We’re back for one last go-round with Humphrey Bogart as our Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1954 drama The Caine Mutiny, also starring Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray and Robert Francis!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinkadilly Circus (1968)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)
When the Little Man pulls a nail out of the Pink Panther’s foot, the Panther offers to be his slave out of gratitude. Personally, I find this to be a fun one, with different types of gags throughout the short. At first, the Panther’s affections (upon the nail being pulled out) are unwanted by the Little Man, until the Panther helps tell off his shrewish wife. Then the gags revolve around the Panther coming to rescue the Little Man from his wife when he whistles, before the wife tries to get rid of the Panther (with no luck). Of course, you can see the ending coming a mile away, but that doesn’t take away from some of the fun here. Obviously, your enjoyment will depend on how you view the stereotypical shrewish wife here, but there is some fun to be had here!
And Now For The Main Feature…
It’s 1944. Upon graduating from officer’s training, Ensign Willis “Willie” Keith (Robert Francis) is ordered to report to the U. S. S. Caine in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There, he meets the communications officer (and novelist) Lieutenant Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), executive officer Lieutenant Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) and Captain De Vriess (Tom Tully). Willie is disappointed, both with the ship itself (a rather beat-up destroyer/mine-sweeper), and with the relaxed discipline under the captain. The ensign’s disappointment is short-lived, however, as the captain is quickly transferred. Now in charge is Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), who vows to enforce Navy discipline (which thrills Willie, especially after he is made the morale officer). However, Willie soon runs afoul of the new captain when, during a target practice exercise, the captain finds a poorly dressed sailor and bawls him, Willie and Tom out over it. While that happens, the ship goes in a circle and steams over the cable that they are towing the target with. Captain Queeg tries to place the blame on faulty equipment, but the ship is recalled to San Francisco. When the ship sets sail again (with Captain Queeg still in charge), they are ordered to escort a group of landing craft for an invasion of enemy-held territory. When the Caine gets too far ahead of the landing craft (amidst all the shelling), Captain Queeg gets scared, drops a yellow dye marker for the landing area, and forces them to hightail it out of there. Later, he calls a meeting of his officers to apologize and ask them for their support. After the meeting, Tom mentions to Steve that the Captain is showing signs of mental illness, but Steve won’t have it, asking him to take his thoughts to the medical officer (which Tom refuses to do). However, Steve considers what Tom had been talking about and, after reading a book on mental illness, decides to keep a journal on the captain and his behavior. The captain’s behavior gets more and more irrational, with the final straw being him seeking out who finished off a quart of strawberries (even after a departing ensign had told him what happened). Steve, Tom and Willie decide to take Steve’s journal to the fleet commander, but at the last moment, Tom decides they shouldn’t do it. They go back to their ship, where they have been ordered to set course through a typhoon. When Captain Queeg freezes, Steve decides to relieve him of command, backed up by Willie. Back in San Francisco, Steve and Willie face charges of mutiny, and the only lawyer willing to help them is Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer). Will their charges stick, or will they be able to prove that Captain Queeg is indeed mentally ill?
The movie was based on the best-selling 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny: A Novel Of World War II by Herman Wouk. Producer Stanley Kramer was able to get the film rights for Columbia Pictures by helping convince the Navy to let them do it (since the Navy had outright rejected other attempts by some of the other studios). Even then, the Navy was hesitant about the idea, as they worried about how the public’s perception of the Navy would be after seeing the film, so the production was required to make some changes to the story, including softening the character of Captain Queeg (and they managed to keep the title, even though the Navy initially balked at the use of the word “mutiny”). Of course, Columbia head Harry Cohn made his own stipulations, demanding a romance story for Robert Francis’s Willie Keith, as well as keeping the movie’s length under two hours. Herman Wouk (who had already adapted the story as a play) was brought in to write the screenplay, but his screenplay would have translated to a fifteen hour film, so he was replaced. Humphrey Bogart was highly desired for the role of Captain Queeg, but Harry Cohn knew that Bogart desperately wanted the part, so he got him to settle for less than his usual salary. It still worked out for Bogart, though, as the role became one of his most highly-praised performances (and his final Oscar nomination).
I’ve had the opportunity to see The Caine Mutiny a few times so far in my life, and it’s one that I will admit to liking quite a bit. Obviously, Bogart’s performance here is the big appeal of the film, as he goes from being a strict leader into madness. The image of his character rolling the metal balls in his hand is one that has stuck with me ever since the first time I saw this movie. The story itself is one that has stayed with me, the way everything turned out. I know I’m getting into SPOILER territory with what I have to say next, so if you haven’t seen the movie, then don’t keep reading. The first time I saw the movie, I felt for Van Johnson’s Steve and Robert Francis’s Willie, as I thought they were doing the right thing, based on Bogart’s performance. But Barney Greenwald’s (Jose Ferrer) drunken speech at the end revealing Fred MacMurray’s Tom Keefer as the true mutineer blindsided me (due to my own youth and inexperience on that first viewing), not to mention how all the men could have avoided trouble had they tried to help the captain when he asked for help. Ever since, I know I’ve watched the details more closely, especially with regard to MacMurray’s performance. It has such an element of truth, in terms of being willing to help others instead of being judgmental about it, and it’s something that still rings true, regardless of the situation (not to mention the idea that you don’t necessarily have to like your leaders, which is always a struggle, especially when politics are involved). END SPOILER Honestly, the romance between Robert Francis’s Willie and Donna Lee Hickey’s May Wynn (technically, Donna changed her name to May Wynn for this film) is the only point about this movie that doesn’t work well, but the rest of the movie is so riveting that I can’t really knock the film down any points for it. Seriously, this is a great film, and one I highly recommend!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment
And with that ends my final Star (Humphrey Bogart) Of The Month blogathon for the year! Stay tuned for my announcement (on December 6) of my first Star Of The Month blogathon for 2022, and in the meantime, I will be concentrating on Christmas films starting December 1!
Film Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Murder, He Says (1945) – Fred MacMurray
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