Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 1964. Granox Company. Story by S.H. Barnett, Screenplay by Peter Stone, Frank Tarloff. Cinematography by Charles Lang. Produced by Robert Arthur. Music by Cy Coleman. Production Design by Henry Bumstead, Alexander Golitzen. Costume Design by Ray Aghayan. Film Editing by Ted J. Kent. Academy Awards 1964. Golden Globe Awards 1964.
A year after triumphing with Charade, screenwriter Peter Stone and star Cary Grant reunite for this charming but meaningful war comedy. If the silliness of Operation Petticoat isn’t your bag of tricks, you might enjoy something that applies a light touch to a, comparatively, convincing situation, the stakes are real even if the treatment is humorous in tone. Grant has walked away from a respectable life as a professor to wander the seas in his sailboat, floating around Papua New Guinea when he is forcibly recruited by the Royal Australian Navy to park his boat on Matalava Island and report on Japanese aircraft movement ahead of a planned invasion. Navy commander Trevor Howard doesn’t trust him to stay put, so he damages his boat in an effort to keep him posted at a tiny little hut where his reports are rewarded daily with the information on where the army’s whiskey bottles are hidden. It seems a dull enough assignment to endure until a turn of events multiplies his misery: on an assignment to rescue a fellow operator, Grant encounters a French woman (Leslie Caron) and seven little girls who are in her care. The girls are diplomats’ daughters who were interrupted on their way to being evacuated to Australia and Grant is forced to house them and share his rations until arrangements can be made to pick them up. Nobody could ever look at this matinee idol’s handsome face, obscured by perpetual stubble as it may be, and think that his gruff attitude can’t be melted by his co-star’s beauty or the children’s plucky readiness for adventure, and it isn’t long before they take to him and even help him repair his boat. The reality of the situation they are in comes back into the picture, however, when they are spotted by the enemy and need to survive artillery fire from the air and get themselves safely off the island. Lots of laughs, plenty of glamorous star power and a great deal of excitement at the end, this is rich and sincere entertainment that is directed with warmth and intelligence by Ralph Nelson and acted beautifully by the entire cast.