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The Caine Mutiny (film)

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The Caine Mutiny
Original film poster
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Written byStanley Roberts
Michael Blankfort[1]
Based onThe Caine Mutiny
(1951 novel)
by Herman Wouk
Produced byStanley Kramer
CinematographyFranz Planer
Edited by
Music byMax Steiner
Stanley Kramer Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 24, 1954 (1954-06-24) (New York City)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$21.8 million[3]

The Caine Mutiny is a 1954 American military trial film directed by Edward Dmytryk, produced by Stanley Kramer, and starring Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, Robert Francis, and Fred MacMurray. It is based on Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1951 novel of the same name.

Set in the Pacific theatre of World War II, the film depicts the events on board a fictitious U.S. Navy destroyer-minesweeper and the subsequent court-martial of its executive officer for mutiny.

The film was well received by critics and was the second highest-grossing film in the United States in 1954.[4]


During World War II, newly commissioned Ensign Willis Seward "Willie" Keith reports to the minesweeper USS Caine, commanded by Lieutenant Commander William De Vriess, also meeting the executive officer (XO), Lieutenant Stephen Maryk, and the communications officer, Lieutenant Thomas Keefer. De Vriess, popular with the men but disliked by Keith, is relieved by Lieutenant Commander Queeg. Keith is freshly out of college and officer candidate school and is courting May Wynn, who is not approved of by his mother. Maryk is a career officer and Keefer is an aspiring novelist.

Queeg attempts to instill strict discipline on the Caine's lax crew, which makes him unpopular with the officers and men.

After a day of gunnery target towing, Queeg orders a turn to head back to Pearl Harbor, but distracts himself by berating Keith and Keefer over a crewman's appearance. Ignoring the helmsman's repeated warnings, he allows the Caine to turn in a full circle and cut the towline, setting the target adrift. Queeg tries to cover up the incident.

During a shore leave, May breaks off her relationship with Keith after she asks him to essentially choose between her and his mother, and he makes the wrong choice. Keith returns to the ship for its next assignment.

The "strawberry investigation".

Assigned to escort a group of landing craft during an invasion of a small Pacific island, Queeg abandons his mission before he reaches the designated departure point, and instead orders the dropping of a yellow dye marker, leaving the landing craft to fend for themselves. Queeg asks his officers for their support, but they remain silent and nickname him "Old Yellowstain", which implies cowardice.

Keefer, believing Queeg to be paranoid, encourages Maryk to consider relieving Queeg on the basis of mental incapacity under Article 184 of Navy Regulations. Though Maryk angrily rejects that possibility, he does begin keeping a medical log documenting the captain's behavior.

When strawberries go missing from the officers' mess, Queeg convenes an elaborate investigation to determine the culprit. The investigation involves searching the ship and stripping all crew members. Convinced of Queeg's instability, Maryk asks Keefer and Keith to go with him to see Admiral Halsey about the matter. Arriving aboard Halsey's flagship, Keefer backs down and they return to the ship.

At the height of Typhoon Cobra, Maryk urges the captain to reverse course into the wind and take on ballast, but Queeg refuses and virtually freezes up on the bridge. Maryk, supported by Keith, relieves Queeg of command under Article 184. The Caine returns to San Francisco, where Maryk and Keith face a court-martial for mutiny. Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, a temporarily grounded Naval Aviator and an attorney before entering the Navy, becomes Maryk's defense counsel.

At the court-martial, Keefer claims he never observed any mental illness in Queeg and was "flabbergasted" when he was relieved. Under Greenwald's relentless cross-examination, Queeg exhibits odd behavior on the stand, and Maryk is acquitted.

Following the acquittal, the officers of the Caine hold a party, where Keefer receives a frosty reception from Maryk. A drunken Greenwald arrives and berates all the officers for not appreciating Queeg's long service and failing to give him the support he asked for, instead of deriding him as an incompetent. Barney claims their mistreatment of Queeg, who had been suffering from "battle fatigue" from his previous combat service in the Atlantic, caused the captain to ultimately become indecisive during the typhoon. He denounces Keefer as the real "author" of the mutiny and throws a glass of champagne, the "yellow wine", in Keefer's face. The rest of the officers walk out, leaving Keefer alone in the room.

Keith, now married to May Wynn, is promoted to lieutenant (junior grade), and assigned to a new Sumner-class destroyer commanded by now-Commander De Vriess, his first captain in the Caine.


The act of mutiny: Maryk's relief of Queeg during the typhoon.

Uncredited Cast

Humphrey Bogart
José Ferrer
Van Johnson
Fred MacMurray, after champagne has been flung in his face



Herman Wouk had already adapted his novel as a stage play, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, which premiered on Broadway in January 1954 and ran for more than a year. The play was directed by Charles Laughton and was a critical as well as a commercial success.[11] Wouk was initially selected to write the screenplay, but director Dmytryk thought his work was not successful. He replaced the novelist with Stanley Roberts, an experienced screenwriter. Roberts later quit the production after being told to cut the screenplay so the film could be kept to two hours. The 50 pages worth of cuts were made by Michael Blankfort, who received an "additional dialog" credit.[12]

The film differs from the novel, which focused on the Keith character, who became secondary in the film. The film instead focuses on Queeg.[11] Independent producer Stanley Kramer "mollified the Navy" by modifying the Queeg characterization to make him less of a madman, as portrayed by Wouk, and more a victim of battle fatigue.[13] Studios did not want to purchase the film rights to Wouk's novel until cooperation of the U.S. Navy was settled.[14] Kramer purchased the rights himself for an estimated $60,000 – $70,000. The Navy's reluctance to cooperate led to an unusually long pre-production period.

Navy involvement[edit]

The Navy was initially uncomfortable with both the portrayal of a mentally unbalanced man as the captain of one of its ships and the word "mutiny" in the film's title. After Stanley Roberts' shooting script was completed and approved by the Navy after 15 months of negotiations, the Department agreed to cooperate with Columbia Pictures by providing access to its ships, planes, combat boats, Pearl Harbor, the port of San Francisco, and Naval Station Treasure Island for filming. Dmytryk recalled in his memoir that after "noisy" protests from the Navy subsided, the film production received wholehearted cooperation.[15] This included the conversion of two soon to be decommissioned destroyer/destroyer minesweepers, USS Thompson (DD-627/DMS-38) and USS Doyle (DD-494/DMS-34), as facsimiles to portray the USS Caine.[16][17]

An epigraph appears on screen immediately following the opening credits that reads: "There has never been a mutiny in a ship of the United States Navy. The truths of this film lie not in its incidents, but in the way a few men meet the crisis of their lives."[12] In 1842, an incipient mutiny was quashed before it occurred on board the US Navy Brig USS Somers.[18]

Casting and director[edit]

Stanley Kramer and Columbia Pictures intended to cast Humphrey Bogart as Philip Queeg. Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn knew that Bogart wanted the part and took advantage of that fact, and he was eventually able to force Bogart to settle for much less than his usual $200,000 salary. "This never happens to Cooper or Grant or Gable, but always to me", Bogart complained to his wife, Lauren Bacall.[12]

Van Johnson was loaned to Columbia by MGM, where he was under contract. Being cast as Maryk was a breakthrough for the actor, who felt that he had been in a "rut" by being typecast in light roles. During the filming of the scene off Oahu in which Maryk swims fully clothed to retrieve a line, his character is warned that there are sharks in the water; these sharks do not appear on camera, but the actor's life was saved when a real-life Navy rifleman shot one which was approaching.[13] Lee Marvin was cast as one of the sailors, not only for his acting, but also because of his knowledge of ships at sea. Marvin had served in the U.S. Marines from the beginning of American involvement in World War II through the Battle of Saipan in 1944, during which he was wounded. As a result, he became an unofficial technical advisor for the film.[12]

Before choosing Dmytryk for The Caine Mutiny, Kramer had hired the director for three low-budget films. Dmytryk had previously been blacklisted, and the success of the film helped revive his career.[15]

The Caine Mutiny would be the first feature role in Robert Francis's short four-film Hollywood career, as he was killed when the private plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from Burbank Airport in California on July 31, 1955.[19]


Principal photography took place between June 3 and August 24, 1953 under the initial working title of Authority and Rebellion.[20]

In addition to the Pearl Harbor and San Francisco Bay Area locations, including the Caine steaming back and forth several times under the Golden Gate Bridge, the romantic subplot features scenes shot on location at Yosemite National Park.[21]

The USS Rodman, a Gleaves-class destroyer minesweeper, was one of the ships chosen to represent the USS Caine in the film. The Rodman had one less smokestack than the actual Clemson-class destroyers on which Wouk served, and had more anti-aircraft guns. Completed in 1941, she was a much more modern ship than the 1918-manufactured Clemson-class destroyer minesweepers had been. True to the theme of the novel, the actual minesweepers of Wouk's service, the Zane and the Southard, were both outdated ships by the time the film was made. The Zane was retired shortly after the war, and the Southard was scuttled in October 1945 after running aground in Okinawa with Wouk serving as Executive Officer. One of the primary inspirations for the book and the movie came from Wouk's experience as second in command of the Southard when she ran aground in Okinawa as a result of Typhoon Ida in September 1945.[22][23][24][25]

Columbia claimed that the film contained the longest continuous courtroom scene without a cut, running to 977 feet, surpassing a scene in The Life of Emile Zola.[26]


This was the last of a number of Bogart films scored by composer Max Steiner, mostly for Warner Bros. The main title theme, The Caine Mutiny March, was included in RCA Victor's collection of classic Bogart film scores, recorded by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra.[27]

The lyrics of the song, "Yellowstain Blues", which mocked Queeg's perceived cowardice during the landing incident, were drawn from The Caine Mutiny, the novel by Herman Wouk on which the film was based.[28]


The original soundtrack album for The Caine Mutiny was not officially released until 2017, and copies of the soundtrack made before that are very rare. Perhaps a dozen copies survive. RCA Victor planned an LP release with musical excerpts on the first side and the complete dialogue of the climactic court-martial scene on side two, but Herman Wouk believed that including this scene was an infringement on his recently opened Broadway play dealing with the court-martial. He threatened to prohibit Columbia Pictures from making any further adaptations of his work. According to Wouk, "Columbia head Harry Cohn looked into the matter, called me back, and said in his tough gravelly voice, 'I've got you beat on the legalities, but I've listened to the record and it's no goddamn good, so I'm yanking it.'"[citation needed] Max Steiner's score was finally released by Intrada Records in 2017 as Special Collection Volume ISC 382.[29]


The film premiered in New York City on June 24, 1954, and went into general release on July 28. Made on a budget of $2 million, it was the second-highest-grossing film of 1954, earning $8.7 million in theatrical rentals in the United States.[4][30] It was the most successful of Kramer's productions, some of which had previously lost money, and put his entire production company – as well as Columbia Pictures – in the black.[15]

The film got a major pre-release boost three weeks before its premiere when Bogart as Queeg appeared on the cover of the June 7, 1954 issue of Time magazine. The accompanying cover story ("Cinema: The Survivor") praised Bogart's portrayal of Queeg as "a blustering, secretive figure in Navy suntans, who brings the hollow, driven, tyrannical character of Captain Queeg to full and invidious life, yet seldom fails to maintain a bond of sympathy with his audience. He deliberately gives Queeg the mannerisms and appearance of an officer of sternness and decision, and then gradually discloses him as a man who is bottling up a scream, a man who never meets another's eyes. In the courtroom scene, Bogart's Queeg seems oblivious of his own mounting hysteria. Then, suddenly, he knows he is undone; he stops and stares stricken at the court, during second after ticking second of dramatic and damning silence."[31]

Director Edward Dmytryk felt The Caine Mutiny could have been better than it was and should have been three and a half to four hours long to fully portray all the characters and complex story, but Columbia's Cohn insisted on a two-hour limit.[12] Reviewing the film in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote that the job of condensing Wouk's novel to two hours had been achieved "with clarity and vigor, on the whole." His reservations concerned the studio's attempt to "cram" in "more of the novel than was required", such as the "completely extraneous" love affair between Keith and May Wynn, which Crowther found to be a plot diversion that weakened dramatic tension. Although he doubted whether the novel had a structure suited for film, he noted that Roberts had "endeavored to follow it faithfully." The result, he argued, was that the court-martial became "an anticlimax" as it repeated Queeg's visible collapse seen in the typhoon but still considered the core of the film "smartly and stingingly played" and "though somewhat garbled" was still "a vibrant film."[32]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 41 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's consensus reads: "Humphrey Bogart is superb as a domineering captain with brittle composure in The Caine Mutiny, an inquisitive courtroom drama teeming with memorable performances."[33]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Stanley Kramer Nominated [34]
Best Actor Humphrey Bogart Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Tom Tully Nominated
Best Screenplay Stanley Roberts Nominated
Best Film Editing William Lyon and Henry Batista Nominated
Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Max Steiner Nominated
Best Sound Recording John P. Livadary Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film from any Source Nominated [35]
Best Foreign Actor José Ferrer Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Edward Dmytryk Nominated [36]
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Director Nominated [37]
Best Actor Humphrey Bogart Nominated
Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Edward Dmytryk Nominated

American Film Institute Lists


In his book American Literature on Stage and Film, historian Thomas S. Hischak says that Dmytryk handled both the action sequences and character portrayals deftly, and calls Queeg's breakdown during the trial "the stuff of movie legend."[11]

The film and novel influenced the drafters of the 25th Article Of Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which set forth conditions for removing the President of the United States. John D. Feerick, former dean of Fordham University School of Law, who assisted in drafting the amendment, told The Washington Post in 2018 that the film was a "live depiction" of the type of crisis that could arise "if a president ever faced questions about physical or mental inabilities but disagreed completely with the judgment", which was not dealt with in the Constitution. Lawmakers and lawyers drafting the amendment wanted no such "Article 184 situation" as depicted in the film, in which the Vice President of the U.S. or others could topple the President by merely saying that the President was "disabled".[42]

Cultural influence[edit]

When Michael Caine, born Maurice Micklewhite, first became an actor he adopted the stage name "Michael White". He was later told by his agent that another actor was already using the same name, and that he had to come up with a new one immediately. Speaking to his agent from a telephone box in Leicester Square in London, he looked around for inspiration. Being a fan of Bogart, he noted that The Caine Mutiny was being shown at the Odeon Cinema, and adopted a new name from the movie title. Caine has often joked in interviews that, had he looked the other way, he would have ended up as "Michael One Hundred and One Dalmatians".[43]

Vince Gilligan used a clip of the film in a Breaking Bad episode titled "Madrigal", originally transmitted in 2012, and has stated that The Caine Mutiny was one of his favorite movies as a child.[44] The final scene of "Chicanery", an episode of the Breaking Bad spinoff series Better Call Saul, is an homage to the film's climactic courtroom scene.[45]

In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, members of the human resistance serve aboard the submarine USS Jimmy Carter piloted by a reprogrammed Terminator that has been named "Queeg" by the crew.[46]

In the Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine", the obsessive Commodore Matt Decker, portrayed by William Windom, fusses constantly with two futuristic tape cartridges, much as Captain Queeg rubs together two bearing balls. Windom publicly acknowledged that Decker's behavior was based on Queeg's.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wynn's birth name was "Donna Lee Hickey"; she adopted her stage name from the character in Wouk's original novel.


  1. ^ The Caine Mutiny at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  2. ^ Tranberg, Charles (2014) Fred MacMurray: A Biography, Bear Manor Media
  3. ^ Box Office Information for The Caine Mutiny. The Numbers. Retrieved April 15, 2013
  4. ^ a b 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  5. ^ https://www.tvguide.com/movies/the-caine-mutiny/cast/2030282051/
  6. ^ https://www.tvguide.com/movies/the-caine-mutiny/cast/2030282051/
  7. ^ https://www.tvguide.com/movies/the-caine-mutiny/cast/2030282051/
  8. ^ https://www.tvguide.com/movies/the-caine-mutiny/cast/2030282051/
  9. ^ https://www.tvguide.com/movies/the-caine-mutiny/cast/2030282051/
  10. ^ McCarty, Clifford (1965). Bogey: The Films of Humphrey Bogart (1st ed.). New York, N.Y.: Cadillac Publishing Co., Inc. p. 174.
  11. ^ a b c Hischak, Thomas S. (2012). American literature on stage and screen 525 works and their adaptations. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. pp. 35–36. ISBN 9780786492794. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d e McGee, Scott "The Caine Mutiny" (TCM article)
  13. ^ a b Davis, Ronald L. (2016). Van Johnson: MGM's Golden Boy. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 159–161. ISBN 9781496803856. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  14. ^ TCM Notes
  15. ^ a b c Dmytryk, Edward (1996). Odd man out : a memoir of the Hollywood Ten. Carbondale [u.a.]: Southern Illinois Univ. Press. pp. 186–190. ISBN 9780809319992. Retrieved March 4, 2016. the caine mutiny.
  16. ^ "Cinema: The Survivor", TIME Magazine, June 7, 1954
  17. ^ USS THOMPSON (DD-627) Destroyers.org
  18. ^ Anthony, Irving. "Mutiny on the USS Somers", 17, no.1 Sea Classics (Jan. 1984): 18–22, 78–79.
  19. ^ Osborne, Robert outro, TCM broadcast
  20. ^ TCM Overview: The Caine Mutiny, Turner Classics Movies (TCM)
  21. ^ "Facts about The Caine Mutiny". www.classicmoviehub.com. Classic Movie Hub. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  22. ^ "USS Rodman". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  23. ^ Blackman, Raymond V. B., ed. Jane's Fighting Ships 1972–1973. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973. p. 310.
  24. ^ Description of the ship Southard in the typhoon in Wouk, Herman, The Caine Mutiny, (1953) Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York, London, pp. 344–57
  25. ^ Wouk ran aground on the Southard in Okinawa in 1945 in Carpenter, Frederick I., "Herman Wouk", College English, January, 1956, vol. 17, no. 4, 1956, pp. 211–215. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/371577. Accessed 22 June 2020.
  26. ^ "Inside Stuff - Pictures". Variety. August 26, 1953. p. 17. Retrieved March 14, 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  27. ^ The Caine Mutiny Music Credits IMDb
  28. ^ Wouk, Herman. The Caine Mutiny
  29. ^ "The Caine Mutiny; Original Music from the Motion Picture". store.intrada.com. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  30. ^ Steinberg, Cobbett (1980). Film Facts. New York: Facts on File, Inc. p. 22. ISBN 0-87196-313-2.
  31. ^ "Cinema: The Survivor", TIME Magazine, June 7, 1954
  32. ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 25, 1954). "The Caine Mutiny (1954) The Screen: 'Caine Mutiny' Arrives; Vibrant Depiction of Novel Is at Capitol". New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  33. ^ "The Caine Mutiny". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 19, 2024. Edit this at Wikidata
  34. ^ "The 27th Academy Awards (1955) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  35. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1955". BAFTA. 1955. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  36. ^ "7th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  37. ^ "1954 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  38. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  39. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  40. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  41. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  42. ^ Flynn, Meagan (September 10, 2018). "How 'The Caine Mutiny' and the paranoid Capt. Queeg influenced the 25th Amendment's drafters, making it harder to sideline a president". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  43. ^ "Michael Caine (I)". The Guardian. London. November 6, 1998. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  44. ^ Nelson, Erik (July 23, 2012). "Vince Gilligan: I've never Googled "Breaking Bad"". Salon.com. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  45. ^ Rowles, Dustin (May 11, 2017). "The Movie That Inspired The 'Best Episode Ever' Of 'Better Call Saul'". Uproxx. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  46. ^ rockknj (March 23, 2009). "Terminator, "Today is the Day, Part 2": Never trust a captain named Queeg". NJ.com. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  47. ^ DeCandido, Keith (November 17, 2015) "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: 'The Doomsday Machine'" Tor.com (Macmillan) Quote: "But the big guest is the great William Windom as Decker. He fully inhabits the role, giving him all kinds of wonderful little tics and habits, from the awkward way he sits in the captain's chair to the way he plays with the data tapes (which Windom has said was inspired by how Humphrey Bogart fiddled with ball bearings [sic] when he played Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny)."
  48. ^ Drury, Bob (2007). Halsey's Typhoon – The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm and an Untold Rescue. Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-1-59887-086-2.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosenberg, Norman L. "The Caine Mutiny: Not Just One but Many Legal Dramas". Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce 31 (2000): 623+.
  • Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film (2nd ed. 2005) pp 45–46.

External links[edit]