For Spring Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumb, Kajta of Breath of Hallelujah, and I have been watching and writing about Cary Grant movies. I always add this disclaimer: the movies we watched were chosen because I had never seen them before, not because they are his best. I was trying to watch movies of his I had not seen so thought I’d do a challenge similar to my Summer of Paul last summer.
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, last week we delayed writing about Operation Petticoat because Erin and I both had busy weeks and felt frazzled. We found out later that Katja also had a weird week so that worked out well.
Okay, now back to the movie, which is a comedy and that is really what I needed last week and still need this week. I find it surprising that this movie, out of all of Cary’s movies was actually the highest grossing of his career at $9.3 million. It was extremely popular when it was released in 1959 and is still considered the highest-grossing comedy of all time. Crazy, right?
Anyhow, we open with Cary Grant in a naval officer’s uniform.
At this point, I pause and sigh as I admire the view. I pause the film for a moment and sigh again.
In a world where men are being feminized more and more, it is refreshing to see a real man looking like a real man in uniform. Again, in case you don’t understand what I am saying, he does look nice in a uniform.
Now, on with the show.
Cary is an admiral in the Navy in the beginning of the movie. He’s gone back to a submarine that he was once the captain of. He finds his way to the captain’s cabin and waits for him to arrive and while he does he reminisces about when he was captain and all the craziness that happened one day in the beginning of the U.S.’s involvement in World War II.
Here is a bit of background and plot of the movie from Wikipedia so I don’t have to explain it all in my awkward way.:
“In 1959, U. S. Navy Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant) boards the obsolete submarine USS Sea Tiger, prior to her departure for the scrapyard. Sherman, her first commanding officer, begins reading his wartime personal logbook, and a flashback begins.
On December 10, 1941, a Japanese air raid sinks Sea Tiger while she is docked at the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines. Lieutenant Commander Sherman and his crew begin repairs, hoping to sail for Darwin, Australia before the Japanese overrun the port. Believing there is no chance of repairing the submarine, the squadron commodore transfers most of Sherman’s crew to other boats, but promises Sherman that he will have first call on any available replacements. Lieutenant (junior grade) Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), an admiral’s aide, is reassigned to Sea Tiger despite a total lack of submarine training or experience.”
Nick, in fact, has so little experience he walks up in an all-white dress uniform and talks about all the mundane and unimportant things he did for the admiral. None of it includes being at sea.
Nick does have another talent – ideas for how to get supplies that the captain will need to get his ship running again.
His ideas are “less than proper” shall we say and it turns out the admiral’s aide isn’t a waste of space after all. While the commander thought he was soft, it turns out he’s a real con-man, which is what is needed to get the submarine back on its way to Australia.
Nick strikes deals with ex-cons, witchdoctors, and many others to make sure they can get their supplies or help.
While out to see they find an island on and on that island are nurses who were stranded there when their plane had to land in an emergency because they were being fired at by the Japanese.
Cary/Matt isn’t really very interested in taking the nurses on his ship of all men, but the men, of course, are thrilled.
Many suggestive and flirty comments begin at this point, especially between Nick and Second Lt. Barbara Duran who he offers his pajamas to on her first night aboard.
In this moment things become quite bawdy (though not dirty) when she says she couldn’t possibly take his pajamas and he says it is totally fine as long as he is not in them at the same time. When she asks what he’s going to wear he says, “I’ll take the bottoms, if you like the tops. Do you like the tops? You can have the bottoms if you want.”
Matt tries to take the women to an army base but the Army says they can’t take the women without the proper orders because the Japanese are closing in. It is because the Japanese are closing in that Matt allows Nick to set up a casino-like operation where enlisted men can bring them the parts they need and get paid for them. The hull was damaged in the initial attack and the torpedo man would like some paint to fix the chips and nicks in it. The only issue is that they can’t get their hands on any gray paint so they finally settle on red and white. We all know what color that makes so eventually the hull is painted – yes, pink.
As you can imagine, this makes the submarine a perfect target and creates even more hilarious moments on board as they try to make their way to safety. The real problem with the pink submarine and then some repairs that still need to be taken care of, is that eventually, their own side doesn’t know that it is them. I won’t tell you how they finally let the U.S. Navy know it’s them and not the Japanese, but let’s just say it involves some unmentionables.
A little bit of trivia from Wikipedia: Tony Curtis took credit for the idea for the movie because he joined the Navy during World War II to work on a submarine partly because he had seen Cary’s movie Destination Tokyo. After the war and after he became a star, Tony said he’d love to be in a movie with Cary where Cary would be a submarine captain.
An actress who was going to be in the movie actually pulled out because she felt there were too many sex jokes. She was probably right, but the jokes were still way tamer than the jokes that are in movies today.
One risqué quote that did crack me up from Cary was, “It’s like watching a striptease. Don’t ask how it’s done. Just enjoy what is coming off.”
The U.S. Navy supported the movie and allowed it to be filmed around Naval Station Key West, which is now called the Truman Annex of Naval Station Key West. The submarine was portrayed by three different World War II-era submarines.
I kept being too technical watching this movie and saying “You can’t bring a submarine up and down like that.”
My husband had to keep reminding me that this is meant to be a goofball comedy. “It is a typical Blake Edwards comedy.” Which I guess means that Blake Edward created crazy and unrealistic comedies.
And, yes, in case you are wondering or don’t know, the show Operation Petticoat (which I have never seen) was based on the movie.
Overall I really enjoyed this movie and it came at a time I needed something silly.
To catch up on what Erin thought of the movie you can find her blog here (the post might be late today) and you can find Katja’s blog here (her post might also be late but it will be up later).
Here is the original trailer
Next up to finish up Spring of Cary:
Suspicion (May 25)
Notorious (May June 1)
I’d love to do a Summer of Bogart and watch Humphrey Bogart movies, but I haven’t run that by Erin or Katja yet. I’ll see what they think. Maybe I’ll do it on my own for fun.
7 thoughts on “Spring of Cary: Operation Petticoat”
I have a new classic celebrity crush – Tony Curtis. Sigh. Lol.
I loved this movie!! I wasn’t sure about it at first but then I really liked it.
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He was a cutie for sure.
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Yes, men being men! Men doing manly things! *L*
A lot of what makes stories work is the growth of the characters, and both leads do over the course of the film; a point driven home by the end of the film when we find out that Nick doesn’t end up with his rich girl after all!
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Exactly! And that the Admiral chilled out a bit and went for the “airhead” who wasn’t really an airhead.
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The admiral realized that there are the rare times when doing things “by the book” doesn’t work, and has the potential to get people killed (of course, we don’t see most of the results of the aftermath of Nick’s appropriations, but you can make the argument that they were the ones who were in the most dire situation). Before the women came on, I thought “This is exactly why women weren’t allowed on subs for so long.” 🙂
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