|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||138 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||25–26 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Sto-Rev-Co Productions|
|Original run||October 11, 1962– August 31, 1966|
McHale's Navy is an American sitcom which ran for 138 half-hour episodes over four seasons, from October 11, 1962, to August 31, 1966, on the ABC network. The series was filmed in black and white and originated from a one-hour drama called Seven Against the Sea, broadcast on April 3, 1962. Universal commissioned the colorization of the series in the late 1980s for syndication in hopes of reviving its popularity.
Seven Against the Sea (1962) 
Academy Award-winning dramatic actor Ernest Borgnine as McHale first appeared as the lead character in a one-shot non-comedy drama called Seven Against the Sea, which aired as an episode of Alcoa Presents in 1962, an ABC dramatic anthology also known as Fred Astaire's Premiere Theatre and hosted by Fred Astaire, who introduced television audiences to the Quinton McHale character.
During World War II, Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale (Borgnine) is the commanding officer (CO) of the U.S. Navy PT boat, PT-73, stationed at the Pacific island base Taratupa. In the late spring of 1942, the Japanese heavily bomb the island, virtually destroying the base. Only 18 out of the 150 Naval Aviators and Marines assigned to the base survive. With the Japanese patrols in the region too heavy for the Navy to mount a rescue mission, McHale and his men are forced to survive by hiding on the island. Assisted by the native tribes whom they befriend, the sailors live a relatively paradisaical island existence. After months of rather leisurely living, strait-laced, by-the-book Annapolis graduate Lieutenant Durham (Ron Foster) parachutes onto the island. His job is to assume duties as McHale's executive officer (XO) and help him get the base on Taratupa back into the action.
Durham faces an uphill battle, however: The men have gone native. One of them has started a native laundry service, and McHale has a still and makes moonshine for the men and the natives. In addition, McHale is close friends with the native chief and even bathes with him. When Durham informs McHale of his new orders, McHale refuses to follow them. It becomes clear that while McHale is as loyal as any American, following the devastation the Japanese rendered on the previous attack on the base, he is now extremely reluctant to risk losing any more men. His primary concern now is for their survival until they can be rescued, which creates a great deal of friction between Durham and McHale.
When they receive word that a Marine battalion is pinned on a beach, and an enemy cruiser is planning to attack the beachhead in the morning, McHale's attitude changes. McHale is ordered to use all boats they have to protect the beachhead and the Marines; but McHale does not have any boats, since the Japanese have sunk them all. However, McHale manages to capture a Japanese PT boat that has come to patrol the island. In a surprise to both his men and Durham, McHale does not plan to use the boat to evacuate either his men or the Marine battalion. Instead, he plans to attack and destroy the Japanese cruiser. His plan is that since they are on a Japanese boat, flying a Japanese flag, that they can get close enough to torpedo the cruiser twice and send it to the bottom.
Seven Against the Sea remains available for public viewing at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) in New York City and Los Angeles.
- Ernest Borgnine as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale
- Joe Flynn as Captain Wallace "Wally" Burton Binghamton
- Tim Conway as Ensign Charles Parker
This episode of an early dramatic anthology series received respectable enough ratings for ABC to order it as a series. However, the series they requested was significantly different in tone from the pilot show.
In an interview in Cinema Retro magazine, Ernest Borgnine said the show was originally meant as a vehicle for Ron Foster, who was to have been put on contract at Universal Pictures, but the idea did not work out.
One of the producers, Jennings Lang, recalled the film Destination Gobi that gave him the idea to turn the idea into a half-hour comedy with Borgnine's PT Boat. Coincidentally, the lead character in Destination Gobi, played by Richard Widmark, was also named McHale.
The series was also set in the Pacific theatre of World War II—although in the show's last season the setting was switched to the European theatre in Italy—and focused on the crew of PT-73, again led by Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale played by Ernest Borgnine.
The producer of the series, Edward J. Montagne, had had great success with the top-rated series The Phil Silvers Show (1955–1959), a military comedy with an opportunistic non-commissioned officer and his loyal platoon constantly putting something over on the base commander. While the pilot had been dramatic, with overtones of Henry Fonda's introspective Mister Roberts, Montagne essentially turned the project into "Bilko in the Navy", and even recruited some of the Bilko actors and writers. If Borgnine had any misgivings about his show's change of direction, he hid them well enough and happily played straight-man to the comedians surrounding him. At the time of the series, then- President John F. Kennedy was well known as being the wartime commander of PT-109. A popular book, PT 109: John F. Kennedy in WWII by Robert J. Donovan had come out the previous year, and PT-109 was sometimes slyly referenced in a few episodes relating to a young commissioned PT-boat officer.
In the first episode it is established that McHale is a former merchant ship captain who was intimately familiar with the South Pacific over a period of 20 years. McHale's second-in-command is Ensign Charles Parker (Tim Conway), who is referred to by McHale as "Chuck" and by the crew as "Mr. Parker" (in the United States Navy all officers ranked from Warrant Officer to Lieutenant Commander who are not in command are more often than not referred to as "Mister"). Conway's performance as a gentle, naive but somewhat gung-ho bungler who usually succeeded in spite of his own ineptitude was career-defining. Parker frequently mentions that he is from Chagrin Falls, Ohio (Tim Conway grew up there in real life). Among Parker's catchphrases were "Gee, I love that kind of talk" and citations of various naval regulations. In an episode entitled "The Great Impersonation," Mr. Parker is called upon to impersonate a famous British General (Tim Conway in a dual role) in Noumea, New Caledonia (where he dodges assassins) while the real general leads an invasion against Japanese forces.
McHale's perpetually frustrated commander is Captain Wallace Burton Binghamton (Joe Flynn), known behind his back as "Old Leadbottom" (a nickname he received from a bullet wound to the posterior), who is constantly trying to get the goods on "McHale and his pirates." Binghamton often had dreams of military glory, but, in reality, he is a lot more inept than he thinks he is. His job before the war was running a yacht club on Long Island Sound. Among his catchphrases were "What in the name of the Blue Pacific" or "What in the name of Nimitz (or Halsey)?" when he saw gambling or native dancing girls on McHale's island, and "What is it, wha', wha', wha', what?!" Another one, when he was totally frustrated, was "I could just scream!" Binghamton's dream is to send McHale and his men to prison and he did come close on more than one occasion. Binghamton's enthusiastic assistant is the sycophantic Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter (Bob Hastings, a Bilko veteran), who, at times, is shown to be just as much of a bumbler (and as by-the-book) as Parker. (Early in the first season, Lt. Carpenter commanded another PT boat, the 107, in the squadron, but gradually drifted into being more of an assistant and less of a commander.) The one time Binghamton leads the PT-73 into battle, his only success is sinking an enemy truck on land—with a torpedo (a gag previously used in the Cary Grant movie Operation Petticoat). He also once had McHale replace him as base commander so that he wouldn't have to face tough-as-nails Admiral "Iron Pants" Rafferty (Philip Ober) who was inspecting naval installations in the area (an episode that featured a young Raquel Welch). In a sequel movie, McHale's Navy Joins The Air Force, the only time Binghamton gets the better of the PT-73 crew is when he orders them to jump off a dock.
The plots revolved around the efforts of McHale's crew to make money, get girls and have a good time, and the efforts of Captain Binghamton to rid himself of the PT-73 crew. Sometimes, Binghamton would use legitimate means to try to get rid of McHale and/or his crew. In one episode, he even tried to get the whole crew promoted to Chief Petty Officer so that they would all be split up and reassigned. In the crew, actor and comic magician Carl Ballantine was featured as confident con man Torpedoman Lester Gruber, whose get-rich-quick schemes often got the crew in trouble. Gruber hails from Brooklyn, New York and makes frequent references to the Dodgers and Ebbets Field. Motor Machinist Mate Harrison "Tinker" Bell was played by Billy Sands ("Pvt. Paparelli" on Bilko). Gavin MacLeod (later of both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat) played crew member Seaman Joseph "Happy" Haines. MacLeod ended up leaving the series before its final season. Besides Borgnine, the only actors from the dramatic pilot who made it to the series were Gary Vinson as Quartermaster George "Christy" Christopher, who ends up becoming a devoted family man, Edson Stroll as Gunner's Mate Virgil Edwards, the handsome lover boy of the crew, and John Wright as Radioman Willy Moss, a good-natured Southerner who operates the crew's still (a carryover from the original dramatic pilot). During the first season, the whole crew seemed to be on a somewhat equal footing, but during the later seasons, a sort of "pecking order" was established with Gruber at its head. The most unusual crew member was a Japanese POW named Fuji Kobiaji (Yoshio Yoda), who had become a de facto comrade that the PT-73 crew kept hidden from Binghamton. However, in at least one episode as well as the feature McHale's Navy Joins The Air Force, his name is given as Takeo Fujiwara. In exchange for being given a home, Fuji gladly served as the crew's houseboy. Keeping Fuji hidden from Captain Binghamton became a running gag throughout the entire run of the series.
Quite often, Binghamton is ready to send McHale and his gang to the brig, only to see them pull off a military success against the enemy that impresses Admiral Reynolds (Herbert Lytton) or Admiral Rodgers (Roy Roberts), many times thanks to McHale's knowledge of the area, gained from his service in the South Pacific as a Merchant Marine officer. Despite their reputations as schemers and connivers, McHale's men were highly competent when it came to their jobs—something McHale constantly pointed out to Binghamton and also to Mister Parker in the very first episode. Sometimes, various members of the crew would have to disguise themselves in order to carry out their elaborate schemes. Whenever a situation arose that called for disguise as a woman, it was usually Tinker or Mister Parker that would end up dressing in drag. From time-to-time, Mister Parker would also be called upon to fool Captain Binghampton with a dead-on impersonation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another running gag has a frustrated Binghamton turning to the camera, breaking the fourth wall, and saying, "I could just scream!", "Why me? Why is it always me?", or "Somebody up there hates me!"
A Polynesian chief, Pali Urulu (Jacques Aubuchon) is as crooked as McHale's men. When McHale and his men are in Urulu's village, the chief displays a large photo of President Roosevelt; when the Japanese troops arrive, Urulu turns over the picture to reveal a photo of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. Another character who was as crooked as Urulu was "Big Frenchy" (George Kennedy) from New Caledonia, who always played up to McHale.
One episode entitled "The Comrades of 73" portrayed the United States and the Soviet Union as being allies in the Pacific Theater of World War II. However, during the 1943–1944 time period during which the series is supposed to be set, this would be incorrect. The Soviet Union did not actually declare war against Japan until August 8, 1945—two days after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Despite this, the series was known for being more historically accurate than its contemporary series, F Troop.
McHale's love interest is a Navy nurse, Molly Turner (Bilko's Jane Dulo). Parker's love interest is a French girl from New Caledonia, Yvette Gerard, played by Claudine Longet. When McHale and his men transfer to the European Theater, there are hints of a relationship developing between Mister Parker and by-the-book female Ensign Sandra Collins (Maura McGiveney), who with a few other WAVES clad only in bathing suits, provided valuable (albeit unwitting) assistance in capturing a German U-Boat.
The final season saw a major change in scenery, as both Binghamton and the 73 crew (including Fuji who, in the final season's first episode, was found stowed away in the 73 as it was being transported) are transferred to the recently liberated Italian theater. In the first episode of the final season, it was discovered that McHale could speak fluent Italian—something that served him well in his new assignment. The addition of the clever moneymaking schemes of the Mayor Mario Lugatto (Jay Novello) and the antics of the citizens of the coastal city of Voltafiore (where Binghamton was serving as Military Governor) increased the plot twists. While Binghamton and Carpenter lived in the city hall building, McHale and his men were assigned to bivouac in tents on the nearby beach. However, they stumbled onto an abandoned wine cellar where they hid Fuji and it became their underground hideout as well—a fact that was kept a carefully guarded secret from the ever-suspicious Binghamton, though he did almost discover it on one occasion. Colonel Douglas Harrigan (Henry Beckman) represents the U.S. Army in the area and becomes another thorn in McHale's side. Something of a schemer himself, Harrigan would sometimes be on McHale's side, sometimes be on Binghamton's side, or he would play one off against the other—whatever happened to suit his purposes at the time. It has been speculated that the locale shift was done because the Pacific sets were taking up too much space on the Universal lot that could have been used for feature films instead (a fate that also befell F Troop), though as noted below, they remained standing for several years.
Except where noted, all the actors appeared on the show for every season:
- Ernest Borgnine as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale
- Tim Conway as Ensign Charles Parker
- Joe Flynn as Captain Wallace B. Binghamton
- Carl Ballantine as Lester Gruber, Torpedoman's Mate
- Gary Vinson as George "Christy" Christopher, Quartermaster
- Billy Sands as Harrison "Tinker" Bell, Engineman
- Edson Stroll as Virgil Edwards, Gunner's Mate
- Gavin MacLeod as Joseph "Happy" Haines, Torpedoman's mate (1962–1964) (left the show to appear in The Sand Pebbles)
- Yoshio Yoda as Fuji Kobiaji, Cook, Seaman 3C, Japanese PW. In Season 2, Episode 13 ("A Letter for Fuji"), he is given the name 'Fujiwara Takeo.'
- John Wright as Willy Moss, Radioman
- Bob Hastings as Lt. Elroy Carpenter
Dual roles 
In several episodes of the series, principal actors played dual roles, including:
- Ernest Borgnine, who played McHale's look-alike Italian cousin, Giuseppe, in "Giuseppe McHale" and "The Return of Giuseppe".
- Joe Flynn, who played Seaman Smoot in "Alias Captain Binghamton".
- Tim Conway, who played British General Smythe-Pelly in "The Great Impersonation" and Admiral Chester "Rockpile" Beaty in "The Seven Faces of Ensign Parker".
The entire Pacific Ocean naval base was built on the back lot of Universal Studios. For many years after the show went off the air, the sets were used as an attraction on the studio tour. The portion of the Universal Studios tour involving Bruce the Shark attacking the tourist tram takes place on the part of the lot known as McHale's Lagoon, according to the tour guides.
There were three PT-73 boats. One was used for the shots at sea and two were converted 63-foot World War II Army Air Force Sea Rescue boats which were based at Universal Studios. The vessel used for shots of the PT-73 underway was a 72-foot type II Vosper MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat), a British design built under license in the U.S. for export to Russia. The war ended in August 1945 before the boat, the real number of which was PT-694, could be sent to the Soviet Union. The boat was then purchased by Howard Hughes and used as a chase boat for the one and only flight of his Spruce Goose aircraft. The boat was then sold to the studio—as there were few other real PT boats left in existence at the time—and some liberties were taken in reconfiguring it (machine gun turrets were added to both sides of the pilot house, and a mainmast was added just aft of mid-hull) to look like a PT boat. Shots of the crew aboard the PT-73 were filmed on a full-scale mock-up on a sound stage.
PT-73's final appearance on television was in an episode of the 1970s show Emergency! ("Quicker Than the Eye", season 4, episode 8, aired: 11/9 1974). Station 51 was dispatched to a movie studio to rescue a man trapped beneath a boat. The boat in question was being moved from one end of the studio to another by truck and the wooden supports holding it had broken and trapped a man underneath. "PT-73" is clearly visible on the bow, appearing as if the numbers had been removed, but the image of them remained. The boat was also missing its pilot house, masts, and depth charges.
PT-73 was later sold to the mayor of Hawthorne, California, Hal Crozer, and was converted to a sport fishing boat. In 1992, the boat was destroyed when it broke loose of its mooring near Santa Barbara and washed up on the beach during a storm.
The real PT-73 was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13, which saw service in the Aleutians and in the Southwest Pacific theater. The real PT-73 did not have as illustrious a combat record as its fictional counterpart. On January 15, 1945, it ran aground, and was destroyed to prevent it falling into enemy hands.
Producer Edward Montagne provided a female version of McHale's Navy entitled Broadside, which ran for 32 episodes in the 1964–1965 ABC season. In place of the PT crew were a group of WAVES led by Lt j.g. Anne Morgan (Kathleen Nolan) consisting of Joan Staley, Sheila James, Lois Roberts and Jimmy Boyd (as a male with a female name), up against Binghamton type Captain Edward Andrews and his Lt Carpenter clone George Furth. Furth had guest starred in an episode of McHale's Navy entitled, "Dart Gun Wedding". Dick Sargent provided a love interest for Nolan.
Theatrical films 
There were two feature film spin-offs based on the series: McHale's Navy (1964) and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965). The full cast appeared in both films, with the exception of Borgnine and Ballantine in the latter film; Borgnine was unavailable due to schedule conflicts resulting from the filming of The Flight of the Phoenix; it is not known why Ballantine was absent. To beef up the crew, Gavin MacLeod, who had left the series, agreed to return for this one appearance. In a Cinema Retro interview, Borgnine said the producer Edward Montagne wanted to make the film cheaply without him and would not show him the script.
Both films were essentially extended-length episodes of the series, without the laugh tracks. While both did well at the box office, the latter one was not as successful and was derided by some critics as being far too excessive in its use of slapstick comedy, though others praised it for its satirizing of military incompetence (after a typical screw-up, the Japanese POW Fuji sighs, "Beats me how they beating us."). William Lederer, who co-authored the second film with John Fenton Murray, used some scenes lifted directly from his comic novel, All the Ships at Sea. Unlike the television series, both movies were filmed in Technicolor.
In 1997 a sequel was released, starring Tom Arnold as McHale's US Naval Academy graduate son, which showed the PT-73 and its crew operating in a more modern, post-World War II setting in the Caribbean. Borgnine has a cameo appearance as the senior McHale, now the commanding rear admiral of what appears to be the United States Naval Special Warfare Command and going by the code name "Cobra."
DVD releases 
Shout! Factory has released all four seasons of McHale's Navy on DVD in Region 1. In Australia, Madman Entertainment has released all 4 seasons on DVD. Madman Entertainment had released the first three season in Australia on August 3, 2009 in Slimline packaging replacing the original releases which, were box sets. In June 2011, a Slimline packaged set of Season 4 was seen in Big W stores in Australia in Region 4, however, there is no details on the item being available anywhere else.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 4|
|Season 1||36||March 20, 2007||August 16, 2007|
|Season 2||36||September 11, 2007||November 8, 2007|
|Season 3||36||March 18, 2008||August 6, 2008|
|Season 4||30||November 18, 2008||May 20, 2009|
- "Seven Against the Sea". IMDB. April 3, 1962. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
- p.50 Call Me Ernie Part Two Cinema Retro Vol#5 Issue #14
- McHale's Navy (1964)
- Interview of Hal Crozer given to American Parol Boats Museum, June 1991
- Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday. p. 258.
- PT Boats, Inc. "PT Boat Squadron — RONs 11–15". Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- PT Boats, Inc. "PT Boat Data — PT Boats placed in U.S. Navy service". Retrieved 2007-04-21.
- Cinema Retro interview
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
- "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: McHale's Navy|
- McHale's Navy at Hulu
- Seven Against the Sea at the Internet Movie Database
- McHale's Navy at TV.com
- McHale's Navy (Original TV series) at the Internet Movie Database
- McHale's Navy (1964 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force at the Internet Movie Database
- McHale's Navy (1997 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- McHale's Navy at epguides.com
- History of the real PT-73
- Emergency! Episode with PT-73 boat episode summary at TV.com