Thursday, March 26, 2015

70th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima and so I thought this would be a great opportunity to share with you some trivia about the John Wayne movie: Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).

Summary: After his wife takes their son and leaves him, Sgt. John Stryker is an embittered man who takes his misery out on the men under his command. They're a bunch of green recruits who have a hard time dealing with Stryker's tough drills and thicker skin. Even his old friends start to wonder if he's gone from being the epitome of a tough Marine Sergeant to a man over the edge.

 You gotta learn right and you gotta learn fast. And any man that doesn't
want to cooperate, I'll make him wish he had never been born.
~ Sgt. Stryker (John Wayne)

  • Actual combat scenes taken during fighting on Tarawa and Iwo Jima were used in this film.
  • Mostly unnoticed is the homage this film pays to a real Marine, "Manila" John Basilone. Basilone was a Sergeant and hero on Guadacanal, winning the Medal of Honor. He was sent home for war bond drives but requested to be returned to combat. He did so and died on Iwo Jima. There is a famous (to history buffs, anyway)photo of his body on Iwo Jima, face down and with his name visible, that is almost exactly the same pose that Wayne is in at his death on film. Also, "Jonathan M" Stryker has more than a passing resemblance to "Manila (or M) John".
  • This film recreates the famous Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima scene as known famously from an historic photograph which was taken on the 23rd February, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. The three surviving flag raisers make a cameo appearance during this scene in the film. These three men who were part of the flag raising (made famous by the photograph Joe Rosenthal had taken) and survived the battle for Iwo Jima, appear in this scene only. Rene A. Gagnon, Ira H. Hayes and John H. Bradley are seen with with John Wayne as he instructs them to hoist the flag (Wayne gives the folded flag to Gagnon). The flag used to recreate the incident is the actual flag that was raised on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. It was loaned to the movie by the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia.
Left to right: Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley
John Wayne and John Bradley, who played himself (he's quite a looker!)
  • This film was so highly regarded by the Marine Corps that it was required viewing to all recruits during basic training into the early '80s.
Thank you letter signed by John Wayne to the Marines for their help
  • The New York Times reported on 5 February 1950 that Republic Pictures was developing a sequel to this movie entitled "Devil Birds", again to star John Wayne, but nothing came of it.
  • John Wayne received his first ever Academy Award nomination for this movie. He wouldn't be nominated again for 20 years for True Grit (1969), for which he would win the Best Actor Oscar.
 You’ll never win anything.
You’ll always be taken for granted.
It’s just a cross you’ll have to bear.
~ John Ford on Wayne's loss 
  • Following the success of the movie, John Wayne was invited to place his footprints in cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theater. As part of the event, actual black sand from Iwo Jima was flown to Hollywood and mixed into the cement in which The Duke left his footprints and "fist print".

  • Kirk Douglas was considered for the role of Sergeant Stryker before director Allan Dwan realized he could get John Wayne to play the part [A perfectly natural reaction].
  • John Wayne turned the film down at first, since at 42 he was rather old for the part and because he felt the public had had enough of war films.
To the United States Marine Corps whose exploits and valor have left a lasting impression on the world and in the hearts of their countrymen. Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their assistance and participation which made this picture possible.
Premiere: John Wayne (far left) and Major General Graves B. Erskine (5th from right) - source
Source: IMDb
All images found via Pinterest

No comments:

Post a Comment