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HISTORY

In Jul 1957, a LAT news item stated that Universal had bought the original story for Operation Petticoat from Paul King and Joseph Stone, and had assigned Gordon Kay to produce and Blake Edwards to direct "his own screenplay." The HR review notes that producer Robert Arthur hired screenwriters Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin to incorporate into the screenplay real-life oddities from U.S. Naval history, including the submarine operating in the Pacific called the Sea Dragon whose exposed red primer paint made it a clear target; the two native women from Tiop who gave birth aboard the U.S.S. Geta ; and the torpedoing of a land bus by the U.S.S. Bowfin . The film was a co-production between Universal and the Granart Company, the independent production company owned by Arthur and star Cary Grant. According to late Oct 1958 HR news items, Universal originally cast Jeff Chandler as "Matt T. Sherman," but then lent him to Paramount for The Jayhawkers (see above), after which Robert Taylor was considered for the role. A 16 Dec 1958 HR item notes that Dolores Michaels tested for a "lead" role.
       A 29 Mar 1959 NYT article reported the following information about the production: The ship seen in the film as the Sea Tiger was in reality the U.S.S. Balac , a World War II submarine stationed at the Key West Naval Base in Florida, where much of the picture was shot on location. Many of the sub's crew members were cast in the film, and "in compliance with an agreement of Navy ... More Less

In Jul 1957, a LAT news item stated that Universal had bought the original story for Operation Petticoat from Paul King and Joseph Stone, and had assigned Gordon Kay to produce and Blake Edwards to direct "his own screenplay." The HR review notes that producer Robert Arthur hired screenwriters Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin to incorporate into the screenplay real-life oddities from U.S. Naval history, including the submarine operating in the Pacific called the Sea Dragon whose exposed red primer paint made it a clear target; the two native women from Tiop who gave birth aboard the U.S.S. Geta ; and the torpedoing of a land bus by the U.S.S. Bowfin . The film was a co-production between Universal and the Granart Company, the independent production company owned by Arthur and star Cary Grant. According to late Oct 1958 HR news items, Universal originally cast Jeff Chandler as "Matt T. Sherman," but then lent him to Paramount for The Jayhawkers (see above), after which Robert Taylor was considered for the role. A 16 Dec 1958 HR item notes that Dolores Michaels tested for a "lead" role.
       A 29 Mar 1959 NYT article reported the following information about the production: The ship seen in the film as the Sea Tiger was in reality the U.S.S. Balac , a World War II submarine stationed at the Key West Naval Base in Florida, where much of the picture was shot on location. Many of the sub's crew members were cast in the film, and "in compliance with an agreement of Navy cooperation at no cost to the government," the crewmen were paid by Universal to spray-paint onto the ship a temporary coat of pink vinyl. Director Blake Edwards explained in a 12 Apr 1959 LAEx article that he took some artistic license in portraying the inside of the ship, whose passageways were made four inches narrower and the steps three inches farther apart than regulation, in order to heighten the tension between the male and female characters.
       According to modern sources, during the shooting of Operation Petticoat , Grant conducted an interview with entertainment reporter Joe Hyams in which he revealed that he had gained various insights from the use of L.S.D. during therapy sessions. When Hyams published his story in The NYHT , Grant sued him, and gossip columnist Louella Parsons claimed in print that Hyams' tale was falsified. Hyams then countersued and produced a taped version of the interview, after which Grant dropped his lawsuit.
       King, Stone, Shapiro and Richlin received an Academy Award nomination for Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Shapiro and Richlin won the award for their other 1959 production, Universal's Pillow Talk (see below). In 1966, Bernard Newman sued the studio for $2,100,000 for plagiarism, claiming that Operation Petticoat was based on his unproduced play, A Boat for Baby . The final disposition of the lawsuit is not known. According to a 9 Jul 1980 NYT article contained in the film's file at the AMPAS library, the rights to the film reverted to Grant after "six or eight years," after which he sold them to distributors N.T.A. In 1977, NBC produced a television movie version of the film that served as the pilot for a series that ran from 4 Sep 1977 to Aug 1979. The movie was written by King, Stone and Leonard Stern, and both it and the series starred John Astin as Sherman. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Sep 1959.
---
Box Office
12 Oct 1959.
---
Daily Variety
28 Sep 59
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1966.
---
Film Daily
28 Sep 59
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 1959
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1959
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1959
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
12 Apr 1959
Sec. 5, p. 8, 11.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Dec 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Oct 59
p. 436.
New York Times
29 Mar 1959.
---
New York Times
6 Dec 59
p. 38.
New York Times
9 Jul 1980.
---
Variety
30 Sep 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Edward Muhl in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Suggested by a story by
Suggested by a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Auld Lang Syne," words by Robert Burns, music Scottish traditional.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 December 1959
Production Date:
mid January--mid April 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Granart Co.
Copyright Date:
3 December 1959
Copyright Number:
LP18583
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé
Duration(in mins):
124
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19345
SYNOPSIS

Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman fondly surveys the Sea Tiger , a submarine he commanded during World War II that now must be junked because of its extreme age. Below decks, he reads through his captain’s journal, begun on December 10, 1941: The new Sea Tiger is ready for battle in the Philippines when a surprise enemy attack nearly destroys it. Although Matt’s boss, Capt. J. P. Henderson, orders the ship grounded, Matt requests permission to make enough crude repairs to transport her to the nearest port. Despite his trepidation that the ship will not survive the two thousand miles of Japanese-patrolled waters, Henderson assigns Matt a skeleton crew. The next day, the crewmen are amused to witness the arrival of Lt. Nick Holden, a socialite Naval officer in a spotless uniform who has clearly never sailed. When questioned about his experience, Nick admits that he is more of an “idea man” than a sailor. Matt is dismissive of him, but moments later, when seaman Ernest Hunkle informs him that they have no supplies, including toilet paper, Nick explains that his childhood in a rough neighborhood has equipped him with excellent scavaging instincts. At Matt’s further questioning, Nick admits that, just as much as Matt wants the ship to be in fighting trim, he also wants the ship to sail, so that he can finish his duty and return to an undemanding job on land. Named the new supply officer, Nick chooses Hunkle and a morose sailor called “The Prophet” to help him ransack the local supply warehouse. When the MP’s nearly catch them, Nick cleverly diverts them, then steals an Army ... +


Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman fondly surveys the Sea Tiger , a submarine he commanded during World War II that now must be junked because of its extreme age. Below decks, he reads through his captain’s journal, begun on December 10, 1941: The new Sea Tiger is ready for battle in the Philippines when a surprise enemy attack nearly destroys it. Although Matt’s boss, Capt. J. P. Henderson, orders the ship grounded, Matt requests permission to make enough crude repairs to transport her to the nearest port. Despite his trepidation that the ship will not survive the two thousand miles of Japanese-patrolled waters, Henderson assigns Matt a skeleton crew. The next day, the crewmen are amused to witness the arrival of Lt. Nick Holden, a socialite Naval officer in a spotless uniform who has clearly never sailed. When questioned about his experience, Nick admits that he is more of an “idea man” than a sailor. Matt is dismissive of him, but moments later, when seaman Ernest Hunkle informs him that they have no supplies, including toilet paper, Nick explains that his childhood in a rough neighborhood has equipped him with excellent scavaging instincts. At Matt’s further questioning, Nick admits that, just as much as Matt wants the ship to be in fighting trim, he also wants the ship to sail, so that he can finish his duty and return to an undemanding job on land. Named the new supply officer, Nick chooses Hunkle and a morose sailor called “The Prophet” to help him ransack the local supply warehouse. When the MP’s nearly catch them, Nick cleverly diverts them, then steals an Army truck to transport the spoils back to the ship. There, Matt is so pleased to see the engine parts, tools and toilet paper that he overlooks Nick’s shady techniques and new partner in crime, Ramon, a thief and chef whom Nick has rescued. Over the next few days, Nick continues to pilfer from the entire base, including Henderson’s office. One day, Japanese planes attack and discover the position of the Sea Tiger . Afterward, Matt decides to set sail, even though Henderson considers the endeavor treacherous. With the help of a native medicine man Nick has hired, the ship finally sets off and executes a shuddering dive. Once at sea, Matt censures Nick’s handcrafted uniforms and breakfasts in bed, especially after Nick explains that he wanted a uniform only to attract his wealthy fiancée. Soon after, a leak in the hull forces Matt to dock at a nearby island. Nick is sent to scout the island and returns with Maj. Edna Hayward, Lt. Barbara Duran, Lt. Claire Reid, Lt. Ruth Colfax and Lt. Dolores Crandall, nurses who have been stranded en route to Manila. Although Matt fears that the submarine’s close quarters are “not designed to be co-educational,” he has little choice but to offer the women transport. He instructs his thrilled crew to ignore the women, a task that quickly proves impossible, especially in the case of busty, accident-prone Dolores. Nick, a womanizer, gathers clothing for the women and offers Barbara champagne in his room. Matt catches them, however, and pours out the prohibited alcohol. In the morning, the presence of the women causes myriad problems throughout the ship: Dolores’ generous proportions cause Matt to insist that she be given “clear passage” in the narrow corridors; engineer Sam Tostin complains when Edna hangs wet negligee in the engine room; and the men develop mysterious “illnesses” designed to afford them access to the nurses. Matt attempts to redirect the men’s attentions to work, but is sidetracked by Dolores, whose clumsiness unnerves the otherwise imperturbable captain. He is further nonplussed by the news that Edna has repaired the machinery with her girdle, and that Claire has slapped Hunkle after catching sight of the naked girl tattooed on his chest. Meanwhile, Nick wins a kiss from Barbara that is interrupted by the arrival of Matt, who chastises both officers and confines Nick to his quarters. Just then, an enemy tanker is spotted docked nearby. Knowing they have only one working torpedo, Matt bravely issues an order to attack, but Dolores blunders into the firing lever and releases it prematurely. As a result, the torpedo veers into the shore, hitting only a truck and revealing the Sea Tiger ’s position. After barely escaping the Japanese, they dock at a nearby island in order to make final repairs. Matt soon discovers, however, that because the area is in the midst of an evacuation, no one will take the nurses or give him any supplies. With no other choice, Matt turns to Nick, who contrives a casino at which he soon wins all the available supplies. To top off his winnings, Nick coerces Hunkle into helping him steal a pig from a local farmer, who complains to the MPs. They visit the ship, where Matt, upon learning of the pig’s presence, corroborates Nick’s story that the animal is actually a sick seaman, but offers the farmer many of Nick’s illicit treasures as recompense. Next, the men prepare the sub to be painted gray by first applying primer, even though the only available primer consists of a half ration of red mixed with a half ration of white. While the resulting pink paint dries, the men and women relax with a luau cookout. As Edna impresses Tostin with her clever engineering insights, Matt invites Dolores, who is below decks trying to stay out of his way, to join the party. She eagerly accepts and sets her hot curling iron on the bed, where Matt sits on it. Meanwhile, Nick is romancing Barbara on the shore, but after he reveals that he is engaged, she deflates their lifeboat and swims back to the ship. When an air raid then sounds, the ship fills with the native women and children to whom Nick has promised shelter without Matt's authorization, and Matt, unwilling to risk their lives, is forced to allow them entrance. The ship escapes to the open sea, where several of the native women go into labor and give birth below decks. The submarine’s pink hue soon attracts the notice of the Japanese and the Allies, who, unable to identify it as American, order it to be sunk on sight. Soon after, an American ship opens fire on the Sea Tiger , and although Matt dives down, the underwater missiles shake the fragile ship precariously. Matt sends all of the boat’s dry goods to the water’s surface, hoping to convince the Americans that they have sunk, but the Allied captain does not accept the ruse. The situation seems hopeless until Nick, inspired by Hunkle’s plan to refine his pinup tattoo by adding a bra and panties, determines that they should send up the women’s undergarments. The Allied crewmen soon retrieve Dolores’ bra, prompting the captain to declare that, since “the Japanese have nothing like this,” they must cease fire. Battered but intact, the Sea Tiger is escorted to land. In the present, Nick leaves Barbara, now his wife, on the dock to join Matt aboard the Sea Tiger . After instructing Nick to junk the ship, Matt awards him command of a new atomic submarine, to be christened the Sea Tiger , and gives him the old captain’s log for safekeeping. Outside, Matt watches as Dolores, who is now his wife, hits his car, smashing it onto the bumper of a moving bus. By now accustomed to her clumsiness, Matt turns his attention to the Sea Tiger as it makes its last voyage out to sea. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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