Maine-born John Ford (born Sean Aloysius O’Fearna) originally went to Hollywood in the shadow of his older brother, Francis, an actor/writer/director who had worked on Broadway. Originally a laborer, propman’s assistant, and occasional stuntman for his brother, he rose to became an assistant director and supporting actor before turning to directing in 1917. Ford became best known for his Westerns, of which he made dozens through the 1920s, but he didn’t achieve status as a major director until the mid-‘30s, when his films for RKO (The Lost Patrol 1934, The Informer 1935), 20th Century Fox (Young Mr. Lincoln 1939, The Grapes of Wrath 1940), and Walter Wanger (Stagecoach 1939), won over the public, the critics, and earned various Oscars and Academy nominations. His 1940s films included one military-produced documentary co-directed by Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland, December 7th (1943), which creaks badly today (especially compared with… read more
An exquisitely shot film with the technical sagacity that Ford is known for. However, it is made in a more semidocumentary style as opposed to the expressionist/romantic that is exhibited in some of his better known films. Nevertheless, I did enjoy this picture very much and it's essential for any John Ford fan or anyone interested in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
"They Were Expendable's verisimilitude, richness of texture, and sense of spontaneity are the by-products of Ford's three and half years witnessing and recording actual warfare. Ford said he approached the film as a 'documentary,' using no reflectors to supplement exterior lighting and maintaining a realistically low light level for interiors. 'A documentary, yes,' commented Admiral Bulkeley, 'but with good actors.'" —Joseph McBride
Lessons on how to be the man. (Not shown prerequisites: directing Air Mail, They Were Expendable, How the West Was Won.)