Cast & Crew
In Feb 1943, Lt. Rip Crandall of the U.S. Navy is promoted to his first command and arrives in a hidden harbor in the South Pacific, where he surveys a flotilla of destroyers. Crandall's heart sinks when, among the proud vessels, he spots his new ship, the U.S.S. Echo , a dilapidated schooner. Crandall is greeted by the eager Ens. Tommy Hanson, whose level of enthusiasm is matched by Crandall's level of dismay when he realizes that, except for Tommy, no one on the crew has ever manned a sailing ship and consequently, has no idea what a fo'c'sle is or that it is at the front of the ship. Aware that by refusing to sign his commission papers, he can escape serving on the Echo , Crandall conveniently leaves his papers behind and goes to see Cmdr. Wilbur Vandewater, the head of the base. Vandewater explains that Gen. Douglas MacArthur has ordered that the Echo be delivered to New Guinea, a journey that will take the boat across 400 miles of open water, and that Crandall, a former yachtsman, is just the man for the job. When Crandall still balks at the assignment, Vandewater, who is in league with Tommy, tricks Crandall into accepting the post by threatening to assign the inexperienced Tommy command of the ship. With just three days to get the crew shipshape, Tommy, Crandall and Chief Mate MacCarthy begin grilling the men in the rudiments of sailing. On the day of their departure, as the Echo pulls out of the harbor, it nearly collides with two oncoming destroyers. Later, Vandewater meets with Adm. Hathaway, who reveals that, once the Echo reaches its destination, Lt. Foster will take command and sail the ship into enemy territory. Because Foster has no experience on a schooner, Crandall will stay in New Guinea until Foster is proficient in handling the craft. Upon reaching New Guinea, the Echo unwittingly enters a mine field in the harbor. When the electric winch misfires, making the vessel difficult to control, the Echo nearly hits the dock, where it is met by the derisive Foster who insults both the ship and its crew. At headquarters, Crandall learns that the Echo is to be disguised as a native fishing boat and take Australian coast watcher Foster and his native guide Goroka to Cape Gloucester, New Britain, where Patterson, an Australian working with the Americans, will survey the coastline for enemy ships. Patterson dislikes the smug Foster and is impressed by Crandall when enemy planes strafe the base and Crandall, rather than taking cover with the officers, hurries back to the ship to join his crew. When orders are given for the ship to get underway, Crandall, fed up with Foster's imperiousness, usurps his command of the Echo and sets out to sea with Patterson and Goroka. With the ship camouflaged and the crew dressed in native garb, the Echo successfully eludes a Japanese fighter plane to reach New Britain, where it takes cover in the jungle. The crew then unloads boxes of Patterson's equipment and begins to trek it up the mountain while Crandall stays behind to man the ship. Two Japanese soldiers spot the caravan and manage to transmit a radio message before Goroka kills them. Upon reaching their destination at the top of the mountain, Tommy and the others spot a Japanese convoy heading toward the cape and hurry back to the Echo . When they reach the ship, however, they discover that it has been taken over by a Japanese patrol commanded by Capt. Shigetsu, an articulate graduate of UCLA. Tommy and Crandall are confined in the main cabin by Shigetsu, and when the Japanese major bursts in, Tommy and Crandall overpower the officers. Sneaking on deck, Crandall swings the boom into a row of Japanese soldiers, knocking them overboard. Fired upon by the remaining Japanese soldiers, the Echo revs up its engines and sails out of the harbor. Just then, the major jumps on deck and stabs Crandall with his sword, after which Shigetsu tries to demoralize the Americans into surrendering. When Tommy sends a radio message back to base pinpointing the location of the Japanese convoy, the convoy picks up the signal and begins to bomb the Echo . As Tommy tends Crandall's wound, Crandall gives the order to abandon ship and they all pile into the life raft and are spotted by an Allied plane. The information about the convoy's location allows the Allies to attack and destroy it. Six months later, Tommy is promoted to lieutenant junior grade and given his first command while Crandall, now in command of a destroyer, thirsts for more special missions.
Hudson B. Shotwell
Gavin W. Harper
Clive L. Halliday
Rear Adm. Lucius H. Chapple U.s. Navy, Ret.
Eddie De Lange
Charles Lawton Jr.
Charles J. Rice
The Wackiest Ship in the Army
Hollywood has always had a thing for war comedies featuring rickety ships and oddball characters with names like "Cookie" who try to keep them afloat - and this one, which is based on a true story, is no exception. Lt. Rip Crandall (Lemmon) is given command of the USS Echo, a dilapidated hunk of metal and rivets. Crandall and his government-issue crew of rookies and wash-outs are assigned the mission of transporting an Australian spy to a Japanese-held island. Crandall disguises the Echo as a native vessel, and - with the help of his untested second in command, Ensign Tommy Hanson (Ricky Nelson) - tries to quietly creep past the Japanese fleet.
During their journey, the crew experiences dramatic confrontations with the enemy...and, yes, wackiness sometimes occurs. Let's just say that you get to see a group of grown men dress in coconut bras and grass skirts. It's like something out of a Bob Hope luau special, which is only fitting. The Wackiest Ship in the Army was later turned into a TV show, although it was blown out of the water by a more successful series, McHale's Navy.
By this point in his career, Lemmon had already won an Oscar for Mister Roberts (1955), and had appeared in such classics as Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960.) So it's a little odd to see him in such an assembly-line type of comedy. Nevertheless, he brings his usual hyper-tense sense of focus and humor to the role. Wilder once said of him, "Jack is different from 90% of the actors in the business, whose first thought is 'What¿s in it for me,' who spend months discussing a movie deal in terms of fringe benefit Cadillacs to take them back and forth to the studio. Jack is interested in finding the best possible part and doing the best possible job."
Nelson, who was trying to break away from his fresh-scrubbed image as the youngest son on TV's Ozzie and Harriet, is a little out of his depth with such a brilliant performer at his side, but that was also the case when he appeared in Rio Bravo (1959) with John Wayne. However, he does get to perform a spirited rendition of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" (a song first introduced by Billie Holiday in the film, New Orleans, 1947). Nevertheless, it wasn't long before he dropped acting altogether and focused solely on his music. He fared much better in that area, and was posthumously inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Producer: Fred Kohlmar Directed by: Richard Murphy
Screenplay: Richard Murphy
Editor: Charles Nelson
Music: George Duning
Art Direction: Carl Anderson
Principal Cast: Jack Lemmon (Lt. Rip Crandall), Ricky Nelson (Ensign Tommy Hanson), John Lund (Commander Vandewater), Chips Rafferty (Patterson), Tom Tully (Capt. McClung), Warren Berlinger (Sparks.)
by Paul Tatara
The Wackiest Ship in the Army
3The film's working title was The Wackest Ship in the Navy. Onscreen credits note "Herbert Carlson's story was originally published by Popular Publications, Inc." Popular Publications owned Argosy Magazine, the publication in which the story appeared. Copyright records incorrectly spelled the film's registrant as "Fred Kohlmer Productions, Inc. Onscreen credits contain the following acknowledgement: "We wish to thank the Department of Defense and particularly the U.S. Navy for the willing assistance in the production of this motion picture. " The film opens with the voice of an offscreen narrator explaining "This bold, slightly improbable adventure began with a message...an urgent request for a particular young qualified officer to lead an extremely delicate mission...it demanded a man, a man of executive ability and high intelligence." The film then cuts to a shot of "Lt. Rip Crandall" lying in his bunk..
The Battle of the Bismarck Sea was an actual battle in the Pacific Campaign during World War II, in which the planes of the U.S. Fifth Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force destroyed a Japanese convoy carrying troops to Lea, New Guinea to reinforce the Japanese forces there. In contrast to the events of the film, the convoy was spotted by a B-24 Liberator bomber on March 1, 1943. Gen. Douglas MacArthur used the victory to request five divisions and 1,800 aircraft in preparation for his landings in northern New Guinea.
An October 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Ernie Kovacs was originally to appear in the film. Although a May 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item added Paul Cameron and Henry Ally to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a January 1960 Daily Variety news item, Jerry Bresler was originally to produce the film. Another May 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that location filming was done around Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii and at Lihue on Kauai, Hawaii. The production was interrupted by the Screen Actors Guild strike which ran from 8 March-early April 1960. The Wackiest Ship in the Army? marked the American screen debut of British actress Patricia Driscoll. From September 19, 1965 -April 17, 1966, NBC broadcast a television series based on the film, also titled The Wackiest Ship in the Army. The series starred Jack Warden and Gary Collins and was directed and written by Danny Arnold.
Released in United States Winter January 1961
Released in United States Winter January 1961