Category Archives: Tony Curtis

Blu-Ray Review: Operation Petticoat (1959).

Directed by Blake Edwards
Screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin
From a story by Paul King and Joseph Stone
Cinematography: Russell Harlan, Clifford Stine
Film Editors: Ted Kent and Frank Gross

Cast: Cary Grant (Commander Matt Sherman), Tony Curtis (Lieutenant Nick Holden), Joan O’Brien (Nurse Dolores Crandell), Dina Merrill (Nurse Barbara Duran), Arthur O’Connell (Tostin),Virginia Gregg (Major Edna Heywood), Gavin MacLeod (Hunkle), Gene Evans, Marion Ross, Dick Sargent

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There was a time in the 70s and 80s when it seemed like Operation Petticoat (1959) was on TV every three minutes. It was perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Who knows how many times I’ve seen it.

What’s interesting to me is, the script itself doesn’t seem all that funny. It depends on the appeal and natural humor of its cast — mainly the two leads, Cary Grant and Tony Curtis — to keep it going and make sure it’s actually funny. And at that, they certainly succeed.

Grant’s the commanding officer of the USS Sea Tiger, a brand new sub that has a very hard time getting into the war. Sunk by the Japanese before it’s ever really set sail, the Sea Tiger is pretty much written off till Grant convinces his superior officer to let him try to get it seaworthy. Grant ends up with an aide (Curtis) who turns out to be quite a scrounger — his cons and schemes provide what’s needed to get the sub ready to move on to Australia for more thorough repairs.

Along the way, a group of women are taken on as passengers (leading to the usual inconveniences), a shortage of primer results in the Sea Tiger being painted pink, and it’s almost sunk by the US Navy (the radio doesn’t work). And, of course, some of the sailors and nurses fall in love.

Believe it or not, much of what transpires in Operation Petticoat was based on real events — even the pink submarine.

The cast is terrific. Grant and Curtis are everything you’d expect. Joan O’Brien and Dina Merrill are quite good as some of the nurses who join the crew of the Sea Tiger. I love Virginia Gregg, who you’ll find in a ton of Dragnet episodes. Gavin MacLeod and Gene Evans are quite funny. And Marion Ross of Happy Days turns up.

There’s a funny scene with Tony Curtis trying to round up stuff for a New Year’s Eve party. He and Gavin MacLeod steal a pig from a villager, then have to pass it off as a sailor to fool MPs and get it on base. It’s every bit as silly as it sounds, but Curtis makes it work. Watch a few Tony Curtis movies from the 50s, and I promise you’ll come away impressed.

You’ll also be impressed with Olive Films’ Signature Edition of Operation Petticoat. The picture was shot in Eastman Color — it was going to be B&W, but when Cary Grant enlisted, color film stock and a few more dollars were added to the budget. Eastman Color can be an ugly thing, harsh-looking at times, but Olive keeps it in check. Grain is consistent, the blacks are strong and the 1.85 framing’s dead on — easily the best I’ve ever seen this movie look. It comes with a slew of extras — a commentary, interviews and more — everything you need to really wallow in this charming little service comedy. Recommended.

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Filed under 1959, Blake Edwards, Cary Grant, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Olive Films, Tony Curtis, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #142: Operation Petticoat (1959).

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Directed by Blake Edwards
Starring Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Joan O’Brien, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, Dick Sargent, Arthur O’Connell, Virginia Gregg, Gavin MacLeod, Madlyn Rhue, Marion Ross

Olive Films has announced a retooling of their Olive Signature series, beginning with their November releases. From now on, these titles will be Blu-Ray only and limited to just 3,500 copies. With this announcement comes the news that previous Olive Signature titles are now out of print.*

One of the first titles in the new Signature line is Blake Edwards’ Operation Petticoat (1959), a charming, goofy service comedy that benefits greatly from having Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in the conning tower. It’s also got Virginia Gregg in it, a personal favorite who was always terrific on Dragnet.

Operation Petticoat was originally to be shot in B&W for about a million bucks, but when Grant came aboard, Eastman Color and an extra two million were added to the mix. The picture turned out to be a massive hit, making a ton of money for Grant who had a percentage deal — and spawning a later TV series with Jamie Lee Curtis in it.

This used to surface on TV all the time when I was a kid, and I could never pass it by. Highly recommended.

• That includes High Noon (1952), John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952) and The Night Of The Grizzly (1966).

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Filed under 1959, Blake Edwards, DVD/Blu-ray News, Olive Films, Tony Curtis, Universal (-International)

Blu-ray News #45: The Vikings (1957).

Vikings trade ad sized

Directed by Richard Fleischer
Starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh, James Donald

Richard Fleischer’s The Vikings (1957) will land on Blu-ray in March of 2016. It’s probably not much for history, but for late-50s epic cool, this is about as good as it gets. Originally released in Technirama and Technicolor, I can’t wait to see what this’ll look like in hi-def.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh, Kino Lorber, Kirk Douglas, Richard Fleischer, Tony Curtis

DVD News #11: Warner Archive Cyber Monday Sale.

Cyber Monday

Looks like a good time for that terrific Blu-ray of The Great Race (1965)!

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Filed under 1965, Blake Edwards, DVD/Blu-ray News, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Warner Archive

Blu-ray Review: The Great Race (1965).

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Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Martin Jurow
Screenplay by Arthur A. Ross
Original Story by Blake Edwards, Arthur Ross
Production Design: Fernando Carrere
Director Of Photography: Russell Harlan. ASC
Costumes Designed by Don Feld
Miss Wood’s Clothes by Edith Head
Film Editor: Ralph E. Winters
Music by Henry Mancini

Cast: Jack Lemmon (Prof. Fate), Tony Curtis (The Great Leslie), Natalie Wood (Maggie DuBois), Peter Falk (Max), Keenan Wynn (Hezekiah Sturdy), Arthur O’Connell (Henry Goodbody), Dorothy Provine (Lily Olay), Larry Storch (Texas Jack), Ross Martin (Baron Rolfe von Stuppe), George Macready (General Kuhster), Denver Pyle (Sheriff).

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Blake Edwards’ The Great Race is the kind of movie Blu-ray seems made for: a great big Panavision roadshow piece of Technicolor eye candy. And from its overture to the final fade, the new disc from Warner Archive is a thing of real beauty.

Part homage to silent films (dedicated to “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy”), part live-action cartoon, with The Great Race, Blake Edwards tried to pull off the near-impossible task of making an epic comedy. It’s up to the viewer to decide if he succeeded or not.

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The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon)—inspired casting of the male leads of Some Like It Hot (1959)—are daredevils in the early 1900s. Leslie is the dressed-in-white hero who always comes through unscathed; Fate’s a combination of your typical black-clad silent movie villain and Wile E. Coyote, whose plans always blow up in his face, sometimes literally, with a “Ta-Da!” from Henry Mancini. Fate is accompanied by his ever-loyal and equally-inept assistant Max Meen (Peter Falk), while Leslie has Keenan Wynn in his corner. Establishing these characters and their rivalry makes for a hilarious first reel (which the rest of the movie has to work hard to live up to).

An around-the-world automobile race is announced (Leslie’s brainchild), setting the “course” for the rest of the film—with Natalie Wood on hand as Maggie DuBois, a reporter covering the race. After a number of setpieces involving everything from a saloon brawl to a stowaway polar bear, it settles down to a Prince And Pauper retread that treats us to two Jack Lemmons and keeps Miss Wood in her underwear for the last 45 minutes or so. And just for good measure, it all climaxes with a truly epic pie fight.

Great Race BTS 1 sized

Making The Great Race turned out to be a bumpy road. Edwards clashed with Jack Warner, and he was actually removed from the picture. The cast united to have him brought back. Costs piled up. And the pies went rancid from one day’s shooting to the next—the set would have to be hosed down and redressed with fresh pies. The whole thing ended up 24 days over schedule.

Great race BE and NW

What’s more, Natalie Wood wasn’t too thrilled about the whole thing. She owed Warner Bros. another film, and she went into The Great Race grudgingly to take care of that obligation. The part had already been offered to Jane Fonda, who decided to do Cat Ballou instead, and Lee Remick, who’d done Days Of Wine And Roses (1962) with Edwards and Jack Lemmon.

Great race NW pie

Wood and Edwards didn’t get along. She demanded that Edith Head do her costumes. And while shooting the pie fight, Edwards himself threw the pies meant for Natalie. Turns out comedy is no laughing matter.

Critics didn’t find a whole lot of greatness in The Great Race. When you advertise a movie with the tagline “The greatest comedy of all time,” you’re probably asking for it. And in the end, it wasn’t the runaway hit everyone was hoping for—especially since it cost a then-mammoth $12 million. But time has been kind to Edwards’ salute to slapstick, and it has a healthy following. This was certainly aided by the fact that an episodic film like this plays pretty well on television—strategically-placed commercial breaks can’t completely destroy its rhythm. That’s where kids like me found it in the 70s and fell in love with it.

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The Great Race presents its great cast and crew at the absolute peak of their powers. Lemmon’s a riot in his dual role (I’d be happy with another two hours of Fate’s disastrous stunts). Curtis is perfect as the perfect hero, bringing just the right amount of life to a character that’s required to be somewhat bland. Natalie Wood’s both funny and beautiful. Peter Falk comes close to stealing the whole thing. Blake Edwards brings all this chaos together and makes it work—though some find it an exhausting experience. And, of course, Henry Mancini knocks off another brilliant score.

Great Race Boys LifeTake a quick look at that list and realize that everyone associated with The Great Race has passed on: Lemmon, Curtis, Wood, Falk, Edwards and on down the line. But almost 50 years after its release, in The Great Race, they seem vibrantly alive on the new Blu-ray from Warner Archive.

Russell Harlan’s Oscar-nominated camerawork is really shown off here. Colors pop and the image is amazingly sharp and detailed. (Wish the same could be said for the Blu-ray of his work on Rio Bravo.) The stereo is clean, giving plenty of punch to Mancini’s music and the cartoonish sound effects (many of which you’ll recognize from your favorite WB cartoons). We’re treated to the roadshow presentation, complete with overture, intermission and exit music.

If I didn’t already have a Blu-ray setup, this one would’ve pulled the trigger—it’s an all-time favorite, and a real demonstration of everything the format can do, from astounding clarity to film-like texture to warehousing a sizable stash of extras. Highly, highly recommended.

Push the button, Max!

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Filed under 1965, Blake Edwards, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #2: The Great Race (1965).

Great Race LC sized

As a kid, growing up in the Seventies, I could barely contain my excitement when Blake Edwards’ The Great Race (1965) would turn up in the TV Guide. I’d count down the days, plan the perfect snack and on and on. It was always a big deal.

Warner Archive’s upcoming Blu-ray release is an even bigger deal. Here are some of the specs:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1
Original Road Show Version with Overture, Intermission, Entr’acte, and Exit music
Special Features: Behind the Scenes with Blake Edwards’ “The Great Race”, Theatrical Trailer
Available 9/9/2014; you can pre-order it now
Click on Professor Fate to find out more.

I can’t wait to share this one with my daughter.

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Filed under 1965, Blake Edwards, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Warner Archive