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Operation Petticoat (1959)

aka Operation Petticoat

Directed By: 
Details: 124 mins · English


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Small Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman
No_movie_poster Lt. Dolores Crandall, RN
Small Lt. Barbara Duran, RN
Small Lt. (j.g.) Nicholas Holden
Small Chief Molumphry
Small Ens. Stovall
No_movie_poster Ernest Hunkle


Small Blake Edwards Director
No_movie_poster Russell Harlan Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Maurice Richlin Screenplay
No_movie_poster David Rosenbloom Music
No_movie_poster Robert Arthur Producer
No_movie_poster Frank Gross Editor
No_movie_poster Stanley Shapiro Screenplay
No_movie_poster Frank Gross Editing


United States Navy Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant), ComSubPac in 1959, boards the pre- World War II-era American submarine USS Sea Tiger prior to its departure for the scrapyard. The first commanding officer of Sea Tiger, Sherman sits in his former stateroom and begins reading his personal logbook, starting a flashback.

A Japanese air raid sinks Sea Tiger while she is docked at the Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines on 10 December 1941. Lieutenant Commander Sherman and his crew begin repairs, hoping to sail for Darwin, Australia before the Japanese overrun the port. Lieutenant (junior grade) Nick Holden (Tony Curtis) is reassigned to Sea Tiger despite lacking any submarine training or experience. He and Sherman clash over Holden's attitude toward the Navy; Sherman is a Naval Academy graduate and career officer, while Holden became a naval officer, not out of patriotism, but to escape poverty of the inner city and find a wealthy spouse . . . and he is engaged to such a woman. Holden demonstrates great skill as a scavenger and con artist to obtain materials for repairs, however, and becomes the ship's supply officer.

The unpainted Sea Tiger—its backfiring #1 engine still producing black smoke—reaches Marinduque, where Sherman reluctantly agrees to evacuate five female Army nurses stranded there. Holden is attracted to Second Lieutenant Duran (Dina Merrill), while Sherman has a series of embarrassing encounters with the well-endowed but clumsy Second Lieutenant Crandall (Joan O'Brien). When Sherman prepares to attack an enemy oiler, Crandall accidentally launches the torpedo prematurely, blowing up a truck on the beach.

Sherman tries to leave the nurses at Cebu, but the Army refuses to accept them, as it is preparing for guerrilla warfare to oppose the coming Japanese occupation. When Sherman is unable to obtain needed supplies officially, he allows Holden to set up a casino to get them. The crew does not have enough red lead or white lead primer paint to coat the entire submarine in a single color, so the two have to be mixed together, resulting in a bright pink. The plan is to apply a second, gray coat after a New Year's Eve celebration, but a Japanese aerial attack forces a hasty departure.

Tokyo Rose mocks the mystery pink submarine in the Celebes Sea, while the Navy believes the submarine's color is a Japanese trick and orders that it be sunk on sight. An American destroyer fires depth charges at Sea Tiger, but (on Holden's suggestion) Sherman shoots the nurses' underwear out a torpedo tube. The destroyer's crew finds Crandall's bra and takes it to the captain, who concludes that it cannot be Japanese and stops the attack.

The arrival of Commander Holden, his wife (the former Lieutenant Duran), and their sons in present day-1959 interrupts Sherman's reminiscences. As current commanding officer of Sea Tiger, Holden asks if there are any "last minute reprieves" to save her from the scrapyard. Reluctantly, the admiral replies no, but at the same time promises Holden command of a new nuclear-powered submarine, also to be named Sea Tiger. Sherman's wife (Crandall) arrives late and rear-ends her husband's staff car, bumping it into the rear bumper of a Navy bus, which then drives away, dragging the admiral's staff car in tow with the Chief Petty Officer who is the admiral's driver chasing after it. As Holden takes Sea Tiger out of the port for scrapping, her #1 engine again backfires and emits black smoke one last time, causing Sherman to comment, "Strange. Still that number one engine. I guess they were never able to fix that.".

Release Dates:

DVD : 2001-09-18