FLYING LEATHERNECKS—-war movie buffs and John Wayne fans will catch this one without reservation: others not interested in flaming ‘Zeroes’ and up’n at’em speeches will be put off fast. Set in the South Pacific, around Guadalcanal, in ’43, the wheezing-tired script reactivates The Dawn Patrol dilemma of the gruff commander who pushes his easy-going execs and boyish pilots to the limit–‘cuz the job’s a dirty one and someone has to do it.
Wayne is suitable, and Robert Ryan makes a strong co-star, but the supporting players are nondescript, and the hangar harangues are old hat. Aloft, director Nicholas Ray blends a very impressive batch of vivid color combat footage with his studio shots, making for spectacular battle scenes. Noisy, fast, and ferociously real, these action segments will keep gung-ho’ers gunging. *
From 1951, alternately droning or zooming by at 102 minutes, with Don Taylor, Janis Carter, Jay C. Flippen, Adam Williams and Carleton Young, it racked up $5,720,000, coming in #16 for the year. Fledgling actor Williams won the Navy Cross for heroic piloting of his dive-bomber in the Philippine Sea, 1944, and went on to a long career, mostly as a bad guy.
* Nicholas Ray: “I cast Ryan opposite Wayne because I knew Ryan was the only actor in Hollywood who could kick the shit out of Wayne”. Along with having served as a drill instrcutor in the Marine Corps, Ryan had been a tenacious heavyweight boxer at Dartmouth. The two political rivals never mixed it up on the set however, and got along in spite of their belonging to different ideological camps.