Blu-ray Review – Operation Petticoat – Olive Signature

Operation Petticoat

Director: Blake Edwards 


Minutes: 124

Year: 1959

Score: 6.13

Release: Olive Signature

One thing that I really enjoy about Olive Signature is that they are usually good films that I may not have known ever existed. When I read the press release I was torn between a typical love of Cary Grant with a distaste if 1950’s and 60’s sexism in Hollywood films. I really enjoyed this film and would say that it is a good mid-century moralistic adventure movie.


Cary Grant (Father Goose) and Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot), two of cinema’s most celebrated stars, provide the comedic pivot point in director Blake Edwards’ (The Pink Panther) Operation Petticoat. It’s hijinks on the high seas when revered Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman (Grant) and the somewhat unethical Lt. JG Nicholas Holden (Curtis) team to upright the USS Sea Tiger, a flagging submarine that’s seen better days. With some dubious maneuvering (and scavenged parts), things begin to look up for the old war horse until the ship and its crew are forced out to sea by a surprise attack. Limping along and barely held together with its borrowed parts, the Sea Tiger gets some unexpected company when five stranded Army nurses are brought aboard. The game gals will prove that necessity is indeed the mother of invention, initiating a series of renovations to make life aboard the Sea Tiger livable — with the exception of the sub’s accidental pink paint job. Not only is the ship now an eyesore, but a target for both the Japanese and American forces. Adding to the fun, both fore and aft, are a talented cast of supporting players that include Joan O’Brien (The Alamo), Dina Merrill (The Sundowners), Gene Evans (Shock Corridor), Dick Sargent (TV’s Bewitched), Arthur O’Connell (April Love), Gavin MacLeod (TV’s The Love Boat), Madlyn Rhue (A Majority of One) and Marion Ross (TV’s Happy Days). Operation Petticoat’s Academy Award® nominated screenplay was written for the screen by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin (suggested by a story by Paul King and Joseph Stone) and photographed by the great Russell Harlan (Red River, Rio Bravo).

I love Cary Grant. I have never not enjoyed a Cary Grant film. This is no different. Without Cary Grant I suspect my opinion would be different. The level of charm and distinction that Grant brings to the picture from the edge of sexist boredom into an enjoyable and fun film.

But what about the horrendous sexism. Well, I can’t solve that, not could I go back and change it. But this is me projecting modern esthetics onto a historical document. I know that there was a superstition about women on boats, that wasn’t unique, but the film paints the men (Grant aside) as either horny predators or brutish misogynists. Grant plays the mythical third, utterly disinterested, party. This movie is the sort of propaganda which stagnates stereotypes around gender separation.

To me, this gets in the way of the heroic adventure story of a ragamuffin crew trying to save their lives by, essentially, stealing the parts needed to keep their submarine functioning. I am probably going a little too deep into the idiosyncrasies of social commentary for this lite comedy, but this conversation is only going to get louder.

That being said the film looks great and the pink pops right off the screen. I do prefer my Olive Films stacked with special features and they don’t let us down with this Signature release.

Special Features

  • 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

Director: 7 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 2 – Main performance: 9 – Else performance: 3 – Score: 6 – Sound: 7 – Story: 7 – Script: 9 – Effects: 6 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 9 – Lasting: 5

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