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The working title for this film was Authority and Rebellion. The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "We acknowledge the courtesy of the United States Department of Interior, National Park Service for scenes photographed in Yosemite National Park." An additional prologue adds: "There has never been a mutiny in a ship of the United States Navy. The truths of this film lies not in its incidents, but in the way a few men meet the crisis of their lives." The following epilogue appears before the closing credits: "The dedication of this film is simple: To the United States Navy."
As noted in the onscreen credits, Herman Wouk's best-selling novel, The Caine Mutiny, was awarded the 1952 Putlizer Prize for fiction. According to August 1951 Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter news items, producer Stanley Kramer purchased the rights to the novel for between $60,000 to $70,000, after other studios turned it down because of the refusal of the United States Navy to cooperate in the film's production. According to several contemporary reports, at least two other studios submitted treatments to the Navy, all of which were rejected.
Kramer's purchase rested on the stipulation that the screen treatment would be subject to approval by the Navy. According to a November 1951 New York Times article, Kramer assigned Wouk to collaborate on a treatment with Stanley Roberts. As noted in an October 1951 Los Angeles Daily News article, Wouk denied that the Navy had insisted upon changing "Capt. Queeg" from an Annapolis graduate to a reservist or that the Navy had rejected his initial treatment. An October 1951 Variety item indicated that the Navy objected to the word "mutiny" remaining in the film's title, but by August 1952 Variety noted that the Navy had approved retaining the novel's title.
An October 1952 New York Times item revealed that there were two scripts prepared for Kramer, one that included "Willie" and "May's" romance and another, shorter version that only included action on the Caine and the court-martial. In December 1952 the Navy gave official approval of the film's script and assigned a technical advisor to assist in production. Director Edward Dmytryk noted in his autobiography that Wouk's initial contribution to the script was "a disaster" and that Stanley Roberts then took over the rewrite; Wouk is only credited onscreen as the author of the novel on which the film is based. Dmytryk also stated that he was unaware of studio head Harry Cohn's strict insistence that Columbia films run no longer than 2 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 fifty pages by writer Michael Blankfort, who is credited onscreen with "additional dialogue."
Portions of the film were shot on location in San Francisco and Yosemite, CA and Pearl Harbor, HI. According to Dmytryk's autobiography, the Navy provided an old "four stack" ship and two sister destroyers for the production. News items noted that Columbia held the release of The Caine Mutiny to mid-1954 in order to spread out distribution of their bigger productions. The film was released to general acclaim, with Hollywood Reporter calling it "one of the most exciting maritime adventures ever placed on film." Daily Variety noted the film's "near-perfect casting."
Humphrey Bogart's performance as the anxious, steel-ball rolling Capt. Queeg, obsessed with missing strawberries, is frequently cited by modern critics as a highlight of the actor's career. In conjunction with the film's release, Bogart was pictured as Queeg on the cover of a June 1954 issue of Time magazine, which included an article on the actor's lengthy career. Bogart received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for The Caine Mutiny, and Tom Tully received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film also received the following nominations: Best Picture; Best Film Editing; Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture); Best Sound Recording; and Best Writing (Screenplay). The film marked the debut of actor Robert Francis (1930-1955). Francis died in a plane crash shortly after completing his last film, The Long Gray Line (see below). Although the onscreen credits indicate that the film marked the debut of actress May Wynn, Wynn previously appeared in several bit parts, beginning with the 1952 film Dreamboat, under her real name, Donna Lee Hickey. The actress took her new stage name from the character she played in The Caine Mutiny,
Prior to production of the film, Wouk reworked his novel into a two-act play entitled The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, which debuted on Broadway in January 1954. The play starred Henry Fonda as "Barney Greenwald," John Hodiak as "Steve Maryk," Lloyd Nolan as "Capt. Queeg," Charles Nolte as "Willis Keith" and Robert Gist as "Tom Keefer," and was directed by Charles Laughton. Wouk wrote the teleplay for a television remake, which starred Jeff Daniels and Brad Davis, and was directed by Robert Altman and broadcast on May 8, 1988 by CBS.