battle scarred

The Caine Mutiny (film)

The Caine Mutiny is a drama film set during World War II, directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray. It is based on the 1951 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Herman Wouk The Caine Mutiny. The film depicts a mutiny aboard a fictitious World War II U.S. Navy destroyer minesweeper, the Caine, and the subsequent court-martial of two officers.


Callow Ensign Willis Seward "Willie" Keith (Robert Francis, in his film debut) reports for duty aboard the Caine, his first assignment out of officer candidate school. He is disappointed to find the Caine to be a small, battle-scarred destroyer-minesweeper. Its captain, Commander DeVriess (Tom Tully) has discarded spit-and-polish discipline, and the crew of the Caine has become slovenly and superficially undisciplined – although their performance of their duties is, in fact, excellent. Keith has already met the executive officer, Lieutenant Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson), and is introduced to the cynical communications officer, novelist Lt. Thomas Keefer (Fred MacMurray).

De Vriess thinks Keith has attempted to duck duty aboard the Caine by using family influence, and rides him hard. But DeVriess is soon replaced by Lieutenant Commander Phillip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a no-nonsense veteran officer, who has seen years of continuous duty. He quickly attempts to re-instill discipline into the crew, warning, "[T]here are four ways of doing things: the right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way. If they do things my way, we'll get along." The next day, the Caine is assigned to tow a target for gunnery practice. Afterwards, Queeg berates both Keith and Keefer over a crewman's appearance and, while distracted, cuts off the helmsman's warning; as a result, the Caine runs over and cuts the towline to the target. Queeg refuses to accept responsibility for the accident and tries to cover it up. Other incidents serve to undermine Queeg's authority. When a quart of strawberries is stolen from the officers' mess, the captain goes to absurd lengths to try to find the culprit. More seriously, in combat, Queeg breaks off escorting a group of landing craft during an amphibious assault long before they reach the fiercely-defended shore, dropping a yellow marker in the water instead and leaving them unsupported. Afterwards, Queeg makes a speech to his officers, not explicitly apologizing for his behavior, but bending enough to ask for their support. His disgruntled subordinates do not respond.

Keefer begins trying to convince Maryk that he should relieve Queeg on the basis of mental illness. Matters come to a head during a violent typhoon. Maryk urgently recommends that they steer into the waves and take on ballast, but Queeg fears that the ballast will foul the fuel lines with salt water. Queeg's decisions seem to Maryk to threaten the capsizing of the Caine. When Queeg appears to become paralyzed and unable to deal with the crisis, Maryk relieves him and takes over, with Keith's support.

When they return to port, Maryk and Keith face a court-martial for mutiny. After questioning them and Keefer, Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) reluctantly accepts the job of defense counsel, which a number of other lawyers have already turned down. The proceedings do not go well, as the self-serving Keefer has carefully managed to cover himself and denies any complicity. It was he who encouraged Maryk to question Queeg's sanity, playing amateur psychiatrist, and Greenwald has warned him in private that, under naval law, Keefer could, on these grounds, be held as responsible as Maryk.

A Navy psychiatrist testifies that Queeg does not have a mental illness, which the prosecution feels is enough to justify a conviction. But when Queeg is called to testify he snaps under Greenwald's tough cross-examination and gives blatantly paranoid testimony. Maryk is acquitted, and Keith is spared any charges.

After the acquittal, Maryk and his supporters celebrate at a hotel. Keefer joins them, not having the guts not to attend, although he lied in his testimony to protect himself. He thanks Maryk for not revealing this to the other officers. Maryk announces that it is "Over and done with", but at that moment a drunken Greenwald shows up, and, claiming a "guilty conscience", proceeds to deliver a few truths as to what really happened.

Greenwald attacks the officers of the Caine for not appreciating the years of danger and hardship endured by Queeg, a career naval man, whereas the rest of them have only joined up due to the war. He then lambasts Maryk, Keith and finally Keefer for not supporting their captain when he most needed it, and gets Maryk and Keith to admit that if they had given Queeg the support he had asked for, he might not have frozen during the typhoon.

Greenwald then turns to the man who, in his opinion, should really have been on trial: Keefer. He denounces him as the real "author" of the Caine mutiny, who "hated the Navy" and manipulated the others while keeping his own hands officially clean. Maryk tells Greenwald to "forget it", but instead the lawyer exposes Keefer's double-cross in court and throws a glassful of wine into his face. He then invites him to meet outside if he wants to do anything about it: "I'm a lot drunker than you are, so it'll be a fair fight". The other officers also depart, leaving Keefer alone in the room.

A few days later, Keith reports to his new ship and is surprised to find himself once again serving under Commander DeVriess. However, his new commanding officer lets Keith know that he will start with a clean slate.


Cast notes

  • The Caine Mutiny marked the film debut of Robert Francis, who was being groomed for stardom – but on 31 July 1955, he was killed when the private plane he was piloting crashed shortly after take off from Burbank airport.
  • The actress who played May Wynn was born Donna Lee Hickey, and used that name until The Caine Mutiny, when she adopted the name of her character for her stage name. Wynn had only a short film career afterwards.


When the U.S. Navy hesitated about endorsing a possible film and aiding the production, studios shied away from purchasing the film rights to Herman Wouk's novel. As a result, producer Stanley Kramer purchased the rights himself for an estimated $60,000 - $70,000 dollars. After an unusually long pre-production period of fifteen months, due to the Navy's indecision, The Caine Mutiny went into production from 3 June to 24 August , under the initial working title of Authority and Rebellion.

Location shooting took place at Naval Station Treasure Island in San Francisco, Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and at Yosemite National Park in California, the scene of Keith's romantic interlude with May Wynn while on leave.

The film premiered in New York City on 24 June 1954, and went into general release on July 28. It cost an estimated $2 million to make and grossed $8.7 million in the United States.


Richard Widmark was originally intended to play Queeg, but producer Stanley Kramer opted for Humphrey Bogart instead. It took a while to get Bogart, however, even though he very much wanted to play the part, because Columbia was not willing to pay Bogart his usual top salary. Bogart commented about this to his wife, Lauren Bacall, saying "This never happens to Cooper, or Grant or Gable, but always to me.".

Lee Marvin was cast as one of the sailors not only for his acting ability, but because of his knowledge of ships at sea. Marvin had served in the U.S. Marines from the beginning of American involvement in World War II through the Battle of Saipan, in which he was wounded. Marvin became an unofficial technical adviser for the film.


Despite the fact Wouk had already worked the material from the novel into a stage play, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, which premiered on Broadway in January 1954 and ran for a year, Herman Wouk's attempt at writing the screenplay was considered "a disaster" by director Edward Dymtryk, and he was replaced by Stanley Roberts, who later quit when told to cut the film down to two hours. Those cuts, fifty pages worth, were done by Michael Blankfort, who received an "additional dialog" credit.

Wouk's novel goes into much greater detail about Ensign Keith's experiences in midshipman school and in his early relationship with his girlfriend May Wynn. After the court-martial, he returns to the Caine and develops into a mature, competent Naval officer, something that is only hinted at in the film.

Also, in the novel Captain Queeg is roughly thirty years old at the time of the mutiny. Humphrey Bogart, however, was fifty five years old at the time of filming.

Navy involvement

The Navy initially objected to the film's depiction of a mentally unbalanced man as the captain of one of its ships and the word "mutiny" in the film's title. After the script was altered somewhat, the Navy cooperated with Columbia Pictures by providing ships, planes, combat boats, and access to Pearl Harbor and the port of San Francisco. Following the opening credits, the epigraph states that the film's story is non-factual. No ship named USS Caine ever existed, and no Navy captain has been relieved of command at sea under Articles 184-186: "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." However, while no mutiny has ever occurred in the U.S. Navy, at least one is alleged to have been planned, the Somers Affair.

The Caine was played by the Navy destroyer minesweeper USS Thompson (DMS-38). This ship was not a 4-stack World War I-era ship, nicknamed a "four-piper," like the vessel in the novel because at the time the film was made, all such vessels had been scrapped. The Jones, the ship the Caine raced back to port early in the film, was portrayed by the minesweeper USS Surfbird (AM-383). Admiral Halsey's unnamed flagship was portrayed by the USS Kearsarge (CV-33), a post-war aircraft carrier launched in 1946; a number of World War II-era fighter planes were placed atop the flight deck for the filming.


Before handing him The Caine Mutiny, Stanley Kramer hired Dmytryk to direct a few low-budget films. The film's success resurrected Dmytryk's career. For refusing to answer questions about his ties to the American Communist Party to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he spent time in prison. After his release, Dmytryk spoke of his Party past, which consisted of a very brief membership in 1945, followed by pressure by other party members to put Communist propaganda into his films. In a second appearance before the House committee, he identified twenty six Party members.

He went on to direct Raintree County with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor; The Young Lions with Clift, Marlon Brando and Dean Martin; a remake of the Marlene Dietrich classic The Blue Angel, and the film version of Harold Robbins's The Carpetbaggers, among others.

Dymytrk felt The Caine Mutiny could have been better than it was. He thought the movie should have been three and a half to four hours long to fully flesh out the characters and tell the story completely, but Columbia's Harry Cohn insisted on a two-hour limit.


This was the last of a number of Bogart films scored by composer Max Steiner, mostly for Warner Bros. The stirring main theme was included in RCA Victor's collection of classic Bogart film scores, recorded by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra.

The lyrics of the derisive song "Yellowstain Blues", which mocked Queeg's perceived cowardice during the landing incident, were written by Herman Wouk.


Bogart's performance as Lt. Commander Philip Queeg is considered by many to be the greatest performance of his career. Although his role is not as popular as his portrayals in earlier films, such as Casablanca or The Big Sleep, he was commended by critics for his "ticking time bomb" method of acting that inspired Jack Nicholson in The Shining. When his final scene was shot, Bogart was applauded by the entire crew.


The film received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart, losing to Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Tully), Best Screenplay, Best Sound Recording, Best Film Editing, and Best Dramatic Score (Max Steiner).

Dmytryk was also nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.


  • When Maurice Micklewhite first became an actor, he adopted the stage name "Michael Scott". He was later told 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, Micklewhite looked around for inspiration, noted that The Caine Mutiny was being shown at the Odeon Cinema, and thus changed his name to "Michael Caine". He has joked in interviews that had he looked the other way, he would have ended up as "Michael One Hundred and One Dalmatians".
  • The British science-fiction sitcom Red Dwarf is about a huge spaceship which is run by an inept, even incompetent, computer called Holly. In one episode Holly is replaced by a back-up computer called Queeg. Whereas Holly is sloppy and easy-going, Queeg is ruthless, authoritarian and by-the-book, bringing misery to the lives of the crew, in ways similar to Bogart's character.
  • In the The Doomsday Machine episode of the original Star Trek series, William Windom plays a starship commodore in the manner of Captain Queeg, and even rubs together a pair of square tape cassettes in one hand during duress as Queeg would roll steel balls under pressure.

Alleged inaccuracy

According to, no ship in the U.S. Navy during World War II was capable of traveling in a circle tight enough to cut its own towline, as the Caine was depicted doing. However, this is a questionable assertion, as it depends on many factors, including the ship's speed, rudder position, any backing maneuvers while turning, and of course the length of the tow cable.


Lt. Commander Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart): (Rolling steel balls in his hand while testifying) 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 ... th-that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist, and I'd have produced that key if they hadn't pulled the Caine out of action. I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer ... (Pause as he stops in realization) Naturally I ... I can only cover these things from memory. If I've left anything out, why ... just ask me specific questions and ... I'll be glad to answer them ... one by one. (He continues to roll the steel balls)
Lt. Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer): (Entering) Well, well, well, the officers of the Caine in happy celebration.

Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson): What're you, Barney, kind of tight?

Greenwald: Sure, I've got a guilty conscience. I defended you, Steve, because I found the wrong man was on trial. So, I torpedoed Queeg for you. I had to torpedo him ... and I feel sick about it.

Maryk: Ok, Barney, take it easy.

Greenwald: You know something? While I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you Willie were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of our, eh? Not us, oh no, we knew you couldn't make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did, and a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn't crack up like Queeg.

Ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis): But no matter what, Captain Queeg endangered the ship, and the lives of the men.

Greenwald: He didn't endanger anybody's life, you did, all of you. You're a fine bunch of officers.

Lt. (j.g.) H. Paynter Jr. (Arthur Franz): You said yourself, he cracked.

Greenwald: I'm glad you brought that up, Mr. Paynter, cause that's a very pretty point. You know, I left out one detail in the court martial, wouldn't have helped our case any. Tell me, Steve, after the "Yellow Stain" business, Queeg came to you guys for help and you turned him down, didn't you?

Maryk: Yes, we did.

Greenwald: You didn't approve his conduct as an officer, he wasn't worthy of your loyalty, so you turned on him, you ragged him, you made up songs about him.. If you'd given Queeg the loyalty he needed d'ya suppose the whole issue would have come up in the typhoon? You're an honest man, Steve, I'm asking you. Do you think it would've been necessary for you to take over?

Maryk: It probably wouldn't've been necessary.

Greenwald: Yeah.

Keith: If that's true, then we were guilty.

Greenwald: Yeh, you're learning, Willie. You're learning that you don't work with a captain because you like the way he parts his hair, you work with him because he's got the job or you're no good. Well, the case is over, you're all safe. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. (Slight pause) And now we come to the man who should've stood trial. The Caine's favorite author. The Shakespeare whose testimony nearly sunk us all. Tell 'em, Keefer.

Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray): No, you go ahead. You're telling it better.

Greenwald: You ought to read his testimony. He never even heard of Captain Queeg!

Maryk: Let's forget it, Barney.

Greenwald: Queeg was sick, he couldn't help himself. But you, you're real healthy. Only you didn't have one-tenth the guts that he had.

Keefer: Except I never fooled myself, Mr. Greenwald.

Greenwald: I wanna drink a toast to you, Mr. Keefer. From the beginning you hated the Navy. And then you thought up this whole idea, and you managed to keep your skirts nice and starched and clean, even in the court martial. Steve Maryk will always be remembered as a mutineer. But you, you'll publish your novel, you'll make a million bucks, you'll marry a big movie star, and for the rest of your life you'll live with your conscience, if you have any. Here's to the real author of the Caine mutiny. Here's to you, Mr. Keefer. (He throws his champagne in Keefer's face) If you wanna do anything about it, I'll be outside. I'm a lot drunker than you are - so it'll be a fair fight.

See also

  • Trial movies
  • Typhoon Cobra, an actual typhoon that threatened U.S. warships under circumstances similar to those in the book.


External links

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