Operation Petticoat

( 6 )


Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant) visits the submarine Sea Tiger on the morning of its decommissioning and reminisces about his time as the first commander of the boat, in 1941. Three days after Pearl Harbor, the sub is damaged during an enemy air raid in the Philippines; rather than abandoning her, Sherman and his chiefs refloat the boat. He's forced to accept the services of Lt. (jg) Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), who has no sea experience. Sherman appoints Holden -- a born conniver, deal-maker, and scrounger ...
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Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant) visits the submarine Sea Tiger on the morning of its decommissioning and reminisces about his time as the first commander of the boat, in 1941. Three days after Pearl Harbor, the sub is damaged during an enemy air raid in the Philippines; rather than abandoning her, Sherman and his chiefs refloat the boat. He's forced to accept the services of Lt. (jg) Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), who has no sea experience. Sherman appoints Holden -- a born conniver, deal-maker, and scrounger (his motto: "In confusion, there is profit") -- as supply officer, and through a series of burglaries and petty thefts he gets the Sea Tiger seaworthy again. Up to this point, the movie is an increasingly amusing service comedy, akin to the lighter moments of Mr. Roberts, running on Grant's wry exasperation and Curtis's cool arrogance, coupled with Arthur O'Connell's periodic sardonic yet optimistic jabs at their situation and Gavin MacLeod's fidgety nervousness. The Sea Tiger puts to sea ahead of the Japanese with a quintet of stranded army nurses aboard. The film shifts to a new level of humor as the officers and crew try to cope with living in close quarters with five attractive women in their midst. Grant gives a very witty performance as a man who is both exasperated by the situation he is in, having to adjust his masculinity to keep it from clashing with the feminine sensibilities of his guests, and also trying to control the mating urges of his men, starting with Holden, who can't stay away from Lt. Duran (Dina Merrill). Complicating matters more is Grant's awareness that the Sea Tiger is a "virgin" -- she has never engaged the enemy, but when they finally do, the accident-prone Lt. Crandall (Joan O'Brien) causes their torpedo to miss a tanker and sink a truck (probably the funniest sight gag in the movie). The boat also gets an accidental coat of pink paint when their supply of red and white runs low, and ends up carrying several Filipino families -- including two pregnant women. Since neither the Japanese nor the Americans officially has a pink submarine, the Sea Tiger ends uphunted by both sides and come under attack by an American destroyer. That's where the women's presence becomes a godsend. The movie ends 18 years later, with Holden a serious career navy man and responsible father, married to Duran, and Grant married to Crandall, who is as accident prone as ever.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
In order to properly appreciate Blake Edwards' Operation Petticoat, or understand why it has endured in popularity for more than 40 years, one must first accept that it's a much more complicated movie than it seems. For starters, though it is set in December of 1941 and January of 1942, its plot and sensibilities are really much more reflective of postwar America; and it's also two very different kinds of comedy within one movie, each overlaying the other and working in tandem during the last 70 minutes of its two-hour running time. The first half of Operation Petticoat is an amusing service comedy that builds slowly and subtly in its intensity, playing off of Cary Grant's wry persona and his character's exasperation (really a very slow burn) over the situation in which he finds himself, stuck with a damaged submarine in the middle of a war that broke out only days earlier; and the Tony Curtis character's mix of foppish ne'er-do-well and knowing conniver/scrounger. That half of the movie is something seen before, albeit not done in quite as relaxed a manner, in the comical elements of John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy's Mister Roberts (1954) and Richard Quine's Operation Mad Ball (1957). Then, in the second half of the movie, the stranded army nurses come aboard the submarine Sea Tiger, and suddenly, in the wink of an eye, Operation Petticoat switches gears as director, script, and cast all open the throttle at once -- all of its cylinders start firing, and the movie blossoms into a much more complex and daring piece of entertainment and humor, concerning the close-quarter mingling of the sexes. This being a 1959 movie, it was impossible for Russell Harlan's camera not to linger on the voluptuous physiques of Dina Merrill, Joan O'Brien et al -- audiences expected it and, indeed, the studio making the movie would have demanded it; but those shots, and the dialogue and plot developments that go with them, linger more than they leer, and come with a fairly sophisticated purpose. The whole second half of Operation Petticoat is a sly look at late 1950's concepts of male and female sexuality, reveling in them on the one hand and cheerfully satirizing them on the other. Faced with sharing very tight quarters with a group of nubile women, Grant's and Curtis's characters (and, to a lesser degree, Arthur O'Connell's engine room chief and Dick Sargent's junior officer, and the rest of the crew) must grope -- and this reviewer uses that term in the least sexual manner possible -- around the recesses of their own masculinity and its motivations, to come to terms with their new living situation. In many ways, the movie brushes up against the same material targeted by Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (also starring Curtis), with Joan O'Brien furnishing the iconic female form (and cute, if less distinctive, personality) that Marilyn Monroe provided in the Wilder movie. The movie has a good time tweaking the more frivolous sides of femininity as it was understood in 1959; it also targets several aspects of male sexuality of the period, most importantly the misogynist mentalities of older men embodied by Grant's and O'Connell's characters, and their distrust of women, as well as the "Playboy magazine"-style hedonism embodied by Curtis's character -- it even manages to work in a gentle dig at the go-getter, success-at-any-price ideas that afflicted America in the 1950's. In the end, the Sea Tiger's loopy, halting ride across the Pacific becomes a much smoother, more subtle, and enjoyable ride for the viewer, who can absorb Operation Petticoat at its most superficial, or find amusement at deeper and more serious levels.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/1/2014
  • UPC: 887090080002
  • Original Release: 1959
  • Rating:

  • Source: Olive Films
  • Time: 2:02:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 6,422

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Cary Grant Adm. Matt Sherman
Tony Curtis Lt. Nick Holden
Joan O'Brien Lt. Dolores Crandall
Dina Merrill Lt. Barbara Duran
Gene Evans Molumphrey
Arthur O'Connell Sam Tostin
Virginia Gregg Maj. Edna Hayward
Robert Simon Capt. J. B. Henderson
Robert Gist Watson
Gavin MacLeod Ernest Hunkle
George Dunn Prophet
Dick Crockett Harmon
Madlyn Rhue Lt. Claire Reid
Marion Ross Lt. Ruth Colfax
Clarence Lung Ramon
Frankie Darro Dooley
Robert Hoy Reiner
Nicky Blair Kraus
John Morley Williams
William Bryant Crewman
Malcolm Cassell
Dale Cummings M.P.'s
Vince Deadrick Jr.
Robert Gibson Seaman
Robert Keys
Joseph Kim Filipino
Glenn Jacobson Control Talker
Bob Stratton Marine Lieutenant
Hal Baylor M.P. Sergeant
Francis de Sales Captain Kress
Alan Dexter Navy Chief
Preston Hanson Lieutenant Colonel Simpson
Harry Harvey Jr. Soldier
James Lanphier Lieutenant Commander Daly
Nelson Leigh Admiral Koenig
Leon Lontoc Filipino Farmer
Alan Scott Chief of Demolition Crew
Nino Tempo Crewman
Dick Sargent Stovall
Technical Credits
Blake Edwards Director
Alexander Golitzen Art Director
Robert Arthur Producer
Leslie I. Carey Sound/Sound Designer
Oliver Emert Set Decoration/Design
Russell A. Gausman Set Decoration/Design
Frank Gross Editor
Russell Harlan Cinematographer
Ted Kent Editor
Paul King Original Story
Henry Mancini Score Composer
Maurice Richlin Screenwriter
David Rose Score Composer
Stanley Shapiro Screenwriter
Frank Shaw Asst. Director
Robert Emmet Smith Art Director
Clifford Stine Cinematographer
Joseph J. Stone Original Story
Bill Thomas Costumes/Costume Designer
Bud Westmore Makeup
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Operation Petticoat

    Very Funny

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Good fun.

    The "paint" was actually supposed to be primer, meant to treat the metal before the official "battleship grey" goes on. Primer used to come only in two colors: a light grey or a rust-red; combined (which is what happened because there wasn't enough of either color to do the job) you got a kind of pink. Unfortunately, the enemy attacked before the guys had time to cover over the primer, & the Sea Tiger's troubles start from there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2001


    Hal Ericson's review is incorrect on one point. The ladies are coincidental to the pink color of the sub. It is painted pink because red & white are mixed to get enough to cover the sub. The male officers actually do it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 6 Customer Reviews