None But the Brave (1965): Only Film Directed by Sinatra, Who Also Stars

None but the Brave, the only film Sinatra directed, was the first Japanese-American co-production, produced by Sinatra for Warner and Kikumaru Okuda for Toho Studios.

The film’s title is derives from John Dryden poem, Alexander’s Feast, stanza 1: “None but the brave/deserves the fair.”

Narrated in English by a Japanese officer named Kuroki (a journal he is writing for his wife), a platoon of 16 Japanese soldiers is stranded on a Pacific island with no communicating with the outside world. Keeping his men firmly, Kuroki is supervising a boat building for their escape.

An American transport plane is shot down by a Japanese Zero, before crash landing. The Zero and an American then destroy each other.

Marine Aircraft Wing Captain Dennis Bourke assumes command of the platoon of Marines over their 2nd Lieutenant Blair and Sergeant Bleeker; Bourke is close to the Navy chief pharmacist’s mate Francis.

The 19 Americans learn of the Japanese platoon’s existence , tension mounts resulting in a battle for the Japanese boat. Calling a truce, Koruki trades the Americans access to water in exchange for a visit from their doctor to treat wounded soldier.

Both platoons, reduced in numbers, due to conflicts and natural disasters, live side by side, under restrictions, though secret cooperation, trading and respect prevail.

The Americans establish radio contact and arrange pickup by a US naval vessel, demanding that the Japanese surrender, but Koruki claims they are at war.  Proceeding, Bourke orders his men to be ready to shoot to kill.  Ambushed by the remaining Japanese platoon, the 11 Americans are forced to retaliate, resulting in a firefight in which all the Japanese and most Americans are killed,  Francis, Bourke, Bleeker, Blair and Corporal Ruffino survive, waiting to be rescued.

The film ends, just as it began, with Kuroki’s narration stating that it’s “just another day.”  The concluding image shows the island with a title card, “Nobody Ever Wins.

This was the sixth of 9 films produced by Sinatra, and the only film he ever directed.  Teflecting Sinatra’s liberal-democratic views, None But the Brave initially opened to largely negative reviews, but in later years it gained in stature as an anti-war picture.

Posters for the film featured the American cast on the left side and the Japanese cast on the right, with an island in the middle.

Special Effects expert, Eiji Tsuburaya, who had staged visual effects on pictures, such as the original Godzilla in 1954, and other sci-fi and fantasy films.