Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Blake Edwards|
|Produced by||Robert Arthur|
|Written by||Paul King
Joseph B. Stone
Stanley J. Shapiro
|Music by||David Rose
Henry Mancini (uncredited)
|Editing by||Frank Gross
Ted J. Kent
|Distributed by||Universal International|
|Running time||124 minutes|
|Box office||$9,500,000 (US/ Canada)|
Operation Petticoat is a 1959 comedy film directed by Blake Edwards, and starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. It was the basis for a television series in 1977 starring John Astin in Grant's role. The film tells, in flashback form, the misadventures of a fictional American submarine, the USS Sea Tiger, during the opening days of World War II.
Other members of the cast include several actors who went on to become television stars in the 1960s and 1970s: Gavin MacLeod of The Love Boat and McHale's Navy, Marion Ross of Happy Days, and Dick Sargent of Bewitched.
United States Navy Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant), ComSubPac in 1959, boards the obsolete submarine USS Sea Tiger prior to its departure for the scrapyard. The first commanding officer of Sea Tiger, Sherman begins reading his personal logbook, starting a flashback.
A Japanese air raid sinks Sea Tiger while she is docked at the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines on 10 December 1941. Lieutenant Commander Sherman and his crew begin repairs, hoping to sail for Darwin, Australia before the Japanese overrun the port. Lieutenant (junior grade) Nick Holden (Tony Curtis) is reassigned to Sea Tiger despite lacking any submarine training or experience. He and Sherman clash over Holden's attitude toward the Navy. In contrast to Sherman, a Naval Academy graduate and career officer, Holden became a naval officer not out of patriotism, but to escape poverty and find a wealthy spouse. He has succeeded: he is engaged to such a woman.
Holden demonstrates great skill as a scavenger and con artist when Sherman makes him the submarine's supply officer. He teams up early on with Sgt. Ramon Gallardo, an escaped prisoner (he was caught misappropriating military property for his own restaurant) to steal materials for desperately needed repairs from supply warehouses and even from the base commander's office. When he and his team are caught, he manages to talk his way out of trouble.
Put in working condition, the unpainted Sea Tiger reaches Marinduque, where Sherman reluctantly agrees to evacuate five female Army nurses stranded there. Holden is attracted to Second Lieutenant Duran (Dina Merrill), while Sherman has a series of embarrassing encounters with the well-endowed but clumsy Second Lieutenant Crandall (Joan O'Brien). When Sherman sights and prepares to attack an enemy oiler, Crandall accidentally launches the torpedo prematurely. It misses the ship, instead obliterating a truck on the beach. "We sunk a truck!", Sherman says in disbelief.
Sherman tries to leave the nurses at Cebu, but the Army refuses to accept them, as it is preparing for guerrilla warfare to oppose the coming Japanese occupation. When Sherman is unable to obtain needed supplies officially, he allows Holden to set up a casino to get them. The crew does not have enough red lead or white lead primer paint to coat the entire submarine in a single color, so the two have to be mixed together, resulting in a bright pink. The plan is to apply a second, gray coat after a New Year's Eve celebration. Holden, meanwhile, is caught stealing a pig. Sherman is able to pacify the animal's owner by giving him most of Holden's personal property. The crew and the nurses enjoy a festive feast, but a Japanese aerial attack forces a hasty departure before they can finish painting the sub.
Tokyo Rose mocks the mystery pink submarine in the Celebes Sea, while the Navy believes the submarine's color is a Japanese trick and orders that it be sunk on sight. An American destroyer sights them and opens fire on them, then pounds them with depth charges when they submerge. However (on Holden's suggestion), Sherman shoots the nurses' underwear out a torpedo tube. The destroyer's crew finds Crandall's bra and takes it to the captain, who concludes that it cannot be Japanese and stops the attack.
The arrival of Sea Tiger's Commanding Officer now- Commander Nick Holden, his wife (the former Lieutenant Duran), and their sons in present day-1959 interrupts Sherman's reminiscences. Sherman promises Holden command of a new nuclear-powered submarine, to be launched in a month, also to be named Sea Tiger. Sherman's wife (Crandall) arrives late and rear-ends her husband's staff car, causing it to lock bumpers with a bus. When the bus drives away, it drags along the car. Sherman, long since used to his wife's clumsiness, simply kisses her and assures her that they will stop it at the gate. Holden takes Sea Tiger out to be scrapped. Sherman, watching his old command heading to sea, watches as Sea Tiger's engineering plant malfunctions one last time with the usual backfire and smoke. Somewhat wistfully, Sherman muses, "Still that Number One engine-I guess they never were able to fix that.."
- Cary Grant as Lieutenant Commander (later Rear Admiral) Matthew T. "Matt" Sherman, USN
- Tony Curtis as Lieutenant JG (later Commander USN) Nicholas "Nick" Holden, USNR
- Joan O'Brien as Second Lieutenant Dolores Crandall, NC, USAR
- Dina Merrill as Second Lieutenant Barbara Duran, NC, USAR
- Gene Evans as Chief Petty Officer Molumphry, USN
- Dick Sargent as ENS Stovall, USN (listed as Richard Sargent)
- Arthur O'Connell as Chief Machinist's Mate Sam Tostin, USN
- Virginia Gregg as Major Edna Heywood, NC, USA, the nurses' commander
- Robert F. Simon as Captain J.B. Henderson, USN, Sherman's submarine squadron commander
- Robert Gist as Lieutenant Watson, USN, Sherman's Executive Officer (XO) of the Sea Tiger
- Gavin MacLeod as Seaman Ernest Hunkle, USN
- George Dunn as The Prophet (of Doom)
- Dick Crockett as Petty Officer Harmon, USN
- Madlyn Rhue as Second Lieutenant Reid, NC, USAR
- Marion Ross as Second Lieutenant Colfax, NC, USAR
- Clarence Lung as Sergeant Ramon Gallardo, USMC (as Clarence E. Lung)
- Frankie Darro as Pharmacist Mate 3rd Class Dooley, USN
- Tony Pastor, Jr. as Fox
- Robert F. Hoy as Reiner
- Nicky Blair as Seaman Kraus
- John W. Morley as Williams
- Ray Austin as Seaman Austin
Curtis took credit for the film's inception. He had joined the Navy during World War II with the intent of entering the submarine service, in part because Grant, his hero, appeared in Destination Tokyo (1943). After he became a star, Curtis suggested making a film in which Grant would stare into a periscope as he did in Tokyo. Curtis very much enjoyed working with Grant.
The film was produced with extensive support of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy. Most of the filming was done in and around Naval Station Key West, now the Truman Annex of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, which substituted for the Philippines and Australia. Filming for the period suggesting postwar 1959 was done at Naval Station San Diego, California.
USS Sea Tiger was portrayed by three different American World War II-era submarines:
- USS Queenfish, in the opening and closing scenes (circa 1959), in which the "393" on the conning tower is visible,
- USS Archerfish, for all the World War II scenes where the boat was painted the standard gray and black,
- USS Balao, for all the scenes in which Sea Tiger was painted pink.
Some of the plot points of the movie were based on real-life incidents, such as:
- the sinking of the submarine USS Sealion at the pier at Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines
- Commander Sherman's letter to the supply department on the inexplicable lack of toilet paper (based on an actual letter to the supply department of Mare Island Naval Shipyard by Lieutenant Commander James Wiggins ("Red") Coe of the submarine USS Skipjack),
- the need to paint a submarine pink due to the lack of enough red or white lead undercoat paint. The heat from the burning Sealion also scorched off the black paint of the nearby USS Seadragon and for a time this boat fought with only her red lead undercoat visible. This led Tokyo Rose to disparage American "red pirate submarines."
- the torpedoing of a bus by the USS Bowfin
Box office performance
This film was a huge box office hit, making it the #3 moneymaker of 1960, earning $6,800,000.
1977 television series
The movie was adapted as an ABC-TV series which ran from September 17, 1977 to August 10, 1979. Initially starring John Astin in Grant's role of Lieutenant Commander Sherman, the TV series was probably most notable for the casting of Tony Curtis' daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis as Lieutenant Duran. Most of the cast was replaced for the show's second season, a decision that led to low ratings and cancellation. Only 32 episodes of the series (22 in season 1, 10 in season 2) were produced in total.
- "All-time top film grossers", Variety 8 January 1964 p 37. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to film distributors not total money earned at the box office..
- Private Screenings: Tony Curtis. Turner Classic Movies, 19 Jan 1999.
- United States Submarine Operations in World War II, p. 71
- Steinberg, Cobbett (1980). Film Facts. New York: Facts on File, Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0-87196-313-2. When a film is released late in a calendar year (October to December), its income is reported in the following year's compendium, unless the film made a particularly fast impact (p. 17). The #1 film of 1960 was Ben-Hur ($17,300,000), and the #2 film was Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho ($8,500,000).
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (Oct. 1995) . The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present (Sixth ed.). New York: Ballantine Books, a Division of Random House, Inc. p. 780. ISBN 0-345-39736-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Operation Petticoat.|
- Operation Petticoat at the Internet Movie Database
- Operation Petticoat at allmovie
- Operation Petticoat at the TCM Movie Database
- Historic reviews, photo gallery at CaryGrant.net