Operation Petticoat (1959)

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    Plot Summary
    A submarine newly commissioned is damaged in the opening days of WW II.
    A captain, looking for a command insists he can get it to a dockyard and captain it.
    Going slowly to this site, they find a stranded group of Army nurses
    and must take them aboard.
    How bad can it get? Trying to get a primer coat on the sub,
    they have to mix white and red in order to have enough.
    When forced to flee the dock during an air attack,
    they find themselves with the world's only Pink submarine,
    still with 5 women in the tight quarters of a submarine.
    Written by John Vogel

    Cary Grant ... Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman
    Tony Curtis ... Lt. JG Nicholas Holden
    Joan O'Brien ... Lt. Dolores Crandall RN
    Dina Merrill ... Lt. Barbara Duran RN
    Gene Evans ... Chief Molumphry
    Dick Sargent ... Ens. Stovall (as Richard Sargent)
    Virginia Gregg ... Maj. Edna Heywood RN
    Robert F. Simon ... Capt. J.B. Henderson
    Robert Gist ... Lt. Watson
    Gavin MacLeod ... Ernest Hunkle
    George Dunn ... The Prophet
    Dick Crockett ... Harmon
    Madlyn Rhue ... Lt. Reid RN
    Marion Ross ... Lt. Colfax RN
    Clarence Lung ... Sgt. Ramon Gillardo (as Clarence E. Lung)
    Frankie Darro ... Pharmacist Mate Dooley
    Tony Pastor Jr. ... Fox
    Robert F. Hoy ... Reiner (as Robert Hoy)
    Nicky Blair ... Seaman Kraus
    John W. Morley ... Williams
    Arthur O'Connell ... Chief Mechinist's Mate Sam Tostin
    and many, many more...

    Blake Edwards

    Writing Credits
    Stanley Shapiro ... (screenplay) and
    Maurice Richlin ... (screenplay)
    Paul King ... (suggested by a story by) and
    Joseph Stone ... (suggested by a story by)

    Robert Arthur ... producer

    David Rose
    Henry Mancini ... (uncredited)

    Russell Harlan ... director of photography

    Jeff Chandler was originally offered the role that went to Cary Grant.
    Grant himself was at first reluctant to take it, knowing he was much too old
    to play a wartime captain.

    The "sinking" of a truck was inspired by real incident that happened in 1944.
    On August 9th, USS Bowfin (SS-287) followed four ships into Minami Daito Harbour.
    As she fired her six bow torpedoes at the moored ships, hitting three and sinking two of them,
    one torpedo went astray and hit a pier.
    A bus parked on it was blown up and thrown into the water by the explosion.

    Some of the plot points of the movie were based on real-life incidents.
    Most notable were scenes set at the opening of WW II,
    based on the actual sinking of the submarine USS Sealion (SS-195),
    sunk at the pier at Cavite Navy Yard, the Philippines;
    Cmdr. 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 Lt. Cmdr. James Wiggin Coe of the submarine Skipjack (SS-184);
    and the need to paint a submarine pink, due to the lack of enough
    red lead or white lead undercoat paint.

    According to the memoir "Mislaid in Hollywood' by Joe Hyams, referred to in the biography
    "Cary Grant - A Class Apart" by Graham McCann, " . . .
    Grant found his burgeoning enthusiasm for his therapeutic use of LSD
    increasingly hard to contain, and, eventually, while he was shooting the movie
    "Operation Petticoat", he could hold back no longer.
    Two reporters - Joe Hyams and Lionel Crane - both prepared for the usual amusing
    but scrupulously bland Grant interview, were stunned to find him unusually relaxed,
    open and keen to share with them the extraordinary experiences he had undergone . . .
    He talked about his desperate desire to change his character
    so that he could be reunited with Betsy Drake."

    The nurses wonder why the toilet is called "the head."
    It's because on earlier sailing ships, the toilet for enlisted sailors was a series of holes,
    like an outhouse, that was perched out over the bow - the "head of the ship."
    This location was for practical reasons as the wind was always blowing from the aft;
    therefore, any "offensive odors" were blown away from ship.
    The officer's toilets were near the stern or back of the ship within the "quarter gallery",
    the part of the stern that hung over the water on either side.

    Tina Louise was offered but turned down the role of Nurse Crandall
    that then went to Joan O'Brien because Louise didn't like the abundant boob jokes
    directed at the character.

    'USS Balao' SS-285 was painted pink and was used for exterior shots in and around Key West.
    'USS Archerfish' SS-311 (originally 'USS Archer-Fish', renamed at 1952 recommission)
    wore the standard colors of gray and black, and was used for
    interior and exterior shots in and around Key West. 'USS Queenfish' SS-393
    was used in opening and closing scenes, and was used for the "at sea" shots
    filmed in and around San Diego.

    Bob Hope always said it was his biggest regret that he turned down this movie.

    A submarine based at Cavite, the USS Seadragon, did go on patrol with a red paint job.
    Her original black paint was damaged by fire in the air raid,
    and ended up peeling off while she was on patrol.
    She ended up sinking three Japanese ships during the time her paint was peeling,
    leading Tokyo Rose to make broadcasts about "Red pirate submarines."

    Of the three boats to portray the 'Sea Tiger', one-the 'USS Archer-Fish',
    SS-311-was present at the Japanese surrender which ended WWII in the Pacific Theater.
    The 'USS Wren', DD-568, which was shown as the
    destroyer attacking 'Sea Tiger', was also present.

    Nurse Barbara (Dina Merrill), the love interest for Tony Curtis' character,
    was played in the 1977 remake by Curtis' daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis.

    Three members of the cast would later reunite with Gavin MacLeod on his show
    The Love Boat (1977). Dick Sargent and Dina Merrill each appeared once
    while Marion Ross guest-starred
    as five different characters then became a regular cast member as a sixth.
    Three members of the regular cast of Petticoat Affair (1977),
    the ABC series based on this movie, also guest-starred on The Love Boat.
    John Astin and Richard Gilliland had been cut after the first season
    and Melinda Naud appeared after the show's season two cancellation.

    The comment, "Mason, I think we've been victims of Sherman's March to the Sea",
    is a reference linking Lt Commander Sherman's actions to the Savannah Campaign
    waged by General Sherman during the American Civil War.

    Nick Holden tells Matt Sherman that the boys up in Las Vegas would say
    he is trying to make his point the hard way.
    Sherman latter repeats this to someone else.
    In 1941, while it existed and had gambling,
    Las Vegas was not yet the gambling and entertainment center it is known for.
    It was a small dusty town that was mostly a rest stop on the way to Southern California.
    People might know of it, and specially navy servicemen might know of it
    since they would stop there on their way to the Pacific,
    but it wouldn't have been a standard cultural reference as it would be in the 1950's and beyond.
    In 1941, Reno, NV would have been a more appropriate reference
    as it was better known as a place to gamble and vacation.

    When Lt. Holden tells the Marine guard about the "blackout regulations,"
    he says the order came from Adm. Nimitz.
    If this is set in mid-December 1941, Adm. Nimitz wasn't commander-in-chief, yet.
    He took command on 31 December 1941.

    The map on the wall of the office where Cary Grant and his superior are
    discussing the damages the submarine suffered during the Japanese raid
    at the beginning of the movie is clearly a mid '50s world map. The borders of European countries are clearly post war
    and the same about India and Pakistan that didn't exist as countries on 1941.

    A late 1950s vintage car - possibly a Dodge or Chrysler is visible
    through an open door in one of the rooms at the naval base.

    The destroyer shown attempting to sink the Sea Tiger is the USS Wren, DD-568,
    which was not commissioned until 20 May 1944.

    All the real vessels used in the film - USS Wren, USS Balao,
    USS Archer-Fish and USS Queenfish - served in the Second World War
    but were launched after the period in which these events take place.
    USS Wren and USS Queenfish were launched in 1944, USS Balao in 1942 (October),
    and USS Archer-Fish in 1943.

    When Holden is stealing the pig, he falls down in the mud and clearly
    gets the seat of his uniform muddy.
    Yet when he is climbing into the truck, the trousers are clean.

    Factual errors
    When Lt. Commander Sherman is talking to Captain Henderson
    they mention the submarine tender Bushnell as being in Darwin, Australia.
    That is not correct as the Bushnell had been transferred to duty
    as a Hydrographic Survey ship and renamed Sumner AGS-32 in 1940.
    The closest submarine tender was actually USS Canopus AS-9, which was in the Cavite Naval Yard.

    Off and on throughout the film, Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman wears what appears
    to be a signet ring on the third finger of his left hand.

    Plot holes
    When Major Heywood is talking to Lt Commder Sherman on her arrival on the submarine,
    several ships can be seen in the background.
    If real, these would have been more appropriate transport for the nurses.

    Revealing mistakes
    During an air raid, several bombs go off near a truck Tony Curtis is driving.
    A cloud of smoke is shown coming up vertically at the driver's door
    while the background scene shows the truck is moving at a high speed.
    The wind created by the truck's forward motion should have blown the smoke horizontally.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Key West, Florida Keys, Florida, USA
    San Diego, California, USA
    Naval Station San Diego, California, USA (scenes suggesting postwar period)
    Naval Station Key West, Florida, USA (the Philippines and Australia scenes)
    Stage 19, Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Operation Petticoat is a 1959 American World War II submarine comedy film
    in Eastmancolor from Universal-International, produced by Robert Arthur,
    directed by Blake Edwards, that stars Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

    The film tells in flashback the misadventures of the fictional
    U. S. Navy submarine, USS Sea Tiger, during the opening days
    of the United States involvement in World War II.
    Some elements of the screenplay were taken from actual incidents that happened
    with some of the Pacific Fleet's submarines during the war.
    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.

    Paul King, Joseph Stone, Stanley Shapiro, and Maurice Richlin
    were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing for their work on Operation Petticoat.
    The film was the basis for a television series in 1977 starring John Astin in Grant's role

    User Review

    A just sit back and enjoy family film!
    13 March 1999 | by RJHaas (Richmond, Texas)

    Best Wishes
    London- England