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The Humphrey Bogart Blogathon: «The Caine Mutiny» (1954)

Directed by Edward Dmytryk, The Caine Mutiny (1954) begins in 1944, when Ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis) of the Naval Reserve is assigned to the dilapidated destroyer-minesweeper USS Caine, stationed at the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The ship is under the command of the casual Captain William De Vriess (Tom Tully), who is soon replaced by the tyrannical Lieutenant Commander Francis Philip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart). At first, Queeg's strict discipline appears to be an improvement on the Caine's lax crew, but he quickly begins to behave erratically, displaying cowardice during a beachhead landing and drastically overreacting when strawberries go missing from the officers' mess.

LEFT: Fred MacMurray, Robert Francis, Van Johnson and Humphrey Bogart. RIGHT: Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny.

As Queeg's mental condition worsens, Lieutenant Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray) pushes the executive officer, Lieutenant Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson), to commit mutiny. When Queeg freezes in a typhoon, Maryk impulsively decides to relieve the captain of command, with the concurrence of Keith, as Officer of the Deck. After the Caine returns to San Francisco, both Maryk and Keith are brought up for a court-martial for their actions. Cynical Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer) is the only lawyer who grudgingly accepts their case.
At the trial, Keefer denies ever observing signs of mental illness in Queeg or counseling Maryk to relieve him. Navy psychiatrist Lieutenant Commander Dickson (Whit Bissell) asserts that Queeg that is not mentally ill, but under Greenwald's probing admits that the captain suffers from deep paranoia due to long and arduous combat duty. Taking the stand, Queeg begins to exhibit such paranoid behavior, especially when Greenwald mentions the missing strawberries. In the face of Queeg's obvious instability, Maryk and Keith are acquitted. Afterwards, during a celebration with the Caine's officers, a drunken Greenwald berates them for not supporting Queeg and denounces Keefer as the real instigator of the Caine mutiny. Later, Keith is assigned to a new ship that turns out to be commanded by De Vriess.
Lt. Cmdr. Queeg: Ah, but the strawberries! That's, that's where I had them.
A graduate of Columbia University, Herman Wouk joined the U.S. Navy following the Japanese attack against the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Assigned to the Pacific Theatre of World War II, he served aboard two destroyer-minesweepers, the USS Zane and the USS Southard, becoming executive officer of the latter. During his off-duty hours, Wouk began writing a novel, Aurora Dawn, which was well-received upon its publication in 1947. The following year, Simon & Schuster published his second book, City Boy, which was a commercial disappointment upon its initial release. Wouk later claimed that the reason for this was the excitement over Norman Mailer's best-selling World War II novel The Naked and the Dead, also published in 1948.

Undeterred by the failure of City Boy, Wouk set out to write his third novel. Drawing on his experiences abroad destroyer-minesweepers, he penned The Caine Mutiny, which dealt with the moral and ethical decisions made at sea by captains of ships. Published by Doubleday in 1951, the book was a massive success, staying for nine months on the New York Times bestseller list. Three years later, Wouk turned the courtroom portion of his tale into a stage play called The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Directed by Charles Laughton, the play premiered at the Plymouth Theatre in New York in January 1954 and starred Henry Fonda, Lloyd Nolan and John Hodiak.
LEFT: Herman Wouk in 1955. RIGHT: A scene from the stage version of The Caine Mutiny.
Shortly after the publication of The Caine Mutiny, producer Stanley Kramer purchased the screen rights to the novel and made a deal with Columbia Pictures to finance the film. Kramer's purchase rested on the stipulation that the screen treatment would be subject to approval by the Navy. Wouk was initially selected to write the script, but he was eventually replaced by Stanley Roberts, an experienced screenwriter. Roberts later quit the production after being instructed to cut the screenplay so the film could be kept to two hours. The 50 pages worth of cuts were subsequently made by Michael Blankfort, who received an «additional dialogue» credit.
The Navy was initially uncomfortable with both the portrayal of a mentally unbalanced man as the captain of one of its ships and the use of the word «mutiny» in the title. Rear Admiral 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 title change to «The Caine Incident.» After 15 months of negotiations, the screenplay was finally approved and the Navy granted the production team access to planes, aircraft carriers, destroyers and combats boats, as well as Pearl Harbor, the port of San Francisco and Naval Station Treasure Island for location shooting. The Navy insisted, however, that the film open with an epigraph that read, «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 cast of The Caine Mutiny in two scenes from the film.
Although Dick Powell campaigned heavily for the role of Francis Philip Queeg, Kramer had always intended to cast Humphrey Bogart as the mentally unstable captain. Bogart was enthusiastic about playing the part, but Columbia head Harry Cohn did not want to pay him his top salary. The actor was annoyed by this, complaining to his wife, Lauren Bacall, «This never happens to Gary Cooper or Cary Grant or Clark Gable, but always to me. Damn it, Harry knows I want to play it and will come down in my price rather than see them give it to somebody else.» And so he did, settling for much less than his customary $200,000.

For the role of Lt. Stephen Maryk, Kramer borrowed Van Johnson from MGM, where he was under contract. Johnson had read the book and was ecstatic at the chance to break out of his «boy-next-door» mold and play a complex, forceful character. «A role like Maryk after all these years!» he said when Kramer offered him the part. «Believe me, I'm grateful. Nobody can say it wasn't time for a change.» Johnson knew that the roles he had been given in recent years at Metro were one-dimensional. He had been typecast for so long that he feared he might have lost the ability to stretch as an actor. Yet Kramer seemed confident that Johnson could play a demanding, introspective part. «I was in a rut,» Johnson said. «Stanley Kramer saved my life
Van Johnson, Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray and José Ferrer.
To play Lt. Tom Keefer, Kramer hired Fred MacMurray, who was in need of a distraction following his wife's recent death. Kramer also cast Lee Marvin as one of the Caine's sailors, not only for his acting, but also because of his knowledge of ships at sea. Marvin had served in the U.S. Marines from the beginning of America's involvement in World War II through the Battle of Saipan, in which he was wounded. As a result, he became an unofficial technical adviser for the film.

To direct The Caine Mutiny, Kramer engaged Edward Dmytryk, who had been named one of the «Hollywood Ten,» a group of blacklisted film industry professionals cited in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 regarding Communist influences within Hollywood. In 1951, Dmytryk did testify and rehabilitated his career. Kramer was first person to hire him following the blacklist. Before The Caine Mutiny, they had collaborated on The Sniper (1952), Eight Iron Men (1952) and The Juggler (1953).
LEFT: Edward Dmytryk and Humphrey Bogart during the making of The Caine Mutiny. RIGHT: Filming a courtroom scene with José Ferrer and Van Johnson.

The Caine Mutiny premiered at the Capitol Theatre in New York on June 24, 1954 and went into general release on July 28. Made on a budget of $2 million, it became the second highest-grossing film of the year, earning $8.7 million at the box-office. Reviews were generally positive. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called it «a vibrant film,» while Variety described it as a «highly recommendable motion picture drama.» At the 27th Academy Awards held at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood in March 1955, The Caine Mutiny was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Tully), Best Screenplay, Best Sound Recording, Best Film Editing and Best Dramatic Score. Bogart lost to Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront (1954), which also won Best Picture, Screenplay and Film Editing.

This is my contribution to The Humphrey Bogart Blogathon hosted by Sleepwalking in Hollywood and Musings of a Classic Film Addict. To view all entries, click HERE.


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