The Caine Mutiny (1954) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • When a U.S. Naval captain shows signs of mental instability that jeopardizes the ship, the first officer relieves him of command and faces court martial for mutiny.

  • During the World War II, the crew of a small insignificant ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet experience an event unlike any event ever experienced by the United States Navy. A Ship's Captain is removed from command by his Executive Officer in an apparent outright act of mutiny. As the trial of the mutineers unfold, it is learned that the Captain of the ship was mentally unstable, perhaps even insane. The Navy must decide if the Caine Mutiny was a criminal act, or an act of courage to save a ship from destruction at the hands of her Captain?

  • After graduating from Midshipman's school, Ensign Willis Seward Keith is assigned to the USS Caine a decrepit, 20-year old converted ship equipped for mine sweeping. The officers of the Caine include the Exec, Lt. Steve Maryk and the Communications officer, Lt. Tom Keefer. Willie's not too impressed with the ship's Captain and is pleased when he learns that they are to get a new commanding officer in the form of Lt. Cdmr. Philip F. Queeg. Queeg is an odd duck whose leadership skills are sorely tested. Tom Keefer takes a dislike to him and plants in Steve Maryk's mind the idea that Queeg may be mentally unbalanced. It all comes to a head in a typhoon when Merrick puts Queeg on the sick list, leading to his court-martial where he is defended by a very able lawyer, Barney Greenwald.

  • The spoiled newly graduated Ensign Willie Keith is assigned to the sloppy minesweeper USS Caine commanded by Comdr. DeVriess and befriends Lt. Steve Maryk and Lt. Tom Keefer. Comdr. DeVriess is popular with the officers and crew but Keith does not like him. Keith likes when DeVriess is replaced by the veteran Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, who demands discipline on board. But soon Kefer notes that Queeg is paranoid and coward and induces Maryk and Keith to meet Admiral Halsey and to disclose Queeg's behavior and paranoia. However, Keefer backs down when they are ready to meet Halsey afraid of being misunderstood and punished. Later a typhoon hits the USS Caine, Queeg freezes in the wheelhouse and Maryk relieves Queeg of command, supported by Keith. They have to face a court-martial for mutiny and only the lawyer Lt. Barney Greenwald accepts to defend them in court.

  • A group of officers get a new captain during WW II. The new captain is different and they begin to suspect his sanity. In wartime, will he endanger them? Will they have to remove him from command? Will they be charged with mutiny in time of war if they do?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Bogart is Lt. Commander Phillip Queeg assigned to take over a WW II naval ship whose former captain has allowed discipline to dissolve while still maintaining a good record for the ship. William Keith (Robert Francis) is a newly minted ensign out of Princeton University whose family is wealthy and connected but he welcomes the chance to make it on his own and prove himself as an officer. He bumps heads with the former apparently lax captain and welcomes Queeg's strictness. He joins Lt. Maryk (Van Johnson) a by the book executive officer and Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray) the sarcastic communications officer who is writing a novel. lt. Queeg is appalled by the shabbiness of the crew and immediately sets out to straighten them up. While berating a crewman the ship botches a target practice assignment by cutting their own towline. Bogart is called on the carpet and has to lie to cover himself. In the next mission the ship is assigned is to escort an amphibious landing force into battle but Queeg pulls the ship out too soon much to the chagrin of the crew who suspect cowardice on Queeg's part. Queeg then conducts an elaborate investigation of stolen mess strawberries prompting the officers to suspect that he might be mentally unfit to command. Keith and Maryk are convinced by Keefer to see Admiral Halsey but back out when Keefer chickens out. After Queeg becomes mentally paralyzed during a typhoon Lt. Maryk and Ensign Keith are forced to relieve Queeg of his command fearing the ship will sink. Maryk and Keith are subsequently tried under court martial and are reluctantly defended by Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer). Lt. Keefer refuses to testify on behalf Maryk and Keith to protect himself. The trial goes poorly for the defendants until Queeg is called to testify an and breaks down mentally under Greenwald's questioning. Both Maryk and Keith are found not guilty of mutiny. After the trial Greenwald confronts Keefer and blames him for inciting the mutiny while throwing a drink in his face to humiliate him. Keefer refuses the challenge.

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