to do anything to dispel that myth. Cliff Robertson able star is cast as JFK. Others mentioned for the JFK role were Warren Beatty and a WB contract player Edd Byrnes who found fame as Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip. (Byrnes has written a book about his life which is a good read) Likely the reliable Mr. Robertson was more to the liking of the President than Warren Beatty or Edd Byrnes -who would have been my choice. Byrnes would have made JFK what he really was: A Randy Young Man! This is a good film, modest and easy to watch. It is also noted for the appearances of Warner Bros stars Ty Hardin and Grant Williams, and also Robert Culp, Robert Blake, et al who would find their mark as TV stars in the future. As has been noted Jack Warner who ran Warner Bros with an iron fist with great results deemed himself the Producer of this film likely to assuage any doubts of the Kennedy family of this film portraying JFK in anything but a positive light.

PT 109 is a respectful movie of a Naval Hero.

David Barra Los Angeles
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PR 101
RodReels-213 May 2001
It's easy to see why this one had the full cooperation of the Kennedy administration. Cliff Robertson smiles his way through his portrayal of a young JFK without even hinting at any negative attributes of the man. Still with all that said, this is a decent enough movie. Very pleasant in its telling of what is essentially a factual tale. Plus it's a blast seeing all of those character actors who would later make their marks in television series (Robert Blake, Norman Fell, Robert Culp, George Gaynes and my favorite "Barney Miller's" James Gregory) But at 2 hours, 20 minutes, this movie does begin to feel longer than Kennedy's tenure.
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JFK not blown away, what more do I have to say?
drystyx3 September 2012
This is an exciting film.

First of all, it is an action war film about a PT boat.

Second, it is based on the actual career of future beloved president, John F. Kennedy.

Cliff Robertson finds his best portrayals as men with a bit of a liberal in conservative environments. When one sees and hears Coff speak, one envisions a man who "cares" more than the law permits.

It makes him a natural to play JFK.

The rest of the cast is pretty much a semi star studded affair. Gregory, who comes across as the Irish cop sort of Barney Miller, is great in authority figure roles. Here, he has an extra dimension. Hardin is one of the most underrated actors ever. He escapes the super handsome Bronco image to don his "bearded" thinker image, only here he is a "bearded jock".

The story is riveting, and holds your attention. It's a story of adventure, but also of "guts", and of being comrades. It is a sense of helping other humans that has since been lost in Americans. There is no way I would believe an American today would sacrifice as much as JFK did to save human lives. Not from what I've seen. It is what made a "greater generation".
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PT 109 Was this film pure propaganda or fact?
Seosamh22 October 2005
I came across this film while flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon. It was about 1/4 way through when I realised that it was about JFK. While the film was very well done and enjoyable I found that the role of JFK was simply too good to be true. At every despairing event JFK would simply just roll up his sleeves and declare that he was going to get everyone home safe and sound even under ridiculous circumstances, just because he said so. Basically if he said so, it would happen. Throughout the film this prophesy prevailed which made you wonder was this retrospective propaganda or actual fact. This dilemma would not be of any consequence in a regular film, but when it portrays a sitting President in 1963 a few warning flags should be waved. However now in 2005 following the multiple tragic lives of the Kennedy dynasty, this self belief of being right no matter what the conditions (if true as portrayed in the film) might have proved a genetic flaw that his siblings should well have acknowledged.
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PT109 is Really Nothing With Nothing **1/2
edwagreen5 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The first half of this movie is rather ridiculous at best. All we basically hear about is cleaning up the 109.

The real acting kudos goes here to James Gregory as the Commander. The year before he gave an outstanding performance as Angela Lansbury's dimwitted Senator husband up to his neck in political intrigue. With his loud, boisterous, booming voice, Gregory does well here as well.

Even with the rather boring first half, the scenery is so beautiful that I expected a chorus of guys to come out and sing Bali Hai! That would have really been something.

The picture does pick up when the boat is slammed and those on board are in the jungle. It appears that no one can find them. It is at this point that Kennedy showed excellent leadership qualities. Still, some of the scenes trapped on the islands reminded me of Gilligan's Island. There isn't that much action and am surprised that Hollywood didn't take liberties to spice those scenes up.

Cliff Robertson gives a restrained performance as the future president. At least, he didn't try to emulate the Kennedy speech patterns.

With it all, the picture is still a major disappointment.
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Never test the depth of the water with BOTH feet!
Ed-Shullivan31 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Oh JFK! If it was not for JFK's fathers' very deep pockets do you really think this film semi biography would ever have been made, yet alone released widely? Add in top notch stars such as Cliff Robertson who plays Lt. JG John F. Kennedy, responsible for PT109, Robert Culp who plays Ensign George 'Barney' Ross, James Gregory as Commander C.R. Ritchie, and for good measure add in Robert Blake as Gunner's Mate Charles 'Bucky' Harris, and Norman Fell as Machinist Edmund Drewitch and you have an all star cast ready to set sail and fight those nasty Japanese in deep waters.

The problem I had with this film was that the period war film was released 20 years after the incident but only mere months before the next primary U.S. elections were to take place in 1964 and the then U.S. President John F. Kennedy intended to run for re-election. No coincidence here? But my disdain runs further. After watching the film PT 109 we the audience would be left to believe that the entire PT 109 crew were willing to surrender time and time again to the Japanese rather than swim 3 miles to a remote island and wait for their eventual rescue. Oh yes, everyone appeared to want to give up except the great JFK who led the way swimming the entire 3 miles in the ocean AND also towing another injured seaman on his own bad back, even carrying him out of the water and to dry land before getting immediately back into the water to assist the rest of his crew before a Japanese boat would otherwise have captured them all. Such a war hero that JFK!

That same night JFK swam out back into the middle of the ocean by himself in anticipation of spotting a U.S Naval rescue ship that did not materialize, at least not that first night. This movie would have been more appropriately titled "JFK a one man war hero". I will admit that JFK had some good qualities as the U.S. President as well as some bad qualities, one of which he was a known womanizer who demanded sex from many vulnerable woman, including Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe.

The 1963 film PT 109 may have put JFK in a light that shone bright as a U.S. naval hero, but the 4 million dollars spent on this film was all for naught, as on November 22, 1963, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, for reasons to this day still unknown.

I am not a big fan of glory pictures that are released to shine a positive light by very wealthy people who have a specific agenda. In this case PT 109 was released to promote JFK as a tough naval war hero just in time for the next U.S. election for which he was running for re-election as the U.S. President backed by the very wealthy Boston based Kennedy family. I gave the film a 5 out of 10 rating.
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"Ain't that the biggest damn fool you ever saw?"
classicsoncall31 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
My summary comment was by one of the sailors beached on Plum Pudding Island, about Lieutenant John F. Kennedy (Cliff Robertson) when he set out to swim to a lookout post from which he would try to locate a passing friendly boat to rescue his men. What the movie did for me was effectively present the unselfish heroism of a man who eventually became the country's thirty fifth President. Without his spirit of optimism, it was fairly apparent that some of that crew would have cracked under the pressure of capture by the Japanese, or die of starvation.

Robertson is supported in the story by quite an eclectic cast. His closest aides are former TV cowboy heroes Ty Hardin (Bronco, 1958-1962) as Ensign Leonard Thom, and Robert Culp (Trackdown, 1957-1959) as Ensign Barney Ross. Hardin was virtually unrecognizable under that beard and mustache, I had to check the credits list to see where he fit in. Other cast surprises for this viewer included Grant Williams, Robert Blake and Norman Fell.

I recall having read the William Doyle book 'PT 109' ages ago and didn't remember the coconut part of the story; seeing the scene in the movie makes it seem almost impossible that the crew of the sunken boat could have been saved in that manner. Also, my impression of PT boats was that they were somewhat smaller than the way they were depicted in the movie, so seeing them in action was informative. Overall, this is one of those historically real stories that would have to have occurred, as seeing it play out in a movie seems more like fiction than fact.
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earnest war movie
SnoopyStyle29 May 2016
U.S. Navy Lieutenant John F. Kennedy (Cliff Robertson) uses his family name to get assigned to the Solomon Islands. The flimsy torpedo-laden PT boats are used on the frontlines as the Navy is hard up for ships. Kennedy insists on captaining a boat instead of being on staff with Commander Ritchie. The 109 is a mess. The crew includes executive officer Thom (Ty Hardin), Bucky Harris (Robert Blake) and machinist Edmund Drewitch (Norman Fell).

This is an earnest depiction. Kennedy is never less than a boy scout. Cliff Robertson does a solid job although he's too old by 10 years. It's missing that young dashing captain aspect. His age also deprives the movie of a possible compelling learning curve in Kennedy's development. It's all very old fashion but well-made.
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maybe it's just me, but the title makes it sound like a Beach Boys movie
lee_eisenberg30 August 2006
As someone born long after the Kennedy years, I admit that I don't really know what he was like, and I've certainly never read his book about his WWII experiences. But I have seen the movie version of "PT 109". I will say that it's worth seeing just because it is about one of our most beloved presidents, but otherwise, it's kinda jingoistic and not 100% interesting. We see how JFK (Cliff Robertson) was sort of unsure what to think of the war initially, but knew what to do once he started fighting.

So, it's clearly a product of America's "age of innocence". But still, I recommend it just because it shows how Kennedy was actually someone whom we could trust in wartime. Also starring Robert Culp ("Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"), Grant Williams ("The Incredible Shrinking Man"), Robert Blake and Norman Fell.

And yes, I think that the title sounds like a Beach Boys movie. That's just me, I guess.
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" Here we are, stranded and left for dead and you believe the odds are on our side. "
thinker169114 March 2009
The world of celluloid knows the 35th president of the United States as John F. Kennedy. He is certainly the most charismatic of all modern presidents and one destined to grace the memorable portrait walls of his Camelot. There are hundreds of notable exploits of the young Kennedy, but this film " P.T. 109 " ranks among the most memorable. Although the film accentuates the brief period the young Lt. J.G (junior Grade) arrived to the Solomon islands and took command the now famous craft, the actual story begins on the night of August 2nd, 1943. It was during a night action that Kennedy's ship was attacked by an enemy destroyer and it's survivors left for dead. Were it not for Kennedy's (Cliff Robertson) unwavering faith and confidence, the injured crew envisioned inevitable captured and slow starvation. As it was, his men later recounted their commander's indomitable courage and despite his injured spine, gave hope to his despairing men during that terrifying ordeal. The supporting cast includes Ty Hardin, James Gregory as Cmdr. C.R. Ritchie, Robert Culp, Norman Fell and Robert Blake as Charles 'Bucky' Harris. The fact the now legendary boat is a piece of history as is the equally immortal Kennedy, who is forever enshrined in the hearts of Americans, this movie easily takes it's place among the Classic annals of heroic men. ****
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Royalcourtier28 May 2013
I first saw this movie as a teenager in the 1970's. I remember it well, and I did enjoy it. As I have grown older and wiser, developed an interest in naval and political history, and served in the navy myself, I have realised the films limitations. On one level it is an exciting war adventure. But it was intended as more than that. The film was intended as a hagiography. Despite its best efforts, it is unable to elevate Kennedy above what he was - a self-centred, hedonistic, arrogant, elitist, who was sure of his own place in history. He used others to advance himself, even if that meant endangering the lives of his own crew, and claiming credit for their survival when credit lay with others.
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A Profile In Courage!!!
zardoz-137 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Leslie H. Martinson served as a contract director for Warner Brothers during the first half of his career and he helmed virtually every Warner Brothers television shows, like "Cheyenne," "Sugarfoot," "Maverick," "Surfside 6," "Bronco," and "Colt .45." Martinson replaced "All Quiet on the Western Front" director Lewis Milestone. According to one report, Milestone objected to the screenplay, but no details about his criticisms have ever aired. "PT-109" qualifies as much as a thrilling World War II adventure as it does a publicity stunt for JFK. Basically, the facts are correct, but Warner Brothers tampered with the timeline. When JFK rescued the Marines off the beach, PT-109 had been sunk and he was skipper of PT=59. Clearly, the filmmakers put the beach episode before the historic sinking of PT-109 to avoid anti-climax. It's true that Kennedy sought to get into the fight and his father pulled strings to get him into the U.S. Navy, even though Kennedy had a bad back. The scene aboard the ship at the beginning is correct. No, "PT-109" isn't the best Hollywood movie about the torpedo boats in the South Pacific. That honor goes to John Ford's movie "They Were Expendable." Nevertheless, this is a very good World War II, with Cliff Robertson delivering a robust performance as the future U.S. President. "Ben-Hur" lenser Robert L. Surtees makes the scenery and the action look is spectacular. Musicians William Lava & David Buttolph delivered a memorable orchestral soundtrack that has never been released. The music is quite catchy. This largely straightforward seafaring saga is entertaining. The film has an authentic look and scenarist Richard Breen doesn't miss a chance to poke friendly fun at Kennedy. Robertson's speech about his "character flaw" is cool. Although the war took place in the South Pacific, Warner Brothers lensed the picture in Key West. If you pay close attention, there are no more than three PT-boats on camera. Some of the scenes are classic. James Gregory is sympathetic curmudgeon. I saw this movie when it was shown at the theater on the Columbus Air Force Installation when I was in the fourth grade. Future television actors Robert Blake, Norman Fell, George Takei, and Roger Davis have roles.
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Plywood Navigator's Told Story
DKosty12324 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This Warner Brothers production was personally supervised by Jack Warner. Legend has it that Warren Beatty was Jackie Kennedy's choice to play he husband in the film but Jack decided on Cliff Robertson? Warren Beatty in 1963 was best known for his role in Dobie Gillis on TV & would have been coming from a starring role in All Fall Down in 1962. He would have gone from playing a drifter to laying a young US President. Instead he would be in 1964's Lilith next. Beatty was really just getting going.

Robertson, in contrast was already an established star. As JFK was actually more of a conservative Democrat, the established star would make more sense.

This film runs a bit long at 2 hours & 20 minutes, but I think that has to do with the fact that JFK told them he wanted accuracy in this movie. Think that scared Warners into making it long in order to make a statement about it being accurate. It is not as far off as many times when Hollywood would take liberties with. Robert J Donovan who wrote the book, really only has 1 other writing credit. I guess he made enough money on PT109 that he didn't write Cold War until 1998.

This a a fairly good film as a young Robert Culp, James Gregory, Norman Fell, & some other folks who would go on to more fame are in this one. I like the way it opens with a junior officer trying to get JFK to go stateside & open brothels with him. Ironically, maybe JFK should have taken him up on that, but why should he need to run brothels when legend has it he could have almost any woman he wanted for free.

This tale states that JFK's back problems were caused when a Japanese Destroyer cut the 109 into 2 halves. The legend of that here is put too film along with some other major materials.
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Painful musical score targeted at 5 year-olds
quinnmac-200542 July 2019
I tried to make it to the end of this movie. The soundtrack is the unwelcome lead character. Imagine watching the images of a low-budget WWII movie to the soundtrack of Looney Tunes cartoon. Someone bumps their head - here comes the muted horn whah-whah. A free-spirited soldier approaches - queue the bouncy clarinet. Japanese troops? Hurry, switch to a minor key and throw in some discordant notes. The bulk of the movie, even the boring parts refurbishing boats, have exceptionally over-loud marching music. I don't know how anyone could watch this movie and not have images of Elmer Fudd superimposed over JFK in their minds. It bordered on disrespectful to me. Was the composer getting paid by the note? I know this style of music was the norm at the time of filming, but it really takes it to the next level - a little silence would go a long way.
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Bland performance by Cliff Robertson as JFK amid some excitingly staged war scenes...
Doylenf29 April 2010
Despite the bland performance of CLIFF ROBERTSON as JFK, PT 109 manages to be a well-staged WWII adventure photographed in handsome Technicolor with some very fine special effects that make all the battle scenes look very realistic.

The best performance in the film is delivered by JAMES GREGORY as the hard-nosed commander of the PT squadron, with a cynical view of the young Kennedy who has had no wartime training until he arrives in the Pacific to put together a crew to work aboard a hastily repaired patrol boat.

It's a story of courage and heroism that could have been told in ninety minutes to make the drama more taut. Instead, the film is padded out to a two-hours and twenty-minutes length that makes it feel like another "Mr. Roberts," especially during the long first hour.

All of the squadron members are well played by a cast that includes TY HARDIN, GRANT WILLIAMS and ROBERT BLAKE as able seamen who form Kennedy's crew. Touches of wartime humor are present with amusing lines throughout. ("The skipper would mount a tank on a PT boat if he could find one," says a loyal crewman at one point). And when Kennedy is reminded of how idealistic he is when confronting the most unfavorable situations, he replies with a grin: "It must be a character flaw."

The only real flaw with the film is its length, which robs it of some much needed tension toward the middle. However, as a film examining the earlier life of JFK's participation as a lieutenant in WWII, it's satisfying enough as a realistic depiction of the events aboard PT 109.

Summing up: The basic story of Kennedy's efforts to bring his men back safely from a dangerous mission is effectively portrayed and manages to hold the interest despite being overlong. Worth seeing at least once.
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