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Observing Veterans Day With the Duke

November 08, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Wayne never served in the armed forces. But on the silver screen, the Duke was a heroic figure who fought in practically every war. On Veterans Day this coming Monday, the nation will remember all the men and women who served our country. To get into a patriotic mood, check out some of these war-themed Wayne flicks.

Wayne and Anthony Quinn star in 1945's rugged "Back to Bataan" (Turner, $20). In this outing, Wayne leads a group of Filipino guerrillas to victory over the Japanese. Beware the colorized version.

The Duke romances reporter Susan Hayward and still manages to find time to help form the naval construction battalions with Dennis O'Keefe in 1944's extremely popular "The Fighting Seabees" (Republic, $10).

Nicholas Ray directed 1951's taut "The Flying Leathernecks" (Turner, $15), which features ace performances by Wayne as a tough squadron leader and Robert Ryan as his fellow officer who thinks he's too hard on his men. Terrific aerial footage.

The 1942 "Flying Tigers" (Republic, $10) is a high-flying salute to the All-American Volunteer Group who flew for China against the Japanese before the U.S. entered World War II. Wayne plays a squadron leader; John Carroll is the cocky new recruit; Anna Lee plays the pretty nurse who is the object of both of their affections.

War movies don't get much worse than 1968's "The Green Berets" (Warner, $20), which Wayne stars in and directed. Hawkish, trite and cliche-ridden, the Vietnam War adventure serves up Wayne as a Special Forces colonel leading his men against the Viet Cong. David Janssen and Jim Hutton also star.

John Ford directed the underrated 1959 Civil War drama "The Horse Soldiers" (MGM, $20). Wayne is just fine as a rugged Union cavalry officer sent with a sabotage party into Rebel territory to destroy a railroad junction. William Holden also is on hand as a pacifist Union doctor.

In "Reunion in France" (MGM, $20)--a guilty pleasure from 1942--Joan Crawford plays a Parisian dress designer who helps American flyer Wayne escape from France after the Nazi invasion. Of course, Joan falls for the Duke. Watch for a young Ava Gardner in a bit part.

Wayne received his first Oscar nomination for his memorable performance in 1949's stirring "The Sands of Iwo Jima" (Republic, $20). The Duke is perfectly cast as a tough Marine sergeant who trains a group of rebellious recruits. They prove their mettle when they help capture Iwo Jima from the Japanese. John Agar and Forrest Tucker also star. Directed by the always dependable Allan Dwan.

Wayne and John Ford teamed for the serviceable 1957 bio-pic, "Wings of Eagles" (MGM, $20). Wayne is all bluster and blarney as Frank "Spig" Wead, a two-fisted World War I aviation pioneer who became the screenwriter of such films as "Hell Divers." Maureen O'Hara is her usually spunky self as his wife. Dan Dailey also stars.

Wayne and Claudette Colbert sparkle in the 1946 romantic comedy hit "Without Reservations" (Turner, $20). Colbert plays a successful novelist who meets a handsome Marine flier (Wayne) and his buddy (Don DeFore) while traveling on a Hollywood-bound train. She thinks Wayne would be perfect for the film version of her bestseller. Mervyn LeRoy directed.

War II: John Palmer hosts and narrates "Secret Weapons" (MPI, $15 each, $80 for the set), a 13-part series focusing on the major secret weapons that have helped shape war and espionage. Among the topics covered are the birth of the jet engine, weapons and ideas that flopped in the battlefield, and the race to create the atomic bomb.

Time-Life's 15-volume series "Century of Warfare" ($80 per set) is an exhaustive chronicle of the three significant periods of 20th century armed combat: World War I, World War II and the Modern Warfare Collection. Each period is explored over five volumes. The archival footage is remarkable, with more than three-quarters never before shown in public. Robert Powell narrates. To order, call (800) TimeVid.

Killer B: Scott Valentine, who acts as if he's seen "Rambo" one too many times, plays the tough-nosed leader of an anti-terrorist squad out to nab man-eating carnosaurs in the hoot "Carnosaur III: Primal Species" (New Horizons).

Coming Next Week: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight and Emmanuelle Beart star in the blockbuster summer action-thriller "Mission: Impossible" (Paramount, $20).

Eddie Murphy plays the overweight, lovelorn Professor Sherman Klump, as well as six other roles, in the summer comedy hit "The Nutty Professor" (MCA/Universal, $23).

Winona Ryder and Lukas Haas star in the romantic comedy "Boys" (Hollywood).

John Schlesinger directed the wry British comedy "Cold Comfort Farm" (MCA/Universal), starring Kate Beckinsale, Ian McKellen and Rufus Sewell.

David Schwimmer and Gwyneth Paltrow star in the comedy "The Pallbearer" (Miramax).

Rhea Perlman is a female P.E. teacher who becomes coach of a boys high school varsity team in "Sunset Park" (Columbia TriStar).

Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins, Brian Hooks and Coolio star in the hip-hop surf flick "Phat Beach" (Live).

Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn star in the death row drama "Beyond the Call" (Evergreen).

Pinhead returns for his fourth and final outing in the horror flick "Hellraiser: Bloodline" (Dimension).

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