Please Note: Contains Plot Lines and Possible Spoilers
Gung Ho! Stars Legendary Randolph Scott (Colonel Thorwald) with general cast including: Robert Mitchum (Pig Iron), Alan Curtis (Harbison – An Ordained Minister), Sam Levene (Transport), David Bruce (Larry – Half Brother to Kurt), Noah Berry Jnr. (Kurt – Half Brother to Larry O’Ryan), Peter Coe (Kozzarowski), Harry Landon (Frankie Montana). Grace McDonald (Kathleen Corrigan – and love interest of Kurt and Larry).
Released in 1943 by Universal Pictures and presented in Black and White.
Gung Ho! A war movie classic released in the heart of World War 2 just after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and no doubt viewed by the audiences at the time as a very patriotic and uplifting movie. This movie is the story of Carlson’s Makin Island Raiders. It runs for approx. 85 minutes, but packed with action from start to finish. If you love classic old war movies made in World War 2, you will enjoy this one I am sure!
A call is put out for men to volunteer for a special Battalion (The Second Marine Raider Battalion) by Lieutenant Cristoforos (played by J. Carroll Naish), with the promise of active duty in an overseas combat zone. Only the brave, tough and ready for action need apply! This is above and beyond the call of duty.
We see a mixed line-up of soldiers ready to take on the job going for interviews. Gunner McBride (played by Walter Sande) is one of the officers in charge of this duty. Here we meet the main cast of men who make up Carlson’s Raiders. Characters of all kinds apply for personal reasons and otherwise. But they all have one thing in common: they each want the chance to take on the Japanese as part of this special Raider Battalion.
Included we meet Harbison (played by Alan Curtis) an Ordained Minister, who is happy to put his calling aside to be a part of the Raiders. He feels he is more needed in the danger zone with the other men, than anywhere else. Frankie Montana (played by Harold Landen), a soldier Lieutenant Cristoforos doesn’t feel belongs to a tough outfit like the Raider Battalion. A kid, who has been pushed around and called no good all his life, who came up the hard way in the streets of Brooklyn. But after Lieutenant Cristoforos speaks with him for a while, he soon realizes how similar they are, they both had it rough on the way up in life; so Cristoforos takes a chance on the kid – he’s in!
Next comes ‘Pig Iron’ a boxing champ in his home town (played by Robert Mitchum) of East New Jersey. A Young Robert Mitchum still at the very beginning of his movie career, (when this is re-run on TV these days and with Robert Mitchum going on to be a big star, he is usually billed the main star of this film. In actuality he is only seen randomly throughout. It is not a Robert Mitchum movie, but a movie where Robert Mitchum has a small part.
Larry O’ Ryan (played by David Bruce), and his Half Brother Kurt Richter (played by Noah Berry Jnr) are next in line. Kurt says his joining to fight the Japanese, his brother Larry thinks otherwise. They both have an interest in Kathleen (played by Grace McDonald), and Larry thinks Kurt is joining only to impress her. Kathleen’s father is also the quartermaster in the Marine Barracks of the Navy Yard. Joining, they feel may help their chances with her. Noah Barry Jnr. played in many movies of the era, but was most recognized as the father of James Garner’s character Jim Rockford in the 1970’s TV show ‘The Rockford Files’).
Also seen enlisting is J. Alex Havier (no character name given) and not really seen after this enlistment scene, but mentioned here as he had a larger part in the same year playing alongside Robert Taylor in ‘Bataan’ as Yankee Salazar.
“Transport” (played by Sam Levine – and the Colonels personal runner) meets up with Colonel Thorwald (Randolph Scott) where they discuss old times. Transport quizzes him on where he had been since their last meeting. Transport and the other guys assumed the Colonel had left the Marines; but that was far from the truth. Knowing the war with Japan was heading their way, and with China in the war many years before the U.S., he wanted to see what they were up against. So he joined the Chinese Army to see how they train and fight.
With the enlistment complete, the Colonel gives the chosen men a stirring and moral boosting speech on their future in the Raiders. Immediately exercise, special training in weapons and self-defense begins. This hard training is used to reduce the numbers down further to a tighter unit. At this moment in time, the mission they are training for is kept secret from the men and us.
The Raiders motto? Gung Ho (the Chinese meaning is Gung for work – Ho for harmony). Say it with me now – GUNG HO!
The sub-storyline of this movie is the love both Larry and Kurt have for Kathleen. Each doing their best to get her attention and to be the one she chooses. A few sneaky tricks are used to be alone, but before long the other brother appears and the romantic moment passes. The romantic scenes of this storyline play off well to the harder main plot of the Raiders.
With training now over, the Raiders are off on their mission. During these tense weeks at sea on board a submarine, Gunner McBride’s birthday is celebrated and a cake is made for him. Tedrow (played by Rod Cameron) finds the close quarters of submarine life underwater extremely unbearable and begins to lose control for a brief moment. He is put right by Harbison the Minister and told to concentrate on counting sheep to keep his mind busy. Tedrow tells him he doesn’t have sheep, they had hogs and only 4 at that…so he counts just those four hogs over and over to relax.
At this stage and safely out to sea their objective is given – Makin Island. An island occupied by the Japanese, and with the odds against them it will be a hard task and tough battle.
During the weeks at sea the men are allowed to exercise on deck. Japanese planes are spotted and the men must withdraw below ready to dive. Corporal Tedrow who had fallen asleep on deck but isn’t missed until the last minute. The Submarine already half submerged just in time resurfaces to rescue him. These crucial moments expose the submarine to the Japanese planes, and they get depth charged. During these tense moments Frankie Montana begins to fall apart but is controlled by Lieutenant Cristoforos. Cristoforos reminds the other men that getting scarred in those conditions is normal, and it can happen to anyone. No-one should think he’s yella.
Eventually arriving off the island of Makin, they embark on rubber rafts to the shore. There is a tough and drawn out battle with the Japanese and good men are lost. Pig Iron gets shot in the throat, and without being able to speak has to use his knife to save the doctors life.
One of the hut roofs is painted with the American Flag. By painting the roof they trick the Japanese pilots flying overhead into thinking the island is now taken.
Moving in deeper they encounter more Japanese and further battles ensue. Now pinned down and under fire; Transport and Kozzarowski jump on a steam roller to help clear the path for the Raiders.
Japanese pilots flying overhead see the American flag and fly in laughing and excited at the thought they are wiping out the American soldiers below. All they are really doing is wiping out the Japanese soldiers below who are desperately trying to run from the onslaught of machine gun fire and aerial bombing. With the help of the enemy pilots overhead, the Raiders mission is complete. Time to evacuate the island and rendezvous with their transport submarine.
The final scenes of this classic movie on the submarine, have Colonel Thorwald (Randolph Scott) looking directly into the camera. In this speech he reminds us the viewer (the wartime audience) that the job of winning the war isn’t over. The fight had to continue to ensure freedom, and those trying to take it away…had to be stopped! If you were in the audience and watched Randolph Scott speak directly to you through the movie screen, it would have been very uplifting.
Who Else Could have Played That Part?
In think John Wayne could have done it well also.
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