Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Operation Petticoat


Sort of the tail end of the “Wasn’t World War II a barrel of laughs?” genre. I can sort of understand it. Millions of guys (and quite a few dolls) were in uniform 1941-45, shared common experiences, and even those in combat had a lot of time when they weren’t actually fighting. Many others never fought at all. It takes a lot of behind-the-lines personnel to back up one soldier in the field. And even combat veterans—those who didn’t actually lose their minds—eventually adjusted to civilian life and eventually looked back on this most exciting time of their lives with nostalgia. Enter the service comedy, to cash in on that feeling. They actually lasted long enough to produce one of the most extreme and, some say, objectionable examples, “Hogan’s Heroes.” But by 1959 I think they were starting to go away.

I tend to like them. This is one of the better ones, directed by Blake Edwards early in his career, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. Grant and Curtis both do what they do best. Most of these comedies have a poignant scene somewhere in them, where somebody gets killed, reminding us that after all, this is war. Not this one. One mildly tense moment when the submarine is being depth bombed by our own destroyer is about as stressful as it get. To my surprise, the business of the pink submarine was based on fact. Somewhere in the Pacific they really did have only enough white primer and red primer to cover one sub, and instead of painting it peppermint they mixed the paint and came out with pink. It’s a striking image. But peppermint might have been funnier.