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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: If you questioned the leadership competence of your superior, would you step in to save a "sinking ship"?

Plot Summary: In the middle of World War II, out in the Pacific Theater, we find a tired and weary minesweeper the Caine. When a new captain, Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) is assigned to the Caine, the officers note his strange behavior which may be his efforts to instill discipline or a much deeper problem. Concerned about his behavior, the executive officer, Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) is convinced by the communications officer Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred McMurray), that Queeg may have a mental illness. When the Caine is in serious danger during a typhoon, Maryk assumes command under Article 184 of the Navy regulations when Queeg's behavior appears to risk the ship and the crew. This action results in a court-martial where Maryk is represented by Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrar). Was Maryk justified or did he commit mutiny?


  • Edward Dmytryk as Director

  • Stanley Roberts and Michael Blankfort as Writers

  • Humphrey Bogart as LCDR Philip Francis Queeg

  • José Ferrer as LT Barney Greenwald

  • Van Johnson as LT Steve Maryk

  • Fred MacMurray as LT Tom Keefer

  • Robert Francis as ENS Willis Seward "Willie" Keith

  • May Wynn as May Wynn[a]

  • Tom Tully as LCDR William H. De Vriess

  • E. G. Marshall as LCDR John Challee

  • Arthur Franz as LTJG H. Paynter Jr.

  • Lee Marvin as "Meatball"


  • The Caine Mutiny was released on July 28, 1954. It was made on a budget of $2 million, was the second-highest-grossing film of 1954, and earned $8.7 million in theatrical rentals in the United States. It was also the most successful of Stanley Kramer's productions, some of which had previously lost money, and put his entire production company – as well as Columbia Pictures – in the black.

  • The Caine Mutiny currently holds a 92% rating on RT and a 63% on Metacritic.

  • It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor (Bogart), Supporting Actor (Tom Tully), Score - Drama or Comedy, Sound, Editing, and Best Screenplay.

  • It has been recognized by the American Film Institute on the following lists:

    • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated

    • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:

      • Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg – Nominated Villain

    • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:

      • "Ah, but the strawberries! That's--that's where I had them." – Nominated

    • AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Courtroom Drama

Did You Know:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. The scene was filmed in the waters outside Pearl Harbor where sharks were known to inhabit. To protect the actor, the Navy had placed armed sailors on the ship and in boats around Johnson as he swam. At least one shark was sighted approaching him but was quickly shot by the marksmen and the shark vanished.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • When Michael Caine, born Maurice Micklewhite, first became an actor he adopted the stage name "Michael Scott." He was later told by his agent that another actor was already using the same name, and that he had to come up with a new one immediately. Speaking to his agent from a telephone box in Leicester Square in London, he looked around for inspiration. Being a fan of Bogart, he noted that The Caine Mutiny was being shown at the Odeon Cinema, and adopted a new name from the movie title. Caine has often joked in interviews that, had he looked the other way, he would have ended up as "Michael One Hundred and One Dalmatians."

Best Performance: Humphrey Bogart (Queeg)/Edward Dmytryk (Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Fred MacMurray (Keefer)/Humphrey Bogart (Queeg)

Most Charismatic Award: Jose Ferrer (Greenwald)

Best Scene:

  • Touring the Caine

  • Tow-Line

  • Old Yellowstain

  • Strawberries Sequence

  • Not Seeing Adm. Halsey

  • Typhoon

  • Court Martial

  • Keefer on the Stand

  • Queeg on the Stand

  • The Real Caine Mutiny

Favorite Scene: Queeg on the Stand

Most Indelible Moment: Queeg on the Stand

In Memorium:

  • Joanna Barnes, 87, American Actress (Auntie Mame, Tarzan, the Ape Man, Sparatacus, The Parent Trap) and writer (The War Wagon)

  • Ann Davies, 87, English Actress (Doctor Who, Peter's Friends, The Sculptress, EastEnders)

  • Bob Elkins, 89, American Actor (Coal Miner's Daughter, The Dream Catcher)

  • Neal Adams, 80, American Comic Book Artist and Writer (Batman, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, Green Lantern, X-Men)

  • George Yanok, 83, American Television Writer and Producer (Hee Haw, Welcome Back, Kotter, The Stockard Channing Show), Emmy winner (1974, 1976)

  • Naomi Judd, 76, American Hall of Fame Country Singer (The Judds) and songwriter ("Change of Heart", "Love Can Build a Bridge")

  • Jerry verDorn, 72, American Actor (One Life to Live, Guiding Light)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Lieutenant Tom Keefer: "There is no escape from the Caine, save death. We're all doing penance, sentenced to an outcast ship, manned by outcasts, and named after the greatest outcast of them all."

Barney Greenwald: I don't want to upset you too much, but at the moment you have an excellent chance of being hanged.

May Wynn: I didn't mean to ruin your evening, I just bruise easily.

Captain Queeg: [during his personal introduction to the officers of the Caine] Mr. Maryk, kindly tell the crew - on behalf of myself - that there are four ways of doing things onboard my ship: the right way; the wrong way; the Navy way; and my way. So long as they do things my way, we'll get along.

Ensign Willie Keith: Sir, you don't like the Navy, do you?

Lt. Keefer: Who called the "Caine" the Navy?

Captain DeVriess: Disappointed they assigned you to a minesweeper, Keith?

Ensign Willie Keith: Well, sir, to be honest, yes, sir.

Captain DeVriess: You saw yourself on a carrier, or a battleship, no doubt.

Ensign Willie Keith: Yes, sir, I had hoped...

Captain DeVriess: Well, I only "hope" that you're good enough for the Caine.

Ensign Willie Keith: I shall try to be worthy of this assignment, sir.

Captain DeVriess: She's not a battleship or a carrier; the Caine is a beaten-up tub. After 18 months of combat it takes 24 hours a day just to keep her in one piece.

Captain Queeg: Ahh, but the strawberries! That's - that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with - geometric logic - that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist! And I'd have PRODUCED that key if they hadn't've pulled the Caine out of action! I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers - [breaks off in horror, becomes hesitant] Umm... naturally, I can only cover these things roughly, from - memory... but if I've left anything out... why, you just ask me - specific questions and I'll be - perfectly happy to answer them... one by one.

Capt. Blakely: Mr. Greenwald, there can be no more serious charge against an officer than cowardice under fire.

Lt. Barney Greenwald: Sir, may I make one thing clear? It is not the defense's contention that Lieutenant Commander Queeg is a coward; quite the contrary! The defense assumes that no man who rises to command a United States naval ship can possibly be a coward, and that, therefore, if he commits questionable acts under fire, the explanation must be elsewhere.

Lt. Keefer: [LT Keefer to ENS Keith while giving him a tour of the Caine] The first thing you've got to learn about this ship is that she was designed by geniuses, to be run by idiots.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5.25

Impact/Significance: 9.25

Novelty: 6

Classic-ness: 6.75

Rewatchability: 7.25

Audience Score: 8.7 (87% Google, 87% RT)

Total: 43.2

Remaining Questions:

  • As a lawyer, aren't you committing malpractice by not objecting to whether your client liked or disliked someone?

  • Were the Officers of the Caine really guilty because Queeg had asked for help?

  • Are there only two forms of leadership in the military: paranoid disciplinarian or loose confidence?

  • Was Maryk right in taking command of the ship?

  • What could the career of Robert Francis have been if he didn't die young?

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