52 user 33 critic

Operation Petticoat (1959)

Approved | | Comedy, Romance, War | 1959 (UK)
World War 2 comedy about a submarine commander who finds himself stuck with a decrepit (and pink) sub, a con-man executive officer and a group of army nurses.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lt. Dolores Crandall RN
Ens. Stovall (as Richard Sargent)
Robert Gist ...
Ernest Hunkle
George Dunn ...
The Prophet
Dick Crockett ...
Lt. Reid RN
Lt. Colfax RN
Clarence Lung ...
Sgt. Ramon Gillardo (as Clarence E. Lung)


A submarine newly commissioned is damaged in the opening days of WW II. A captain, looking for a command insists he can get it to a dockyard and captain it. Going slowly to this site, they find a stranded group of Army nurses and must take them aboard. How bad can it get? Trying to get a primer coat on the sub, they have to mix white and red in order to have enough. When forced to flee the dock during an air attack, they find themselves with the world's only Pink submarine, still with 5 women in the tight quarters of a submarine. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


20,000 Laughs Under The Sea! See more »


Comedy | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1959 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Sirenas y tiburones  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Ontario)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


(Eastman Color)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The nurses wonder why the toilet is called "the head." It's because on earlier sailing ships, the toilet for enlisted sailors was a series of holes, like an outhouse, that was perched out over the bow - the "head of the ship." This location was for practical reasons as the wind was always blowing from the aft; therefore, any "offensive odors" were blown away from ship. The officer's toilets were near the stern or back of the ship within the "quarter gallery", the part of the stern that hung over the water on either side. See more »


When Lt. Holden tells the Marine guard about the "blackout regulations," he says the order came from Adm. Nimitz. If this is set in mid-December 1941, Adm. Nimitz wasn't commander-in-chief, yet. He took command on 31 December 1941. See more »


[finding water all over the floor]
Lt. Nicholas Holden: Excuse me, sir, is this normal, or should I be nervous again?
See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Final Justice (1999) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

I can't find enough good things to say about this movie
14 September 2003 | by See all my reviews

Directed by Blake Edwards (well-known for the "Pink Panther" series, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Great Race, "10", Victor/Victoria, and many others), this is an expertly-executed comedy with plenty of visual humor as well a "boat-load" of dry wisecracks and suggestive innuendo for the veteran cast to exploit, seemingly presaging the early 1960's sex comedies. Apparently inspired by the real-life adventures of the American submarines SEALION, SEADRAGON, and SPEARFISH, as well as humorous anecdotes adopted from other submarines, and technically advised by retired wartime submarine commander Rear Admiral Lucius M. Chappel, in a "funny" and sometimes subtle way it may be the most realistic movie about US submarines in World War II ever made.

Plot outline: immediately following Pearl Harbor the Japanese prepare to invade the American-occupied Philippine Islands, and during an air raid on the Cavite naval base there, sink the almost brand-new submarine SEA TIGER. Nevertheless, her aggressive and professional yet equally human commander, Matt Sherman - played with admirable credibility by Cary Grant - is not about to take this lying down. After persuading the squadron commodore to give him the go-ahead, he and the remnants of his ship's company - diminished due to transfers made because of the boat's sunken condition - succeed in raising her from the harbor bottom and commence getting her seaworthy enough to escape to Australia before the pending Japanese assault. Unfortunately their repair efforts, already daunting enough, are impossibly impeded by an apparently bureaucratically-based shortage of crucial spare parts and supplies - even toilet paper (a gag in the film rendered nearly verbatim from the true-life experience of the submarine SKIPJACK).

At this point Tony Curtis enters as Lt. Nick Holden (the character's name calling to mind actor William Holden's patented self-indulgent bad-boy persona). Having grown up in a neighborhood called "Noah's Ark" ("you traveled in pairs or you just didn't travel"), our Lt. Holden is an accomplished back-alley maneuverer who joined the Navy for the prestige of the uniform and what it can get him (in particular, a certain Miss "Super Chief"). Alas, having secured for himself a cushy job as an admiral's aid sent ahead to Manila to prepare for his admiral's later arrival, the sudden outbreak of the war results in the cancellation of the admiral's transfer and all Mr. Holden's carefully manipulated plans are sent completely awry. Thus being at loose ends he finds himself assigned as a replacement officer to the SEA TIGER. Faced with the alternative of being stuck on Bataan to endure the oncoming Japanese conquest, he sees it is in his best interest to make up for the seagoing experience he has managed to avoid up to this point in his naval career by becoming the boat's Supply Officer and securing everything the captain needs to get "the . . . submarine" out of there and to someplace where he can get a better deal.

Although thoroughly uncomfortable with this new addition to the wardroom of his ship, Captain Sherman is so solidly dedicated to his responsibilities as the boat's commander that he is willing to make "a pact with the Devil" to get her going again and so Lt. Holden, allied with his handpicked detail of "scavengers" - Seaman Hunkle (Gavin McLeod), a sailor only known as "The Prophet {of Doom}," and of course the trusty (or at least reliable and punctilious) marine Sergeant Ramon Gallardo ("there isn't a burglar, swindler, pickpocket, or fence in the islands that doesn't know, love, and respect him") - commences a supply procurement program which might most charitably be characterized as unorthodox - or less charitably as just plain felonious. But he really hits his high point when he manages to "scavenge" five stranded Army nurses and convince the captain that he has to take them aboard. From then on the film becomes Cary Grant's battle to get his groaning, belching, backfiring, spit-and-bailing-wire-patched submarine safely to Australia while avoiding any "exchange of information" concerning "the facts of life" between the crew and their guests.

His struggle is complicated all the more by his continual personal encounters with the almost terminally accident-prone but especially well-endowed young nurse Dolores Crandall (in the words of the "Chief of the Boat," Malumphry - "if you wanna know what you're fightin' for - there's your answer") who for all her blunders unintentionally winds up saving the boat and all aboard. As if to highlight the unconventionality of their situation along the way they manage to wind up with the vessel painted pink (don't ask me how - just try to believe I actually saw a performance nearly identical to Malumphry's in reaction to a similar problem aboard a real-life nuclear ballistic missile submarine around 1980), have to set up a maternity ward, complete with goat ("the children will need fresh milk"), and accomplish the unique induction of "Seaman Hornsby" into his brief but flavorful naval career. The plot is actually developed in the form of a flashback from about 1960 allowing it to end with a slightly sentimental and amusing bit of a twist. Clean and wholesome while still being thoroughly adult ("when a man is tired and irritable you can be sure there's one thing he's not getting enough of -- vitamins and minerals"), you can watch this one with your kids - maybe even after they've reached their cynical adolescent years.

Note: the use of the brackets {} above in place of the stylistically correct square brackets was made necessary by some IMDb format change that made use of the correct brackets impossible. Hopefully they will not eliminate other commonly used symbols in future updates simply because the people they employ never got better than a "C" in junior high school English class and don't know what they are for.

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