Operation Petticoat (1959)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

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.
Classics , Comedy , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Universal Pictures


Cary Grant
as Adm. Matt Sherman
Tony Curtis
as Lt. Nick Holden
Dina Merrill
as Lt. Barbara Duran
Joan O'Brien
as Lt. Dolores Crandall
Arthur O'Connell
as Sam Tostin
Gene Evans
as Molumphrey
Dick Sargent
as Stovall
Virginia Gregg
as Maj. Edna Hayward
Robert F. Simon
as Capt. J.B. Henderson
Robert Simon
as Capt. J. B. Henderson
Robert Gist
as Watson
Gavin MacLeod
as Ernest Hunkle
George Dunn
as Prophet
Dick Crockett
as Harmon
Madlyn Rhue
as Lt. Claire Reid
Marion Ross
as Lt. Ruth Colfax
Frankie Darro
as Dooley
Nicky Blair
as Kraus
John Morley
as Williams
Robert Hoy
as Reiner
Glenn Jacobson
as Control Talker
Nino Tempo
as Crewman
William Bryant
as Crewman
Leon Lontoc
as Filipino Farmer
James Lanphier
as Lt. Cmdr. Daly
Alan Dexter
as Navy Chief
Preston Hanson
as Lt. Col. Simpson
Hal Baylor
as M.P. Sergeant
Bob Stratton
as Marine Lieutenant
Vi Ingraham
as Pregnant Filipino Woman
Alan Scott
as Chief of Demolition Crew
Francis De Sales
as Captain Kress
Francis L. Ward
as Third Class Petty Officer
William R. Callihan
as Lt. Morrison
Gordon Casell
as Col. Higginson
Tusi Faiivae
as Witch Doctor
Nelson Leigh
as Admiral Koenig
Joseph Kim
as Filipino
Haile Chase
as Soldier
Howard Venezia
as Soldier
Robert C. Youmans
as Lieutenant
Robert Gibson
as Seaman
Bert Beyers
as Bowman
Tony Corrado
as Fireman Lye
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Critic Reviews for Operation Petticoat

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (3)

Blake Edwards directs with his customary wit, breeziness, and acute sense of pacing.

Full Review… | May 15, 2012
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Operation Petticoat has no more weight than a sackful of feathers, but it has a lot of laughs.

Full Review… | July 7, 2010
Top Critic

Not unpleasant, but the situations (including the inevitable invasion of women aboard the sub) are horribly familiar, and the dialogue none too inspired.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

There's a distinct lack of forward momentum plaguing Operation Petticoat, which takes forever to get going, and even then only moves in fits and starts, plot-wise.

Full Review… | August 4, 2014
The Dissolve

Hasn't aged especially well. Still, on the strength of Grant and co-lead Tony Curtis, Edwards' film remains a diverting enough escape from reality. [Blu-ray]

Full Review… | July 21, 2014
Groucho Reviews

The gags are bright and Blake Edwards's direction adroit enough to make Operation Petticoat an enjoyable time.

Full Review… | May 15, 2012
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for Operation Petticoat


The plot of this movie is pretty silly obviously, and the movie is goofy and funny some of the time, but overall it's not that good.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


A lot of good shtick.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer


Another enjoyable WWII comedy from Cary Grant, and Tony Curtis provides some able support as a hustler who turns his now bright pink submarine into a refugee camp for the inevitable romantic interest. Formulaic but fun.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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