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Operation Petticoat Details


Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant) visits the submarine Sea Tiger on the morning of its decommissioning and reminisces about his time as the first commander of the boat, in 1941. Three days after Pearl Harbor, the sub is damaged during an enemy air raid in the Philippines; rather than abandoning her, Sherman and his chiefs refloat the boat. He's forced to accept the services of Lt. (jg) Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), who has no sea experience. Sherman appoints Holden -- a born conniver, deal-maker, and scrounger (his motto: "In confusion, there is profit") -- as supply officer, and through a series of burglaries and petty thefts he gets the Sea Tiger seaworthy again. Up to this point, the movie is an increasingly amusing service comedy, akin to the lighter moments of Mr. Roberts, running on Grant's wry exasperation and Curtis's cool arrogance, coupled with Arthur O'Connell's periodic sardonic yet optimistic jabs at their situation and Gavin MacLeod's fidgety nervousness. The Sea Tiger puts to sea ahead of the Japanese with a quintet of stranded army nurses aboard. The film shifts to a new level of humor as the officers and crew try to cope with living in close quarters with five attractive women in their midst. Grant gives a very witty performance as a man who is both exasperated by the situation he is in, having to adjust his masculinity to keep it from clashing with the feminine sensibilities of his guests, and also trying to control the mating urges of his men, starting with Holden, who can't stay away from Lt. Duran (Dina Merrill). Complicating matters more is Grant's awareness that the Sea Tiger is a "virgin" -- she has never engaged the enemy, but when they finally do, the accident-prone Lt. Crandall (Joan O'Brien) causes their torpedo to miss a tanker and sink a truck (probably the funniest sight gag in the movie). The boat also gets an accidental coat of pink paint when their supply of red and white runs low, and ends up carrying several Filipino families -- including two pregnant women. Since neither the Japanese nor the Americans officially has a pink submarine, the Sea Tiger ends uphunted by both sides and come under attack by an American destroyer. That's where the women's presence becomes a godsend. The movie ends 18 years later, with Holden a serious career navy man and responsible father, married to Duran, and Grant married to Crandall, who is as accident prone as ever. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

  • Release date:December 5, 1959


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Maurice Richlin Best Original Screenplay 1959 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Stanley Shapiro Best Original Screenplay 1959 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Cary Grant Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy 1959 Nominee


Cary Grant
as Adm. Matt Sherman
Tony Curtis
as Lt. Nick Holden
Joan O'Brien
as Lt. Dolores Crandall
Dina Merrill
as Lt. Barbara Duran
Gene Evans
as Molumphrey
Arthur O'Connell
as Sam Tostin
Virginia Gregg
as Maj. Edna Hayward
Robert Simon
as Capt. J. B. Henderson
Robert Gist
as Watson
Gavin MacLeod
as Ernest Hunkle
Dick Crockett
as Harmon
Madlyn Rhue
as Lt. Claire Reid
Marion Ross
as Lt. Ruth Colfax
Clarence Lung
as Ramon
Frankie Darro
as Dooley
Nicky Blair
as Kraus
Glenn Jacobson
as Control Talker
Nino Tempo
as Crewman
Dale Cummings
as M.P.'s
Alan Dexter
as Navy Chief
Dick Sargent
as Stovall
Robert Keys
Preston Hanson
as Lieutenant Colonel Simpson
Malcolm Cassell
Bob Stratton
as Marine Lieutenant
Nelson Leigh
as Admiral Koenig
Leon Lontoc
as Filipino Farmer
Hal Baylor
as M.P. Sergeant


Blake Edwards
Robert Arthur
Stanley Shapiro
Maurice Richlin
Russell Harlan
Clifford Stine
Henry Mancini
Composer (Music Score)
Frank Gross
Ted Kent
Alexander Golitzen
Art Director
Oliver Emert
Set Designer
Bud Westmore