Saturday, October 29, 2016

PT-109 (1963)

Back in the day when men were men and women were women and president's looked like president's... a movie was made about John F. Kennedy's service during WWII. The star of the film was Cliff Robertson, hand-picked by the president himself. The film: PT-109 (1963).
IMPORTANT: PT-109 is airing on TCM Nov. 1 at 8 pm ET. If you miss it, who knows how long it will be before TCM shows it again. I had to wait a couple years before they showed it earlier this year.

As most biopics, the picture runs long - over two hours. Now, being a big fan of Cliff Robertson, I didn't mind the long length. He's also the only major star in the movie.

Here is the description from the TCM site:
In the early days of World War II, Lieut. (j.g.) John F. Kennedy arrives in the Solomon Islands to assume command of the battle-scarred PT 109. After making hasty repairs, he and his crew are sent to rescue a Marine patrol trapped on Choiseul. Though the mission is successful, the boat runs out of fuel and has to be towed back to base. Then, on the morning of August 2, 1943, while attempting to prevent the Japanese from landing troops at Vila, PT 109, having no radar equipment, is rammed and split in two by an enemy destroyer. Two of the men are killed, and Kennedy decides the only chance he and the other survivors have is to swim to a nearby island. One of the men is too badly burned to swim, and Kennedy tows him through the water. All efforts to make their location known fail until Kennedy writes a message on a coconut, which friendly natives take to nearby Rendova. They return with a canoe, hide Kennedy under palm fronds, and deliver him to an Australian coastwatcher. After directing the rescue of his men, Kennedy learns he is eligible for transfer home; instead, he elects to assume command of another PT boat.
This clip on Youtube really made me want to see the movie. I love the line at the end:

Some trivia about the film:

The real PT 109 had been engaged in continual combat for five months when JFK took command, but was not the derelict, inoperative hulk depicted in the movie.

When President Kennedy saw early footage of parts of the film, his only complaint was that Cliff Robertson was parting his hair on the right, while JFK's hair parted on the left. Robertson dutifully parted his hair on the left for the film.

It was decided and approved by President Kennedy that Cliff Robertson speak in his natural voice and not try to imitate JFK's Boston accent for the film.

Cliff Robertson portrays John F. Kennedy during his late twenties during World War II. However, in real life Robertson was 40 years old when this film was released.

Mrs Kennedy's preference to play President John F. Kennedy was Warren Beatty.

The meaning of film's title "PT 109" is PT Boat 109 or Patrol Torpedo Boat 109 or Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109. PT is a symbol referring to a motor torpedo boat's hull classification symbol (aka hull codes aka hull numbers), in this case PT stands for Patrol Torpedo. Occasionally, movies will lend their titles to the numerical designation of a boat

I just learned the other day that Natalie Portman is starring in a film called Jackie about Jackie Kennedy following Kennedy's assassination. Rachel Weisz was originally wanted for the part (and she would have looked perfect in my opinion) but she turned it down. It is slated for release on Dec. 2 of this year.

This post is part of the Hail to the Chief! Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie. Be sure to read all of the other Presidential posts (especially if the coming election has been getting you down).


  1. You psot made me realize that I know nothing about JFK before he became president... Cliff Robertson is indeed a very good actor, and I believe I'll learn a lot with this biopic.
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

    1. I checked out a kids book from the library before I saw the movie and it was really fascinating what he went through and all we remember is his assassination and affairs. Thanks for reading!!! Hope you enjoy the movie :)

  2. I've not seen this film and wish I'd gotten here earlier, so I could've watched it on November 1. I'd love to see this in the future. To be honest, I've never been crazy about Kennedy-based films or mini-series, but I really love Cliff Robertson and the plot of this sounds very interesting! Enjoyed your post!

    1. It would have been perfect if they would have cut off about 30 min. but Cliff really is great in it. If you can't find a copy of the film, you should definitely read up on the real incident! Amazing!

  3. I never get tired of this movie.

  4. My paternal grandparents, both New Deal Democrats and big fans of JFK, took me to see this film at the RKO Albee theater in downtown Cincinnati in the summer of 1963. I remember buying the paperback edition of Robert J. Donovan's book "PT 109 - John F. Kennedy in World War II," the Gold Key comic book version of "PT 109," and I built the Revell 1/72nd scale plastic PT 109 model kit.

    1. Wow, that’s so cool!! Thanks for sharing! I recently bought Robert Ballard’s book about finding the wreck of the PT 109. I haven’t read it yet though.