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PT 109

Almost 20 years before matinee idol Ronald Reagan became the president of the United States, the then-incumbent president, John F. Kennedy, was transformed into a matinee idol by this naval adventure film, which re-creates his thrilling WW II heroics. Under the command of Lt. Kennedy (Cliff Robertson), the battle-toughened crew of PT 109 participates in a daring rescue of Marines from the island of Choiseul. Later, their speedy but susceptible craft is rammed by a Japanese destroyer and split in two, forcing the crew to swim to the relative safety of a not-so-nearby island. One of the sailors is too badly hurt to swim, however, so Kennedy carries him; later, Kennedy makes a perilous journey to an island when an Australian who monitors Japanese activity (Michael Pate) radios for help. While he makes no attempt to imitate Kennedy's distinctive accent and speech pattern, Robertson delivers a believable, if less than charismatic, portrayal of the man who would be president, though Richard L. Breen, Howard Sheehan, and Vincent X. Flaherty's adaptation of Robert J. Donovan's book leaves him no choice but to do some unnatural speechifying on occasion. The long section during which Kennedy and crew (including Ty Hardin, Robert Culp, and James Gregory) get to know each other is slow going, but the action scenes are generally worth the wait.