Operation Petticoat

Director: Blake Edwards

Cast: Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Joan O’Brien, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, Dick Sargent, Virginia Gregg, Robert F. Simon, Robert Gist, Gavin MacLeod, George Dunn, Dick Crockett, Madlyn Rhue, Marion Ross, Clarence Lung

A Japanese air attack sinks an American submarine in the opening days of World War II. Lt. Cmdr. Matt Sherman (Grant), unwilling to give up the ship, succeeds in raising the SS Sea Tiger from the harbor bottom and works with a skeleton crew to get the boat seaworthy. He intends to take the submarine to Australia, where it can be properly overhauled. Sherman’s repair efforts are impeded by an inept bureaucracy that makes crucial spare parts and supplies unobtainable. Desperate to overcome his acquisition problems, Sherman takes on Lt. (j.g.) Nicholas Holden (Curtis) as his Supply Officer. Holden, who has avoided seagoing duties, has lost a cushy job as an admiral’s aide and sees his assignment to the Sea Tiger as a way out of the Philippines before the impending Japanese invasion. He recruits scavengers Seaman Hunkle (MacLeod), a sailor known as “The Prophet” (Dunn), and Sgt. Ramon Gillardo (Lung), and starts an aggressive supply procurement program that borders on being felonious. Sherman gets the submarine on the way as soon as it becomes minimally seaworthy. Returning from a supply raid ashore, Holden convinces Sherman to take aboard five stranded Army nurses, led by Maj. Edna Heywood (Gregg). In his voyage across enemy-controlled waters, Sherman has to contend not only with frequent malfunctions, but with dodging the development of close relationships between his seamen and their female guests. Along the way, trying to get a primer coat on the sub, they mix white and red in order to have enough. An air attack interrupts the paint job, and Sherman finds himself commanding the world’s only pink submarine. Sherman’s struggle is encumbered by his continued encounters with especially well-endowed young nurse Dolores Crandall (O’Brien). Holden romances nurse Barbara Duran (Merrill), and the whole crew deals with the hilarious situations encountered by men and women sharing tight quarters while navigating a marginally seaworthy submarine. This film, a well-executed comedy that mixes visual humor with dry wisecracks and suggestive innuendo, is also an authentic rendition of World War II submarine operations. It has a satisfying twist ending.


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