Operation Petticoat (1959) starring Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Joan O'Brien, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, Dick Sargent, Virginia Gregg, Gavin MacLeod, Marion Ross directed by Blake Edwards Movie Review

Operation Petticoat (1959)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in Operation Petticoat (1959)

Grant & Curtis Man the Pink Submarine

One of the first Cary Grant movies I ever watched was "Father Goose" where he played the curmudgeonly Walter Eckland who finds his life turned upside down when his island suddenly becomes home for a stranded school teacher and her class of girls. What I didn't realise was that a few years earlier Cary Grant starred in "Operation Petticoat" which although features a different location and a bigger storyline revolves around a similar idea with a navy sub playing host to a small group of women. And "Operation Petticoat" works even now over 55 years after its release with jokes surrounding women affecting the life of the men aboard the sub amongst other things which are still good fun.

Without even firing a torpedo the naval submarine the Sea Tiger is seriously damaged and Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman (Cary Grant - North by Northwest) finds himself with just two weeks to get it ready for service again. With a limited amount of staff and a problem getting parts, Admirals' Assistant Lt. JG Nicholas Holden (Tony Curtis - Some Like It Hot) finds himself thrown on board and in the way until his ability to scrounge everything and anything comes in to play. But having managed to make the Sea Tiger sea worthy again Holden's scavenging abilities causes issues when he turns up on the sub with 5 stranded nurses leading to the all male crew becoming distracted by such shapely figures living in such close quarters.

Dina Merrill and Tony Curtis in Operation Petticoat (1959)

Although told in a sort of nostalgic flash back style with Cary Grant's Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman boarding the Sea Tiger one last time before it is sent off to be scrapped, "Operation Petticoat" is really a movie of two clear halves. The first half surrounds the repairing of the Sea Tiger after it is damaged during a bombing campaign and as such we are introduced to not only Sherman who is desperate to make his submarine ready for war again but also Admirals Assistant Lt. JG Nicholas Holden with his ability to scavenge and lay his hands on everything and anything. What ensues is a lot of antagonistic comedy as Holden's ignorance of life aboard a submarine and care free attitude winds Sherman up.

The second half of "Operation Petticoat" whilst continuing the antagonistic comedy between Sherman and Holden brings in the 5 women whose presence aboard the sub understandably causes more than a few problems. It may all seem a little obvious, from busty women trying to squeeze past seamen in the narrow galleys, underwear being hung to dry in the machine room and of course a serious amount of flirtation but it all works. And as such adds a slight romantic subplot too things as close quarters leads to more than just flirtation between men and women.

Whilst "Operation Petticoat" has a double sided storyline it has to be said that the storyline as such is unimportant. The need to fix the Sea Tiger is for the most unimportant although the adhoc repairs from lingerie springs and mixing red and white lead to paint it pink add to the fun side. And that is what "Operation Petticoat" is really all about, the fun and the comedy of it all. From the antagonistic friendship of Sherman and Holden through to the women issues as they take over the sub it's full of laughs. Maybe in this day and age the jokes are both obvious and tame, some might even say sexist but they also have a sort of nostalgic charm to them that makes a change from modern movies reliance on crass comedy.

Whilst there are many memorable characters and decent performances in "Operation Petticoat" including all the delightful and attractively figured women it is the pairing of Cary Grant and Tony Curtis which brings it all together. Cary Grant as Cmdr. Sherman maybe unrealistic as a submarine commander but his curmudgeonly ways most definitely work especially when it comes to Tony Curtis as Lt. Holden and his quick talking, charming ways. It's almost ironic that a few years back it would have been Grant playing the role belonging to Curtis and it adds to the amusement, especially with Curtis giving a bit of a Cary Grant accent to his character.

What this all boils down to is that "Operation Petticoat" is a fun and surprisingly memorable movie despite having a storyline which ends up for the most being unimportant. It is the antagonistic comedy between Cary Grant and Tony Curtis which makes "Operation Petticoat" the memorable movie that it is.