AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Midway
Alternate Title: Battle of Midway
Director: Jack Smight (Dir)
Release Date:   1976
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York opening: 18 Jun 1976
Duration (in mins):   132
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Cast: Starring: Charlton Heston (Captain Matt Garth)  
  [and] Henry Fonda (Admiral Chester W. Nimitz)  
  Guest stars: James Coburn (Captain Vinton Maddox)  
    Glenn Ford (Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance)  
    Hal Holbrook (Commander Joseph Rochefort)  
    Toshiro Mifune (Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto)  
    Robert Mitchum (Admiral William F. Halsey)  
    Cliff Robertson (Commander Carl Jessop)  
  [and] Robert Wagner (Lieutenant Commander Ernest L. Blake)  
  Co-starring: Robert Webber (Rear Admiral Frank J. "Jack" Fletcher)  
    Ed Nelson (Admiral Harry Pearson)  
    James Shigeta (Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo)  
    Christina Kokubo (Haruko Sakura)  
    Monte Markham (Commander Max Leslie)  
    Biff McGuire (Captain Miles Browning)  
    Christopher George (Lieutenant Commander C. Wade McClusky)  
    Kevin Dobson (Ensign George Gay)  
    Glenn Corbett (Lieutenant Commander John Waldron)  
    Gregory Walcott (Captain Elliott Buckmaster)  
  And Edward Albert (Lieutenant Tom Garth) as Tom
  With: Pat Morita (Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka)  
    John Fujioka (Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi)  
    Dale Ishimoto (Vice Admiral Moshiro Hosogaya)  
    Dabney Coleman (Captain Murray Arnold)  
    Erik Estrada (Ensign 'Chili Bean' Ramos)  
    Ken Pennell (Captain Cyril Simard)  
    Clyde Kusatsu (Commander Watanabe)  
    Phillip R. Allen (Commander Thach)  
    Tom Selleck    
    Sab Shimono (Lieutenant Tomonaga)  
    Conrad Yama (Admiral Kondo)  
    Robert Ito (Commander Minoru Genda)  
    Yuki Shimoda    
    Seth Sakai (Captain Kuroshima)  
    Kurt Grayson (Red)  
    Alfie Wise (Dobbs)  
    Beeson Carroll (Wilson)  
    John Bennett Perry    
    Steve Kanaly (Lieutenant Commander Lance E. "Lem" Massey)  
    Kip Niven (Lieutenant Attie)  
    Dennis Rucker    
    Michael Richardson    
  [and] James Ingersoll    
    Larry Csonka (Lieutenant Delaney)  

Summary: On April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25 Mitchells Bombers take off from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier. Flying low over the ocean and skimming treetops, they reach Tokyo, Japan, and drop their bombs. As Admiral Isoroko Yamamoto learns of the raid in his private garden, a naval attaché explains that this is a blessing; now that Japan knows it can be bombed, the high command will authorize Yamamoto’s plan to destroy the U.S. Pacific fleet. In Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Captain Matt Garth visits Commander Joseph Rochefort of Navy Combat Intelligence. Garth has come to see how far along Rochefort’s boys are in breaking the Japanese code and Rochefort reports ten percent. Garth says that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz is expecting retaliation for the Doolittle raid and that, at ten percent, Rochefort is only guessing where the retaliation will take place. Rochefort tells Garth he feels something is going to happen in the Coral Sea. He also says Japanese radio traffic mentioned "AF," but he doesn’t know what that means. Garth returns to headquarters and is surprised to see his son, Lieutenant Tom Garth. Tom tells his father that he is assigned to Pearl Harbor and asks for help. Tom explains that his fiancée, a Japanese girl who has been arrested, is being sent to an internment camp in California, along with her parents. Garth says he will look into it. Days later, aboard the battleship Yamato, Yamamoto meets with his officers. Against their advice, Yamamoto argues that the outnumbered American fleet can be lured into battle and destroyed at Midway Island. Discussion of the operation is put on hold, however, because the Coral Sea operation is about to begin. A few days later, Garth and Rochefort meet with Admiral Nimitz. Garth reports that the U.S.S. Lexington was lost during the battle of the Coral Sea and the U.S.S. Yorktown was heavily damaged, leaving the U.S. with only three carriers to protect Hawaii and the West Coast. Rochefort tells Nimitz that he believes the code "AF" refers to Midway, and has a plan to prove it. He will have Midway radio that their water condensers are out and, if the Japanese repeat it, they will know if "AF" is Midway. Rochefort’s suspicion is confirmed a day later. Despite protests from Washington D.C., Nimitz orders the fleet to Midway. Meanwhile, Garth meets Tom’s fiancée, Haruko Sakura, at the immigration center. She convinces Garth that neither she nor her family are a threat to the U.S. However, her parents have forbidden her to marry outside her "race." Although she asks Garth to break the news to Tom, he tells her that she must tell him herself. Later, Nimitz visits Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey at the hospital. Halsey is suffering with a skin disease and cannot command the fleet. So, Nimitz gives over command to Rear Admiral Raymond "Ray" A. Spruance. Later, Nimitz tells Rear Admiral Frank J. "Jack" Fletcher that he will command the U.S.S. Yorktown and that Fletcher only has seventy-two hours to make repairs. Nimitz also orders Garth to join the air operations staff of the Yorktown. During the briefing, Nimitz explains his plan to surprise the Japanese. The U.S.S. Hornet and the U.S.S. Enterprise will leave immediately, to be followed by the U.S.S. Yorktown. Meanwhile, Tom sees Haruko, who tries to say she doesn’t love him; but she cannot. Later, Garth meets Commander Carl Jessop, an old friend and Tom’s new commander. Jessop is upset that Tom is dating a Japanese girl, but Garth defends his son. The next day, Garth discovers Tom has been transferred to the U.S.S. Yorktown and Tom accuses his father of trying to keep him away from Haruko. That night, Gath goes to a friend in Naval Intelligence and begs him to try to help Haruko. Onboard the Yamoto, Yamamoto receives news that his plan to send scout planes to Pearl Harbor had to be abandoned. Intelligence thinks the U.S. carriers are at Pearl Harbor, but he cannot be sure. His officers debate breaking radio silence to warn Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, but Yamamoto, unaware that a storm has damaged Nagumo’s antennas, orders they maintain radio silence. The next day, both Yamamoto’s fleet and the Americans get word that a Japanese invasion force has landed at the Aleutian Islands. Nimitz gets the same news in Pearl Harbor and worries he may have been wrong about Midway being the main attack. However, an American scout plane spots Japanese ships and Nimitz realizes that they cannot be the main force, as no carriers were sighted. He tells the Yorktown to hold its course. Meanwhile, Nagumo closes on Midway and calls a council of war. His officers debate if they should send all their bombers on the first wave or play it safe by sending half and keeping the rest in reserve. Nagumo decides to keep the reserves on the deck and to send the inexperienced pilots in the first wave. The reserve force is armed with torpedoes in case American carriers should appear. At 4:30 a.m., the Japanese take off from their carriers, but before they get to Midway, an American scout plane discovers the Japanese fleet and radios in their position. On the Yorktown, Garth tells Spruance the news and is ordered to radio the Hornet and the Enterprise. Another scout plane spots the Japanese air strike force. Only a few antiquated American planes challenge the Japanese and are quickly blown out of the sky. The Japanese lose only a few planes, and cause heavy damage to the U.S. base, but the runway is still intact. When Nagumo’s air officer insists they destroy Midway using reserve bombers armed with bombs and not with torpedoes, Nagumo concurs and orders the change, unaware that the American carriers have already launched their planes. As the Japanese change their armament, a Japanese scout plane discovers the Yorktown. This report causes chaos for the Japanese, who now try to replace their bombs with torpedoes. The Hornet and Enterprise launch their planes, but due to technical difficulties, the American fliers hit the Japanese in separate waves. Squadron Torpedo 8 goes in for the attack without fighter cover and is shot down without causing any damage. One pilot, Ensign George Gay, tries to avoid anti-aircraft fire by flying the length of the carrier Akagi. He is shot down and treads water for the remainder of the battle. After another U.S. attack, Nagumo realizes that a U.S. carrier must be nearby and orders his remaining bombers to take off. Although another attack of Torpedo bombers are shot down, all Japanese fighters are flying at sea level. Another wave of U.S. dive bombers fly in without resistance and drop bombs on three Japanese carriers. Since the Japanese rearmament has left bombs and torpedoes strewn across their decks, the armaments explode in the attack, leaving the three Japanese aircraft carriers as burning wrecks. Flying fighter escort, Tom runs into some Japanese fighter planes. He shoots one down, but his plane is hit and bursts into flames. Tom puts the fires out, but his plane is badly burned. A Japanese scout plane spots the Yorktown, but due to radio failure, has to fly back to give its position. The Japanese launch planes from the Hiryu, but the pilots are not sure where the Americans are. They spot American bombers flying back to the Yorktown and follow them. The Yorktown turns into the wind to accept its planes. Tom is the last to land and, as Garth watches, he crashes into the deck. Tom is dragged out of his burning plane and rushed to sickbay. Within minutes, the Japanese attack the Yorktown and inflict damage. As the crew fights to keep the ship afloat, Fletcher transfers his command to the U.S.S. Astoria. In sickbay, Tom asks Garth to find a picture of Haruko and bring it to him when he is transferred to the hospital. However, on the bridge, Garth is asked to lead a bomber squadron. As the Japanese refuel and send the remainder of their bombers to sink the Yorktown, the Americans scramble its planes. Garth takes off minutes before the carrier is hit again and loses its boilers. The Yorktown is dead in the sea and burning out of control. Garth finds Hiryu as the Japanese reload their planes. He drops his bomb and scores a direct hit. Two more hits leave the carrier in flames. Back on the battleship Yamato, Adm. Yamamoto receives the news of his loss and says he will apologize to the emperor. Garth flies his damaged plane to the Enterprise and crashes into the deck. Days later, Nimitz watches the Hornet sail into Pearl Harbor and asks if they were better than the Japanese or just luckier. 

Production Company: The Mirisch Corporation  
Production Text: The Mirisch Corporation Presents
A Walter Mirisch Production
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures (An MCA Company)
Director: Jack Smight (Dir)
  William Gray (Prod mgr)
  Jerome Siegel (1st asst dir)
  Richard Hashimoto (2d asst dir)
Producer: Walter Mirisch (Prod)
Writer: Donald S. Sanford (Wrt)
Photography: Harry Stradling, Jr. (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Walter Tyler (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Swink (Film ed)
  Frank J. Urioste (Film ed)
Set Decoration: John Dwyer (Set dec)
Music: John Williams [composer] (Mus)
Sound: Robert Martin (Sd)
  Leonard Peterson (Sd)
Special Effects: Jack McMaster (Spec eff)
  Universal Title (Titles & opt eff)
Production Misc: Vice Admiral Bernard M. Strean U.S.N. (Ret.) (Tech adv)
  Bob Forrest (Scr supv)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal City Studios, LLLP 18/6/1976 dd/mm/yyyy LP46828

PCA NO: 24454
Physical Properties: Sd: Sensurround™ from Universal patent pending, created by MCA; Westrex Recording Systems
  col: Color by Technicolor®
  Widescreen/ratio: Filmed in Panavision®

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: World War II
 
Subjects (Major): Aircraft carriers
  Japan. Navy
  Midway, Battle of, 1942
  Sea battles
  United States. Navy
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Airplanes
  Aleutian Islands (AK)
  Battleships
  Bombing, Aerial
  Chester A. Nimitz
  Codes
  Coral Sea, Battle of, 1942
  Cryptographers and Cryptography
  Espionage
  Hiroshima (Japan)
  Isoroku Yamamoto
  Japanese
  Japanese Americans
  James H. Doolittle
  Pearl Harbor (HI)
  Tokyo (Japan)
  Torpedoes
  William Halsey

Note: The following written statement appears in the opening credits: “This is the way it was—The story of the battle that was the turning point of the war in the Pacific, told wherever possible with actual film shot during combat. It exemplifies the combination of planning, courage, error and pure chance by which great events are often decided.
       The following written statement appears in the closing credits: “The annals of war at sea present no more intense, heart-shaking shock than this battle, in which the qualities of the United States Navy and Air Force and the American Race shone forth in splendour. The bravery and self-devotion of the American airmen and sailors and the nerve and skill of their leaders was the foundation of it all. – Winston Churchill.”
       Actor Larry Pennell is credited as “Ken Pennell” in the opening credits and is not listed in the end credits.
       According to a 14 Apr 1975 Box, article, Jack Smight replaced John Guillermin as director.
       A 27 May 1975 HR news item stated that location photography concluded over the 24-25 May 1975 weekend, near Pensacola, FL. Shooting at Universal studios in Los Angeles, CA, started on 27 May 1975.
       An item in the 28 May 1975 DV stated that the U.S. Navy asked for and recieved a few script changes based on issues of historical accuracy.
       The 25 Jun 1975 LAHExam stated that two survivors of the Battle of Midway were used as consultants: Richard Best, Com. USN Ret.; and Joseph Rochefort, Capt. USN Ret. Also, George Gay, the only survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8, was not an official consultant but did visit the set. However, none of the men are credited onscreen. In his feature film debut, Kevin Dobson portrayed “Ensign Gary Gay.”
       A 2 Jun 1975 HR news item stated that Miami Dolphin’s fullback Larry Csonka was signed to make his feature debut in Midway. Although Csonka does not appear in the credits, he plays “Lt. Delany,” the engineering officer aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown.
       A 3 Jul 1975 Rafu Shimpo article stated that Toshiro Mifune sent his script to Minoru Glenda, a Japanese air operations officer at the battle of Midway, and to Admiral Yamamoto’s son, so that they could attest to its historical accuracy. The article went on to say that Mifune was scheduled to play the part of “Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto” in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970. see entry), but withdrew when director Akira Kurosawa left the project. At the time of the Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942, Mifune was in Manchuria studying to be a pilot.
       According to the 9 Jul 1975 Var, principal photography was scheduled to end around 20 Jul 1975. Filming at sea took three weeks, which included lensing on the U.S.S. Lexington, the last World War II ship in service. The article also stated that this was the first film Toshiro Mifune made in Hollywood, CA., while Robert Mitchum was offered various roles, but turned them down because they took up too much of his time. Mitchum settled on playing “Admiral William F. Halsey,” which only required one day to shoot.
       According to a 9 Aug 1976 Box news item, Universal paid to cut the hair and to shave the modern crew members of the U.S.S. Lexington to conform to World War II Navy regulations.
       As stated in a news item in 11 Aug 1975 Box, Henry Fonda read that his character “Admiral Chester W. Nimitz” was missing a finger from an accident. Fonda consciously folded back his finger throughout his performance. Fonda served indirectly under Nimitz when he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and when he was assigned as an aide to Adm. John Hoover.
       Per a 23 Jun 1976 DV article, Midway grossed $4,356,666 during its three-day opening weekend in 311 theaters in the U.S. and twenty-four in Canada.
       The film was promoted with a U.S. Navy recruitment drive where fifty enlistees were sworn in at the Redstone Theater in Woburn, MA, according to a 23 Aug 1976 issue of Boxoffice Showmandiser. Additionally, 125 National Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) cadets from Woburn High School attended a special screening.
       A 1 Sep 1976 Var article stated that Charlton Heston, who owned a percentage of the film, toured Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Australia and Japan where the film grossed $1 million in its first weekend. Heston believed $5.5 million had been spent on advertising and publicity for the film.
       A 7 Apr 1992 DV news item stated that Midway had earned over $60,000,000 in film rentals. It also said that the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS ) broadcasted the film 2 Jun 1992 for the 50th anniversary of the battle.
       According to various modern sources, the Sensurround process was only used in three other films: Earthquake, (1970, see entry), Rollercoaster (1977, see entry), and the theatrical release of the Battlestar Galactica (1978, see entry).  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   14 Apr 1975.   
Box Office   11 Aug 1975.   
Box Office   9 Aug 1976.   
Boxoffice Showmandiser   23 Aug 1976   
Daily Variety   28 May 1975.   
Daily Variety   17 Jun 1976.   
Daily Variety   23 Jun 1976.   
Daily Variety   7 Apr 1992   
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 1975   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   27 May 1975.   
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jun 1975.   
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jul 1975   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 1976   p. 2.
LAHExam   25 Jun 1975.   
Los Angeles Times   18 Jun 1976   Section IV, p. 1.
New York Times   19 Jun 1976   p. 11.
Rafu Shimpo   3 Jul 1975.   
Variety   9 Jul 1975.   
Variety   16 Jun 1976   p. 18.
Variety   1 Sep 1976   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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