There was considerable opposition to the casting of Humphrey Bogart, since he was much older than Capt. Queeg was supposed to be. In addition, Bogart was already seriously ill with esophageal cancer, although it would not be diagnosed until January 1956.
Humphrey Bogart's tour-de-force performance in the climactic courtroom scene was so powerful, that it completely captivated the onlooking film technicians and crewmen. After the scene's completion, the company gave Bogart a round of thunderous applause.
When Ens. Willis Seward Keith went away with May to Yosemite, they witnessed the famous Fire Fall. At 9:00 each evening in Camp Curry, the crowd that had gathered for the nightly campfire program would fall silent. A man would call out to the top of Glacier Point, "Let the Fire Fall!", and a faint reply could be heard from the top of the mountain. Then a great bonfire of red fir bark would be pushed evenly over the edge of the cliff, appearing to the onlookers below as a glowing waterfall of sparks and fire. In 1968 the Park Service Director decided that the Firefall tradition should come to an end. He reasoned that since it was just a man-made attraction, and one that caused a great deal of congestion in the park--as well as damage to the meadows from the trampling of onlookers--that it wasn't worth continuing. He went as far as to point out that it caused the unnatural and unnecessary removal of red-fir bark from the park grounds. Later, when visitors would ask about footage of the firefall, they were told that this film had the best footage available.
The scars on Van Johnson's face in this film are real, not make-up. While filming A Guy Named Joe (1943), Johnson was in an automobile accident and thrown through the car's windshield. The plastic surgery of the day could not totally remove his scars. In all of his later films, he wore heavy make-up to hide them, but felt that, in this film, they added to his character's appearance.
Columbia Pictures was determined to hire Humphrey Bogart for the lead role of Captain Queeg, and Bogart was enthusiastic about playing it, but the Columbia brass did not want to pay him his top salary. Bogart was rather miffed at this, complaining to wife Lauren Bacall, "This never happens to Gary Cooper, or Cary Grant, or Clark Gable, but always to me." Bogart believed that Harry Cohn and company knew that Bogart wanted to play the part so fervently, that he would agree to take less money, rather than surrender the part to someone else. As it turned out, he was right.
The US Navy was never happy about the depiction of Capt. Queeg as a madman in the novel, with the implication that it would hire or keep in place someone so clearly deranged. The film version skirted around that rather contentious issue by making Queeg a victim of battle fatigue or PTSD.
Producer Stanley Kramer and director Edward Dmytryk cast Lee Marvin as one of the U.S.S. Caine's supporting sailors, not only for his knowledge of ships at sea--he had served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II--but for his acting talent. Throughout the production Marvin served as an unofficial technical advisor to the filmmakers. Sometimes a shot would be set up only to be criticized by Marvin as being inauthentic.
Several weeks before filming began, José Ferrer broke his right hand. He is seen wearing a cast, but the injury is only briefly referred to by Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) when, upon meeting him, he must shake his left hand, rather than his right.
In the climactic scene when Capt. Queeg is in the witness chair, two scars can be clearly seen on Humphrey Bogart's upper lip. He got them when, as a sailor in World War I, he was attacked by a prisoner he was escorting from the Norfolk navy base to Portsmouth Naval Prison, who hit him in the mouth with handcuffs while trying to escape.
The USS Caine was "played" by the Navy destroyer-minesweeper USS Thompson (DD-627/DMS-38), named in honor of Robert M Thompson. DD-627 provided close-in fire support on D-Day. DMS-38 served in the Korean War, and was decommissioned a year after her role in this movie.
Director Edward Dmytryk noted in his autobiography that Herman Wouk's initial contribution to the script was "a disaster", and that Stanley Roberts then took over the re-write. Wouk is only credited on-screen as the author of the novel on which the film was based. Dmytryk also stated that he was unaware of studio head Harry Cohn's strict insistence that Columbia films run no longer than two hours, and indicated that Roberts quit over the stipulated cuts required to bring the screenplay down to fit the time requirement. The final screenplay was trimmed by nearly 50 pages by Michael Blankfort, who is credited on-screen with "additional dialogue".
Preparations for filming took 15 months. The length of time it took to make the film, unusually long at the time, was due in part to the unwillingness of the US Navy to endorse the film. Without the Navy's endorsement it would have been impossible for the filmmakers to use naval equipment and personnel. The Navy was concerned that the film's subject dealt with a mutiny, and that audiences would think that it was a true story. However, the filmmakers and the Navy reached a compromise in which a title card appeared at the film's beginning that stated there has never been a mutiny on a US Navy vessel.
Capt. Queeg's portrayal parallels that of the Captain of the USS Hull, one of three destroyers lost during Typhoon Cobra, also called "Halsey's Typhoon", because it struck U.S. Navy's Third Fleet, commanded by Adm. William F. Halsey. Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Marks was a veteran of Atlantic convoys, but as commander of the Hull he alienated the crew shortly after he took command by doing such things as forbidding social conversations between officers and enlisted men and canceling shore leave for minor infractions. While there was no mutiny on the Hull, Marks was found by a court of inquiry to have been too inexperienced in command to properly tend to his ship's safety. Three ships sank during the typhoon--the destroyers Spence, Hull and Monaghan. The storm and its impact is well described in "Halsey's Typhoon" by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin.
The film opens with the epigraph that states that there has never been a mutiny in the United States Navy. The Navy insisted on this in exchange for the production's use of Pearl Harbor, planes, aircraft carriers, destroyers, combat boats and the port in San Francisco. In fact, this was the only film made with the complete cooperation of the Navy, for which it didn't want credit, only the opening disclaimer. The agreement was the result of heavy pre-production cajoling between the producers and the Navy. At first the Navy was cool to the idea of lending support to the film. Rear Adm. Robert Hickey, Information Chief of the Navy, wrote to the producers, "I believe your production would plant in the minds of millions the idea that life in the Navy is akin to confinement in a psychiatric institution." The Navy suggested several changes to the script, including a change of title to "The Caine Incident". In the end, the Navy's suggested changes were kept to a minimum, and the final script was approved for shooting.
When Humphrey Bogart broke bread into small pieces to symbolize the deteriorating state of Queeg's mental condition, a military advisor on the set told him that no naval officer would eat bread that way.
The scene in which Maryk dives into the water to attach a rope to the adrift sweep gear nearly proved fatal for Van Johnson. He did not use a stunt double and performed the entire swim sequence himself. While in the water a shark was spotted approaching him but was quickly shot by a Navy sharpshooter. As the water really did contain many sharks the Navy had placed armed sailors and lookouts near the production crew during filming of this scene for just such a contingency.
The fate of the USS Hull, one of three US Navy destroyers lost during Typhoon Cobra in December 1944, served as the basis for the mutiny in the story. According to his first hand account, Boatswain's Mate First Class John Ray Schultz directly confronted Hull's CO, Lt. Cmdr. James A Marks, about his handling of the ship as she was entering the worst of the typhoon. Schultz implored Hull's XO, Lt. Greil Gerstley, an expert ship handler, to assume command but he refused citing fear of a court martial for mutiny. Other surviving witnesses on the bridge described Marks as paralyzed and indecisive, issuing questionable maneuvering orders, and declining to take on leveling ballast to help keep the ship upright after severe rolls; A decision his XO strongly disagreed with. A powerful gust exceeding 100 knots eventually rolled Hull over to her side and she did not recover. The ship flooded rapidly and 202 of her crew were lost. 62 others were subsequently rescued including Captain Marks. A board of inquiry did not find fault with Marks (none of the incidents on the bridge were brought up by anyone) but rather with Adm. Halsey for sending his fleet directly into the massive storm, although no disciplinary action was recommended. Some survivors of the Hull laid the blame for ship's loss exclusively on the Captain. James Marks committed suicide in 1986.
The film is often cited as a classic example of producer overreach and interference with the creative process involved in making a motion picture. One stark example is writer/producer Stanley Kramer's insistence that Humphrey Bogart be given the role of Queeg, even though he was much too old for the part. Director Edward Dmytryk had already signed on Richard Widmark for the role but was overruled by Kramer and Widmark was released. Another example was Columbia Pictures President Harry Cohn's insistence that the final cut run no more than two hours so that it could be squeezed in for an additional showing at theaters, increasing box-office receipts. This ran counter to Dmytryk's argument that the story would suffer if it were forced into a compressed two-hour time slot, but he lost this argument as well and 50 pages of dialogue were eliminated to accommodate Cohn's mandate. If Dmytryk had prevailed the film would have run at least an hour longer.
An October 1952 "New York Times" item revealed that there were two scripts prepared for this movie, one that included "Willie" and "May's" romance, and another, shorter version that only included action on the Caine and the court-martial.
Collectors of motion picture soundtracks are always on the look out for this film's original release soundtrack on RCA Records, ID #LOC1013. The "A" side contained music from the film and the "B" side was a transcription of the complete court-martial scene. Apparently the cover omitted credits of several people connected with the film. When this error was noticed, the records were recalled by RCA. At that point fewer than 100 LPs had been issued, mostly as promotional records to reviewers, and to some radio stations. Most of the records were returned to the studio, but not all. Today the Caine Mutiny soundtrack, LOC1013 is considered the Holy Grail of soundtracks to collectors, and is worth thousands of dollars due to its extreme rarity.
Most of the major Hollywood studios wouldn't touch Herman Wouk's best-seller because they knew that the only way they could make the film would be with the full cooperation of the Department of Defense, which would insist on making sweeping changes to the film (the DOD was openly critical of Wouk's depiction of the Navy). Undeterred, independent producer Stanley Kramer optioned the novel for $60,000. Once the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, the DOD had to soften its attitude towards the novel, given its huge popularity. It eventually approved Kramer's submitted screenplay treatment in 1952.
Despite the accolades and impressive box-office receipts, director Edward Dmytryk felt that the film could have been even better. In "Stanley Kramer: Filmmaker" by Donald Spoto, Dmytryk said, "It's a disappointment in my career, to tell the truth. I insist it could have been a classic, but (Stanley Kramer), who (with Dore Schary) is the most publicity-conscious man in the industry, got high-handed with Harry Cohn, and in fact, had to toe the line, Stanley Roberts' original script was about 190 pages, even without the romantic subplot. It should have remained that, a 3-1/2- or four-hour picture, and it would have been more logically developed, the characters would have been further fleshed out. It would have been perfect".
Adm. William F. Halsey's Third Fleet comprised over 170 ships, from DE's (Destroyer-Escort) to Carriers. Task Force 38 was only one Task Force in the Fleet. At station each ship was intended to be 1500 yards apart, and stretched for over 100 miles in all directions. Very few ships in the fleet did not feel the wrath of Typhoon Cobra, as it came to be known. The barometric pressure aboard some ships registered down to 27.30 inches of mercury, with sustained winds of over 140 mph and seas running 70+ feet.
This marked a spectacular comeback for director Edward Dmytryk, formerly one of the "Hollywood Ten" who had been jailed for contempt of Congress, and for lying under oath while being investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, because of his former membership in the American Communist party. Such was the effectiveness of the film that Dmytryk even received a DGA nomination.
The film was made under tight restrictions from Harry Cohn, who demanded that the final cut not exceed two hours in running time and a $2-million budget. If the running time or the budget ran over, ultimate control of the production would fall into Cohn's tyrannical hands. The reason why he insisted on the two-hour maximum running time was purely financial--if it was no more than 120 minutes in length, theaters could squeeze in an extra showing of the film per day.
One of the Navy officers who advised the filmmakers on technical aspects held a bitter grudge against one of his former commanding officers, whom he described as a "Captain Queeg". The officer asserted that the novel "should be required reading for every man and officer in the United States Navy."
To capture the excitement of the typhoon scene, the filmmakers originally intended to steer the ship (a replica of the U.S.S. Caine) into an actual gale for the bad-weather footage. It was eventually decided that the typhoon would be artificially created in a studio by Special Effects Technician Lawrence W. Butler.
After their first briefing with Lt. Cmdr. Queeg, Willie Keith remarks that "He certainly is Navy", to which Keefer replies, "So was Captain Bligh". This was a reference to Capt. William Bligh of the HMS Bounty, whose crew mutinied against him. In Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Bligh was played by Charles Laughton, who in 1954 also directed "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" on stage.
In both the novel and the stage version of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Greenwald's drunken confrontation at the end is much more provocative and politically charged than is written in the screenplay version. Originally, Greenwald makes direct references to Nazism and the Holocaust as he rants about his disgust for having to attack Queeg who, as Greenwald says, "Stopped Hermann Goering from washing his fat behind with my mother." However, Stanley Kramer's script omits all political and racial topicality from the film due to both censorship and an avoidance of offending audience sensibilities so soon after the war.
Once the US Navy agreed to cooperate with the production (it was nervous about a film depicting a madman in control of one of its ships, and especially of the word "mutiny"), it proved extremely helpful, providing virtually unlimited access to ships, planes, boats, Pearl Harbor, the port of San Francisco and Naval Station Treasure Island.
The story is inspired by Herman Wouk's WWII experiences while serving as communications officer aboard two post-WWI Clemson-class destroyer minesweepers; the USS Zane and USS Southard; he eventually became XO of the latter. The Keefer character is loosely modeled on himself.
Michael Caine took his stage name from the film. He was telephoning his agent from a booth in London's Leicester Square when he was informed that there already was an actor using his real name, Michael Scott, and that he had to come up with a new one. Caine looked up, saw that this film was playing at a cinema in the square and the rest is history.
The great success of this movie put Edward Dmytryk on the "A" list of Hollywood directors, a major career redemption following his imprisonment for contempt of Congress, and blacklisting over his former Communist affiliations. However, it appears the Hollywood establishment was not quite prepared to welcome him back. This movie received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, but Dmytryk was passed over for a Best Director nod, even though he was nominated by the Directors Guild of America (DGA). He received a second DGA nomination for The Young Lions (1958), and was again unrecognized by the Motion Picture Academy. He nevertheless sustained a successful directing career for the next two decades.
Independent producer Stanley Kramer's films, while high-minded, often lost money at the box office. This was not the case with this film, which was one of the biggest hits of the year and put both Kramer's production company and Columbia Pictures, which released the film, firmly in the black.
In the novel, the Caine is a modified World War I-vintage "flush deck" destroyer with three smokestacks. Since ships of this type were very scarce after World War II, the producers used a more modern World War II-vintage ship with two smokestacks. When Ens. Keith is first being transported to the Caine, it is docked in-bound of another double-stack destroyer, but a wide shot makes it appear like it's just one three-stack ship docked, thus providing a brief reference to the novel's Caine.
The following is engraved on a plaque in the officers' wardroom. The lines on the plaque are centered: U.S.S. CAINE DMS 18 / This ship is named for / Arthur Wingate Caine / Commander U.S. Navy / who died of wounds received / in running gun battle / between submarine and / vessel he commanded, / U.S.S. Jones. / The submarine was sunk in / the engagement.
The aircraft carrier used in the film to depict Adm. Halsey's flagship is the USS Kearsarge, an Essex-class carrier that had been commissioned just after the war ended. The sailors featured in the scenes aboard the ship are all actual crew members.
Both Comdr. DeVriess and Lt. Cmdr. Queeg's ranks are subordinate (lower than) a naval captain. However, it is policy and tradition that they would both be addressed as "Captain" (on the ship) instead of their actual rank(s). Off the ship, they would be addressed by their current rank.
Because the public was so familiar with "The Caine Mutiny" from the book and the play, anticipation for the Hollywood adaptation ran high. National magazines ran stories on the film's production and imminent release. Publications from "Variety" to "The Christian Science Monitor" were publishing features and interviews before the New York City premiere, detailing the making of the film and the anticipated response from audiences around the country.
This movie's opening prologue states: "There has never been a mutiny in a ship of the United States Navy. The truths of this film lie not in its incidents, but in the way a few men meet the crisis of their lives. The time--World War II . . . "
According to Lt. Kiefer, the ship was named after "The biggest outcast of them all". He is referring to the Biblical Cain, who killed his brother Abel and was punished by The Lord to a life of wandering.
Two members of the crew went on to become famous playing sheriffs. Claude Akins (Horrible) is best remembered as Sheriff Lobo and James Best (Jorgensen) achieved his greatest fame as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.
The film leaves out much of the character profiles and backstories that are fleshed out in Wouk's original novel. One glaring example is Navy lawyer Greenwald's appearance wearing a winter green Navy pilot's uniform. In the novel, Greenwald is a talented lawyer who, upon America's entry into WWII, decides to join the Navy to become a fighter pilot. He says in the novel, "Can't stop a Nazi with a lawbook. So I dropped the lawbooks and ran to learn how to fly." He returns to legal work in the Navy due to injuries sustained from a plane crash. But none of this is explained in the screenplay.
Herman Wouk penned his first novel, Aurora Dawn, while serving as an officer aboard USS Zane in WWII. Wouk forwarded the initial draft to one of his college professors for his critique; the professor then sent it on to a publishing house which issued a contract to Wouk while he was still at sea. The success of Aurora Dawn, published in 1947, laid the pathway for Wouk's second and markedly more successful novel, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, which was published in 1951. The Caine Mutiny was drawn directly from Wouk's own experiences and other events while serving as a naval officer in the Pacific war.
What can appear to some viewers as a typographical error with the teletype orders to steam within 1000 yards "of" the beach is grammatically correct, but when seen in all capital letters, could be mistaken as "off" spelled incorrectly.
Opening credits: "The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely accidental and unintentional."