Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Operation Petticoat

I've made brief mention of the movie Operation Petticoat several times, but never done a full post on it. TCM is showing the movie again tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM ET.

Cary Grant stars as Lt. Cmdr. Matt Sherman, a submarine captain in the western Pacific at the beginning of America's involvement in World War II. Sherman and his portion of the Navy were caught just as unawares of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as were the folks at Pearl Harbor itself, with the result being that the good captain has a vessel that may not be very seaworthy, but one that he has to take to sea anyhow, or else the Japanese are sure to destroy it. So, his orders are to beat a hasty retreat and, if he can do any damage to the Japanese, so much the better. Sherman is helped by his second-in-command, Lt. Nick Holden (Tony Curtis). Lt. Holden is a user, a man who grew up on the tough streets and learned how to be manipulative in order to get the things he wants or needs. This turns out to be a good thing, as it makes him able to procure a number of supplies that the ship needs, even if he has to go around Navy regulations in order to do it. (That's putting it mildly.)

Eventually, the sailors set off, and the retreat is eventful, to say the least. Along the way, Lt. Cmdr. Sherman's sub meets up with a group of stranded Army nurses, and Lt. Holden does everything to make sure they get taken aboard -- after all, who wouldn't want women with them in the tight spaces of a submarine? This forms the basis of the bulk of the humor in the movie, as the male crew have their natuarl raging hormones which make them want to be with the women, even though it's really more important that they get away from the Japanese.

And even though it's beem more than 50 years since its release, Operation Petticoat still holds up as a pretty good service comedy. A lot of this is due to the acting skills of the two leads, Grant and Curtis, who were both adept at comedy, albeit different types of comedy. However, they are by far not the only good members of the cast. Several of the supporting players would go on to success in television sitcoms, notably Dick Sargent (Bewitched), Gavin MacLeod (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and Marion Ross (Happy Days).

Happily, Operation Petticoat has been released to DVD.

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