“OPERATION PETTICOAT”— Cary Grant and Tony Curtis Together


Cary Grant and Tony Curtis Together

Amos Lassen

Together Cary Grant and Tony Curtis give this comedy about aboard a broken-down submarine that welcomes five navy nurses below decks for a perilous ocean voyage some good laughs.

Blake Edwards directed this thin service comedy. On December 10, 1941, the new Sea Tiger is ready for battle in the Philippines when a surprise enemy attack badly damages it. Although Matt’s boss, Capt. J. P. Henderson (Robert F. Simon), orders the ship grounded, Matt gets permission to make enough crude repairs to transport her to the nearest port. Henderson assigns Matt a skeleton crew. The next day there’s the auspicious arrival of the brash wheeler-dealer Lt. Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), a socialite Naval officer in a spotless uniform who has never sailed before. Viewing himself more as an “idea man” than a sailor, Nick gets appointed to be the new supply officer and since the ship has no supplies, he recruits seaman Hunkle (Gavin MacLeod) and a sailor called “The Prophet” (George Dunn) to help him raid the local supply warehouse.

The crew steals enough supplies from everywhere possible to get the Sea Tiger seaworthy again. The Sea Tiger then goes out to sea and when forced to dock at a Pacific island because of a leak, Nick brings back to the ship a quintet of stranded army nurses –Maj. Edna Heywood (Virginia Gregg), Lt. Barbara Duran (Dina Merrill), Lt. Claire Reid (Madlyn Rhue), Lt. Ruth Colfax (Marion Ross), and Lt. Dolores Crandall (Joan O’Brien). Matt has little choice but to take them to Manila.

A major money-earner when released in 1959, the film tries to marry the traditional service comedy genre with sex farce. However, too much of Operation Petticoat is dated and tired to work effectively today, which may explain why this former box office winner has disappeared from most serious discussions of 1960s film comedies. The film is released as part of the Olive Films signature series and is only available on Blu Ray.


  • New High-Definition digital restoration
  • Audio commentary by critic Adrian Martin
  • “That’s What Everybody Says About Me” – with Jennifer Edwards and actress Lesley Ann Warren
  • “The Brave Crew of the Petticoat” – with actors Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross
  • “The Captain and His Double: Cary Grant’s Struggle of the Self” – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography
  • Universal Newsreel footage of Cary Grant and the opening of Operation Petticoat at the Radio City Music Hall
  • Archival footage of the submarine USS Balao, which doubled as the USS Sea Tiger in Operation Petticoat
  • Essay by critic Chris Fujiwara

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