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Remind Me

Behind the Camera On THE CAINE MUTINY

Sunday August, 11 2019 at 10:00 PM

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Because the public was so familiar with the The Caine Mutiny from the book and the play, anticipation for the Hollywood adaptation ran high. National magazines ran several 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 premiere of The Caine Mutiny, detailing the making of the film and the anticipated response from audiences around the country.

The Caine Mutiny was made under tight restrictions from Columbia Studios' chief 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 Harry Cohn's tyrannical hands. The reason why Cohn insisted on the two hours 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 naval officers who advised the filmmakers on technical aspects during the making of The Caine Mutiny 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."

The Caine Mutiny opens with the epigraph that states that there has never been a mutiny in the United States Navy. The Navy insisted on the epigraph 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 they didn't want credit, only the opening disclaimer. The agreement was the result of heavy pre-production cajoling between the producers and the U.S. Navy. At first, the Navy was cool to the idea of lending support to The Caine Mutiny. 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 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.

To capture the excitement of the typhoon scene, the filmmakers originally intended to steer the ship (a replica of the USS 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.

Columbia Studios was determined to hire Humphrey Bogart for the top role in The Caine Mutiny, and Bogart was enthusiastic about playing Captain Queeg, 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 correctly figured 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. Cohn and Columbia were right, and Bogart was cast in one of his best roles.

The Navy technical advisor, Commander James C. Shaw, grew upset with the way the character Captain Queeg butters his toast during the infamous "strawberry" scene. Shaw understood that Queeg was mentally unbalanced, but that didn't mean that he was not an officer and a gentleman. Shaw figured that any officer who graduated from Annapolis would know the military standard for breaking a slice of bread into small pieces before buttering it. Unfortunately, Bogart (in the role of Queeg) felt like Shaw was personally attacking his performance and became agitated. To placate both parties, the crust was trimmed from the bread, thus reducing the size and satisfying both Bogart and the Navy.

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.

Producer Stanley Kramer and director Edward Dmytryk cast Lee Marvin as one of the USS Caine's supporting sailors, not only for his knowledge of ships at sea but for his acting talent. Throughout the production, the former Marine 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. In addition to The Caine Mutiny, Dmytryk directed Lee Marvin in Eight Iron Men (1952) and Raintree County (1958).

Stanley Kramer gave Fred MacMurray a prominent role in The Caine Mutiny during a difficult period in the actor's life - his wife had just died - and work was a needed distraction for him. MacMurray's unsympathetic Lieutenant Tom Keefer was one of a handful of parts that went against his usual nice-guy typecasting. His few unlikable roles in Double Indemnity (1944) and The Apartment (1960) contrasted sharply with his more audience-friendly appearances in movies like The Egg and I (1947) and The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and the TV series, My Three Sons.

by Scott McGee

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