“Star Of The Month (May 2021)” Featuring Cary Grant in… Operation Petticoat (1959)

We’re back for another Cary Grant movie as we continue the celebration of him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1959 comedy Operation Petticoat, also starring Tony Curtis.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Counterfeit Cat (1949)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)

A cat tries to pretend to be a dog to get the bird that Spike the dog is guarding. A bit of a fun cartoon, although the whole “cat trying to get a bird that is guarded by a dog” concept is certainly nothing new, especially with all the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons from Warner Brothers. Still, there is some fun to be had (especially with all the bones that the cat keeps offering Spike), and I certainly didn’t expect the ending. All in all, not one of Tex Avery’s best, but certainly enough fun to recommend it just the same!

And Now For The Main Feature…

On December 10, 1941, the submarine USS Sea Tiger, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Matt Sherman (Cary Grant), is sunk by a Japanese air raid while docked in the Philippines. Captain J. B. Henderson (Robert F. Simon) wants to have the sub destroyed since he fears the Japanese will overrun the port, but Matt manages to convince him that his crew can get the ship repaired in two weeks. He’s stuck working with a smaller crew, since Henderson had transferred some of his men to other boats, but he is promised some replacements. One of them turns out to be the social-climbing Lieutenant Junior Grade Nick Holden (Tony Curtis). At first, Nick doesn’t seem to be worth anything, but then he sees how much trouble that Matt and his crew are having in trying to get supplies and parts from the Navy. With Nick promising to help get what they need, Matt makes him the supply officer. Soon, everybody has almost everything they need as a result of Nick’s “scavenging.” They are forced to try leaving before they are finished when their position is discovered by some Japanese planes. They find that they can submerge, but they soon discover a leak that forces them to stop at the island of Marinduque. While Matt’s crew works on repairs, Nick is sent to the island, where he discovers a group of five nurses that had been stranded there, and he offers them transportation off the island. Matt is less than thrilled, but he finds himself with little choice. Trouble arises from this situation, with the clumsy Second Lieutenant Dolores Crandall (Joan O’Brien) causing trouble for Matt, the engaged Nick trying to flirt with Second Lieutenant Barbara Duran (Dina Merrill), and Major Edna Heywood (Virginia Gregg) causing trouble in the engine room for Chief Motor Machinist’s Mate Sam Tostin (Arthur O’Connell). Will Matt be able to finish repairing his sub and get back in the war, or will everything fall apart?

While Operation Petticoat was an original story, it borrowed from several actual events from World War II, including the issues with the crew getting toilet paper (which, in light of the pandemic, seems a little too familiar an idea to modern audiences), another submarine (the USS Sea Dragon) with a red coat of paint that made it a prime target for the Japanese, and a few other things. The movie was an early directorial effort from Blake Edwards (before he really hit it big with the likes of Breakfast At Tiffany’s and the Pink Panther films), originally intended as a modest black-and-white film. However, when Cary Grant and his production company got involved, the budget rose, and the movie was filmed in color. In some respects, it was co-star Tony Curtis’ idea to have the two of them work together in a submarine film, as he remembered being influenced by Cary Grant’s performance in Destination Tokyo. For his part in producing the movie, Cary Grant was rewarded a high percentage of the profits, nearly $3 million (more than he had made on any movie before).

Operation Petticoat is a movie that I’ve seen a few times at this point, and it’s one that is among my favorite Cary Grant movies! The story is more or less told from the viewpoint of his character (especially considering it’s being told via flashback, as he reads from a journal he kept from his days as the commander of the sub). Cary Grant manages to be funny by himself, but a good fraction of the humor in the film is derived from his reactions to a lot of the stuff going on around him (particularly both the actions of Tony Curtis’ Nick and the presence of the women onboard)! Of course, one of the moments involving Cary Grant’s character that stuck with me the most in this movie is when they spotted a Japanese tanker and tried to sink it with a torpedo. At the last moment, the clumsy nurse Crandall accidentally fires the torpedo, and, instead of hitting the tanker in the water, it goes on land to hit a truck! HIs reaction right there makes this one of the most hilarious moments in the movie for me!

Of course, the rest of the movie is filled with good fun, too! As Nick Holden, Tony Curtis adds to the fun. At first, we would think he is only a society-climber, incapable of being useful (an assumption shared by some of the other characters). But, when he gets to scavenging, all hilarity breaks loose, as we see not only his methods of scavenging, but also how he is able to avoid being caught! Of course, one of the more memorable moments of scavenging is when he works with yeoman Ernest Hunkle (as played by Gavin McLeod) to steal a pig (particularly with his “oinking” lesson). Quite frankly, the whole situation with the pig (given the name Seaman Hornsby to get by a couple of military police) is also quite memorable. Plain and simple, this is a wonderful comedy (and probably my favorite submarine movie), and I would certainly give it some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Film Length: 2 hours, 1 minute

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

An Affair To Remember (1957)Cary GrantCharade (1963)

Kings Go Forth (1958) – Tony Curtis – Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

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“Star Of The Month (February 2021)” Featuring Clark Gable in… Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)

Well, it’s the last Sunday in February, and I have one last Clark Gable film, as we end our celebration of him as the Star Of The Month! That film would be the 1958 movie Run Silent, Run Deep, which also stars Burt Lancaster. But first, let’s get through our theatrical short.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Reel Pink (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

The Pink Panther buys a group of worms to go fishing, but one of them keeps giving him trouble. Honestly, that description doesn’t fully describe what goes on in this cartoon. For the second half, the Panther faces off against a crab that he catches, while the worm just disappears completely. Both parts are somewhat amusing with the worm sabotaging him and the crab trying to fight him (even with a cannon from inside his shell), but the change just feels too abrupt, and throws off the fun of the cartoon. If it had been more consistent, it would be easier to recommend this one.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In World War II, Commander P. J. Richardson (Clark Gable) captains a submarine through the Bungo Straits near Japan, where the submarine is sunk by the Japanese destroyer Akikaze. Richardson survives, but is relegated to a desk job in Pearl Harbor. A year later, he learns from yeoman 1st class “Kraut” Miller (Jack Warden) that the Akikaze has sunk a fourth submarine in the Bungo Straits, and sends in a request to be returned to active duty. Meanwhile, the submarine Nerka returns to Pearl Harbor. With its captain out of commission due to injury, the members of the crew hope that Lieutenant James Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) will take over. However, that idea is short-lived when they are informed that the Nerka will be captained by Commander Richardson. Jim is less than thrilled, and goes to Richardson’s home to tell him off and request a transfer (which he is denied). When they go to sea, the crew finds out that they have been assigned to patrol Area 7 (where the Bungo Straits are, much to their dismay). Richardson starts to run drills, pushing the crew to improve their timing. After about a week, they spot a Japanese sub, but Richardson chooses to ignore it. This act leaves the crew pondering whether he is a coward, with some of the officers starting to consider a mutiny (but Jim puts an end to the idea). A few days later, after doubling down on the drills, they come across a Japanese tanker and destroyer, and take them on successfully. However, they end up avoiding another convoy (on Richardson’s orders), and Jim goes to see him to find out why. Richardson then reveals that they will be going to the Bungo Straits (which their orders had told them NOT to do), and Jim deduces that it is to go after the Akikaze. Richardson thinks they have a surprise advantage, but when they come across the Akikaze protecting a convoy, they discover that the enemy is ready for them. They are forced to evade an errant torpedo, and the Akikaze drops depth charges, some of which cause damage, killing a few crew members (and giving Richardson a concussion). Richardson has them jettison some debris to help convince the Japanese that their sub had been destroyed, so that they can work on repairs. Richardson’s concussion causes him to lose consciousness, and the doctor tells him to take it easy (not that he wants to listen or let anybody else know about the problem). When Jim hears that Richardson wants to try again after the repairs have been completed, he decides that enough is enough, and assumes command himself (with plans to return to Pearl Harbor). However, when he hears on the radio from Tokyo Rose that they believe the Nerka has been sunk (and figures out how they were detected), he reconsiders his decision. Now, he figures they can try again, but will they be any more successful (and survive whatever other surprises may be in store)?

Run Silent, Run Deep is based on the novel (of the same name) by Commander Edward L. Beach. The film rights were acquired by United Artists (apparently the first time they bought the property first and then delegated it to somebody else later), and it ended up being given to Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions (Burt Lancaster’s production company). Burt Lancaster wanted the part of Lieutenant James Bledsoe, and they brought in Clark Gable to play the older commander. An attempt was made to keep the movie as authentic as possible, in between trying to use realistic submarine talk, combat incidents taken from the Navy archives, and learning about the equipment. Critics took to the movie, heaping a lot of praise upon it, although it wasn’t as big of a hit (at the time) with movie audiences.

I’ve seen a handful of submarine movies over time, but, so far, it’s mainly been the comedies that have stuck with me. So, when I say that I like Run Silent, Run Deep (after one viewing), you can bet I have a high opinion of the movie! I saw the movie mainly because of Clark Gable, and he did not disappoint! His character certainly seems to echo Captain Ahab of Moby Dick fame, as he is obsessed with trying to figure out how to take down the ship that sunk his submarine. He tries, as much as he can, to come up with a strategy to defeat it, and, once given another sub to work with, drills the men in the very methods he has determined would work. And, to continue it further, he wants ONLY to get that ship (and, at best, uses others like it as a test run to see if his methods have a hope of working). Of course, I can’t say whether he can be redeemed or not without giving away the film’s ending, but, suffice to say, Clark Gable made this movie worth seeing for me! All the special effects are well done, and certainly help to convey everything that’s going on! It just feels, to me, like a well-done submarine/war movie, and it’s one I would have no trouble whatsoever recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Another month down, and thus the end of my celebration of Clark Gable! Tune in tomorrow as we start the celebration of Gene Kelly as the star for the month of March!

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The King And Four Queens (1956)Clark GableIt Started In Naples (1960)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!