Thursday, December 2, 2021

On This Day...Operation Petticoat (1959)

  Cary Grant's 67th full length film, Operation Petticoat, was released on this day in 1959.


Lt. Commander Matt Sherman (Cary Grant) is the captain of submarine USS Sea Tiger.  While in harbour in The Philippines, 1941, she is damaged by a Japanese air raid. The crew manage to refloat and repair her to just about save her from being written off as sunk.

 Sherman acquires a supply officer, Lt. JG Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), a staff officer with no particular naval experience or talents, apart from the fact that he is a master scavenger for parts and supplies. Having set out for Australia for repairs, the submarine stops at a US-held island only to find it deserted, but for five nurses. Things are about to get very complicated.


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
Bob Hoy...Reiner (as Robert Hoy)
Nicky Blair...Seaman Kraus
John W. Morley...Williams
Arthur O'Connell...Chief Mechinist's Mate Sam Tostin

Did You Know?

According to Tony Curtis, with his career sizzling Universal asked him what he wanted to do next. He said a service comedy about submarines. They said okay and told him they would get Jeff Chandler or Robert Taylor for the captain. Curtis nixed their choices and said he wanted Cary Grant. They got back to him and said that Robert Taylor was so keen on the role he agreed to offer Curtis five percent of his share of the gross. Curtis held his ground and the role was awarded to Grant.  Grant himself was at first reluctant to take the role, knowing he was much too old to play a wartime captain.

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

Scenes set at the opening of WW II, were 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 was 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).

The need to paint a submarine pink, due to the lack of enough red lead or white lead undercoat paint was also based on a real-life incident.


Lt. Nicholas Holden: You've gotta sneak up a few back alleys. What you need, sir, is a supply officer who can help you find those back alleys.
Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman: You, Mr. Holden?
Lt. Nicholas Holden: Yes, sir.
Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman: You'd ruin your manicure! Here.
Lt. Nicholas Holden: Uh, don't let my manicure fool you, sir. I was born and raised in a neighborhood called Noah's Ark. If you didn't travel in pairs, you just didn't travel.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman: I don't want to bore you with the problems of command, Mr. Holden, because I doubt you'll ever have one. It's inconsistent with that philosophy of yours - every man for himself.
Lt. Nicholas Holden: Dog eat dog.
Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman: Exactly! The unfortunate thing about command, though, Mr. Holden, is that the responsibilities outweigh the privileges! Now if it were just myself I was concerned with, I'd tell you what to do with that list. But my responsibility is this boat! And to get her out of here, I'd even make a pact with the devil!
Lt. Nicholas Holden: That's where I come in.
Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman: That's right.

Lt. Cmdr Matt T. Sherman: Sir, Sea Tiger was built to fight. She deserves a better epitaph than 'Commissioned 1940, sunk 1941, engagements none, shots fired none.' Now, you can't let it go that way. That's like a beautiful woman dying an old maid, if you know what I mean by old maid.
Capt. J.B. Henderson: Did you ever sell used cars?
Lt. Cmdr. Matt T.Sherman: No, Sir.
Capt. J.B. Henderson: I've got a hunch you missed your calling.

Lobby Cards and Posters:

Directed by Blake Edwards.
Distributed by Universal-International.
Running time: 124 minutes.

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley of Studio 36.

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