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 Author  Topic: PT 109 The Movie!!
Mike Mosier

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Mike Mosier  Posted on: May 27, 2007 - 5:49pm
I just finished watching PT 109 with Cliff Robertson for about the 100th time. I was reminded of the time I took the wife and kiddies for a ride on the PT 109 in Wildwood Crest New Jersey. It was about 1975 and
I was in the area tracking down leads on PT's and Packard engines and stuff.
I thought I'd pass on a few observations/questions about the movie and the boats. All comments are welcome.
The boat we road on had supposedly been used in the movie.
It was an 85ft Air Rescue boat. Not sure where it was made, Miami maybe??
It originally had 2 Packards in it?? or were they Hall-Scotts??.
If you notice in the movie, you never see more than 4 exhausts making smoke!
It was powered at the time we rode it by 2/ 8-71 (V-8) Detroit diesels side by side with a 12-71 (V-12) forward and center in a direct drive configuration. This engine was dragged in to start and used to
boost the speed for runs up and down the beach off of Wildwood Crest/Ocean City.
I did go below to see the engines and seem to remember the rest of the hull had been gutted.
The 80ft Elco cabin that was used in the movie, (so I was told) or a repro of one, was sitting in the parking lot.
All the other cabins and deck fixtures had been removed and replaced by rows of bench seats.
As far as them using any real Elco's in the movie, I raise these questions!!
1) Just after the 109 takes it's practice torpedo run at the supply ship, there is a shot of the starboard side of what I believe is a real 80' Elco in what looks like Forest green. I know there seems to be quite a controversy over the color of the PT's.
2) When Kennedy, ( Robertson ) inspects his new ride, were the below decks shots taken in a real Elco??
3) How about those engine room shots? Three V-12 Packard engines, correct positions, correct MotorMac seat on the Starboard engine, correct ladder and step pad on the Center engine, correct gear shift locations, correct instrument panel and location. If not real, an awfull lot of detail work went into making that engine room historically accurate!
4) When they're being bombed and stafed at the dock, there is an overturned bow section in the background.this appears again later as what is left of the 109 after it was hit by the destroyer. The shape of the bottom and chine looks very much like the real thing!!!?? Hope not! Like the 77ft Elco they burned on the beech in They Were Expendible ! Very sad!

Anyone else notice these things? Anyone agree, disagree,care?
Now that I'm retired I have way too much free time!
I wrote Warner Brothers years ago with questions but the told me all the records had been lost in a fire.
Thank's MM


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Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: May 29, 2007 - 1:38pm
Hi Mike,

Fascinating info about your personal experience with one of the "PT 109" movie boats.

In answer to, or at least in reply to, your post, I'll offer some of what I've learned about the movie boats. Others on the site may correct or add to my tidbits...

The three boats in the movie (and there were only three -- you never see more than three "PT boats" on the screen at any one time) were former Air-Sea Rescue "Crash" boats, as you said. I've read them variously described as being either 55', 63', or 65-feet long (don't know which is correct). In any case, there is no way they were 85 feet long. The Crash boats were much shorter than 80 feet. The Warner Bros. art department/props builders (and whatever boat builders they used to help reconstruct the boats in Florida), had to proportionally scale all three of the rebuilt boat's topsides downwards. In a lot of scenes in the movie, the boats actually look rather stubby and chopped, but they did a great job in making them look a lot like real 80' Elcos. I don't know how many engines each movie boat had, or what kind they were.

In further reply to your numbered comments/questions;

1) The shot of the starboard side of the "PT" turning away after the practice run at the supply ship is of one of the three movie boats. There were no real 80' Elcos in running condition used for the filming. All three of the boats in the movie were painted Navy gray -- not green. Any time they appear green, or any other color than Navy gray, is due to a color problem with the film or photo reproduction (there has been a photo of the movie's "PT 109" boat floating -- pardon the pun -- around the internet for several years, and it looks green, but isn't -- it's a color glitch).

2) The below-decks scenes were filmed on studio sets, carefully reconstructed by the Warner Bros. prop people from original Elco plans. For many of us PT enthusiasts, they were the ONLY views of what an 80' Elco PT looked like below decks, until we could see similar photos of PT 617's insides, taken at Fall River.

3) Same goes for the great engine room shots in the movie. There were (what sure looked like) three real Packard 4M 2500 V-12 marine engines, in a studio-set "engine room."

4) The overturned "PT bow section" prop that appears in the bombing scene isn't "the real thing," and may even be the same prop bow section that was used as the forward part of the rammed "PT 109" in the movie -- I've seen a photo of that "PT 109 bow section" prop, on dry land at Munson Island, Florida, in an old newspaper article posted on the internet that dates from the time of the filming. As I said, they were props, constructed for the film -- not parts of real 80' Elco PTs.

So, those are my nuggets of info I've learned over the years, some of which I've learned from other guys on this very site.

You're right about that 77' Elco burning and blowing up on the beach (or was it one of the 78' Huckins boats?) in "They Were Expendable" -- it took me years of watching the film -- and learning about PT boats -- to notice it wasn't an 80-footer!

Hope you went to the Turner Classic Movies website and voted for "PT 109's" release on DVD -- it's long overdue.


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kendall strehle

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: May 29, 2007 - 4:22pm
that is one movie ive not seen but will put it on my must see list. crash boats were made in different sizes. 42', 63', 85', and 104'. having not seen the movie its hard to say. will have to get back to you on the many questions.



kendall p. strehle
avr c-26654

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alross2

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of alross2   Send Email To alross2 Posted on: May 29, 2007 - 5:22pm
The movie boats were modified 85' USAF aircraft rescue boats (Design 379), the hulls of which vaguely resemble the 80' ELCO. The 63' type (Design 416) had a hull similar in shape to that of the 85' boat, but were fuller at the bow and the stem had less curve.

Al Ross


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Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: May 29, 2007 - 7:32pm
I stand corrected.

I'd always read/been told the movie boats were 63-footers...

So, I guess the prop guys scaled the rebuilt topsides UP in size, since the crash boats...were five feet LONGER than the real PTs?

The movie boat's hull profiles look more like the photos of the 63-footer hulls to me (kind of chopped and stubby), but I will certainly defer to Al Ross's knowledge.


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Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: May 29, 2007 - 7:32pm



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Mike Mosier

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Mike Mosier  Posted on: May 30, 2007 - 8:15am
Thanks for all the posts gents! As per usual everyone spots stuff others don't. That's what makes this so much fun. You keep learning new things all the time.
One thing for sure Drew, those prop guys at WB must have been real craftsmen. To recreate that engine room in such detail for the few of us viewers who ever saw a real one shows incredible commitment.
Kendall you really should see that movie if you're an AVR fan. I'd appreciate your comments especially about the engines.
I'm sure Al is right. The 109 I rode on in NJ was an 85 footer and you could still see marks on the deck were cabins and turrets etc had been at one time for the movie. And as I said, the prop 109 chart house was in the parking lot.
I don't know how true this is but the owner/driver of the boat told me he removed the 2 Packards himself and sold them to Chris Montagna! Some of you might recognize the name. Chris owned Chris's Restaurant in Ocean City NJ. He used to give his customers rides on his converted PT boats. Actually they were British Vospers made in Maryland. The most famous one was The Flying Saucer . He also had The Flying Pony and a few others. There were quite a few Packard 4M-2500 engines floating around that area, I know because I got one.
Keep those comments comin'
Mike





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Chip Marshall

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message   Posted on: May 30, 2007 - 9:49am
Gentlemen:

I did some research at the Warner Brothers archives on the USC campus in LA. There is quite a lot of information on the movie boats including a two inch stack of 8x10 B&W pictures showing the conversion at Miami Shipbuilding and the sets in the Florida Keys.

The three 85 foot rescue boats were purchased from the Air Force at Hurlbert Field near Panama City and ferried down to Miami. Miami Shipbuilding did the conversions. All of the deck fittings, except the weapons, came from prop shops in California by truck. The Navy supplied the weapons and ammo. After the days filming was over, the three boats were moored on different parts of the island in case of fire. A captain and deck hand were available at all times to move the boats just in case. Gas was stored on a locally moored barge and dispensed from there.

One observation about the exhaust systems simulating the 80 foot Elco: the pictures of the mostly completed boats at Miami Shipbuilding do not have the mufflers or exhaust installed on the transom. Apparently this was a rather tricky detail as the rescue boat exhaust came out the sides.

There were two PT 109 bows made up by another boat yard in Miami. One right side up, the other up side down. Each had 55 gallon drums for flotation. The upside down bow was used in the air raid sequence to simulate a sunken boat. Navy personnel Key West were liberally used on the set as extras and crew.

One island was used for most of the filming, including the castaway scenes. You just couldn't see anything else going on and the Keys were sparsely populated during that period of time.

The below deck scenes, as someone mentioned, were done in California. If one stood on the "deck" and looked up, you would not see any overhead, just the frames that were cleverly used to hide the lighting from above.

I mentioned pictures before. The WB archives has a bunch. Want a print? Think real hard about it. Their legal department will charge you a fortune ($400 was quoted to me - PER PRINT!). Occassionally on eBay you will see shots that were released to the media. Good luck.



Chip Marshall

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Mike Mosier

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Mike Mosier  Posted on: May 30, 2007 - 10:52am
WOW! Great info there! Thanks Chip. That answers more than a few questions eh? Too bad the folks at WB aren't as willing to take a few minutes to help us poor saps out huh. Telling me that everything burned in a fire and charging 400 bucks for a photo shows how selfish and greedy some of those Hollywood folks really are. Thank you Chip!! Mike


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Drew Cook

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Post a Reply To This Topic    Reply With Quotes     Edit Message     View Profile of Drew Cook  Posted on: May 30, 2007 - 12:51pm
Thanks to Mike, Al, and Chip for the neat information on the "PT 109" movie boats.

I guess some of us have been laboring under that misconception of the "shorter-than-80'-crash-boats" myth for some years now. I know I have!

Here's hoping we can all see the (85-foot) boats in a sharp, clear DVD release of the film in the near future.


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