Operation Petticoat (1959)

Operation Petticoat (1959)

“A submarine’s not designed to be co-educational.”

A Navy admiral (Cary Grant) reflects back on his service in the Philippines during World War II, when he had to deal with a creaky submarine, an insubordinate junior officer (Tony Curtis), and the sudden arrival on board of five stranded Army nurses, including a busty klutz (Joan O’Brien), a beautiful blonde (Dina Merrill) with eyes for Curtis, and a handy brunette (Virginia Gregg) who helped out the ship’s machinist (Arthur O’Connell).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Blake Edwards Films
  • Cary Grant Films
  • Comedy
  • Flashback Films
  • Military
  • Submarines
  • Tony Curtis Films
  • World War II

Blake Edward directed this popular “service comedy” which put Cary Grant into the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest paid actor at the time, given that he earned a percentage of the profits (good for him!). There’s not much to this highly unrealistic flashback tale other than Curtis getting to work alongside his idol (Grant):

… and plenty of humor about how busty women make it even harder to squeeze by one another on a packed underwater vehicle:

The humor is sophomoric at best — i.e., women’s undergarments turn out to serve a crucial role in the boat’s operation:

… Curtis steals a hog from a poor local farmer, then passes it off as a drunken sailor:

… and the submarine is painted pink simply because red and white are the only available colors (I think I missed the part about why the ship needed re-painting in the first place):

Sigh. I can understand how former servicemen and women might have enjoyed breathing a deep sigh of relief and poking fun at the extreme danger they were in during World War II, but this type of humor really hasn’t dated well.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Russell Harlan’s cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a Grant, Curtis, or Edwards fan.


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