The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Fred MacMurray, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Francis
Fred MacMurray, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Francis

'The Caine Mutiny' is a dramatic American movie about conflict and mutiny aboard a U.S. Navy minesweeper during the Second World War and the subsequent court-martial of two officers. Made in 1954, it was directed by Edward Dmytryk and stars Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray. It is based on Herman Wouk's 1951 Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Caine Mutiny" which Wouk had already made into a stage play, "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," which ran for a year on Broadway from January 1954.


The film depicts a mutiny and its consequences, aboard the minesweeper USS Caine in 1943. It is completely fictional but has become better known than the two actual U.S. Naval mutinies which occurred in 1842 and 1944. The basic storyline concerns a popular captain being replaced by an unstable and disturbed officer, Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart. As the stresses of command increase, Queeg's paranoia and near insanity convince Executive Officer Steve Maryk, played by Van Johnson and other crew members that he should be relieved of command, raising subsequent charges of mutiny that are played out during a dramatic court martial.


After the success of Wouk's novel and subsequent stage play there was strong public interest in the projected film but initially the major studios were reluctant to spend money on the rights to a film which depicted the Navy in a less than flattering way, knowing that the Department of defense would demand revisions in exchange for cooperation. Instead, the independent producer Stanley Kramer took an option on the novel for $60,000. When the producers agreed to include a disclaimer after the opening credits, assuring audiences there had never been a mutiny on a U.S. Navy vessel, the U.S. Navy provided ships, planes, combat boats, and access to Pearl Harbor and Bay Area naval facilities.
The screenwriter, Stanley Roberts intelligently compressed Herman Wouk's 500 page screenplay into 190 minutes and retained all the essence of the novel. He then left the production when Columbia's uncompromising boss, Harry Cohn, demanded that he should add a love scene. The writing was completed by Michael Blankfort, credited with "additional dialog".
Richard Widmark had been Columbia's first choice for Queeg and Dick Powell had also been in the frame but director, Edward Dmytryk and producer, Stanley Kramer wanted Humphrey Bogart. Bogart himself was enthusiastic to get the role and accepted a lower than normal salary offer from the wily Harry Cohn in order to obtain it.
The movie was an outstanding commercial success and grossed $8.7 million in U.S. rentals during its initial run putting it among Columbia's top fifteen hits. It was one of the top money makers of 1954, second in earnings only to 'White Christmas'. It was the top grossing of all Bogart's films. The film received seven Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, and Best Actor for Humphrey Bogart in one of his last films, but won none. (Bogart lost out to Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront' which also won Best Picture.)

'The Caine Mutiny' was the last of four films which Edward Dmytryk made for Kramer and is probably the best.. It is a very good movie, which still retains its impact today.

Main Cast

The cast is very strong and the excellent performances generally are what raise 'The Caine Mutiny' to the level of a movie classic. Bogart as the tortured and complex Captain Queeg in one of the greatest performances of his career, completely different from his normal roles. Fred MacMurray and Van Johnson are superb in important supporting roles, and José Ferrer and Robert Francis also give solid performances. Francis was killed in airplane crash a year after the film's release, ending a promising film career.

Humphrey Bogart ... Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg
José Ferrer ... Lt. Barney Greenwald
Van Johnson ... Lt. Steve Maryk
Fred MacMurray ... Lt. Tom Keefer
Robert Francis ... Ens. Willie Keith
May Wynn ... May Wynn
Tom Tully ... Comdr. DeVriess
E.G. Marshall ... Lt. Comdr. Challee
Arthur Franz ... Lt. JG H. Paynter Jr.
Lee Marvin ... Meatball
Warner Anderson ... Capt. Blakely
Claude Akins ... Horrible
Katherine Warren ... Mrs. Keith (as Katharine Warren)
Jerry Paris ... Ens. Barney Harding
Steve Brodie ... Chief Budge


Director ... Edward Dmytryk
Producer ... Stanley Kramer
Screenplay ... Stanley Roberts, (additional dialogue by Michael Blankfort)
Story ... Based on the novel by Herman Wouk
Music ... Max Steiner
Cinematography ... Franz Planer
Format ... Color (Technicolor)
Distribution Company ... Columbia Pictures
Release date ... June 24, 1954
Running time ... 124 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
Seven Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Stanley Kramer
Best Actor ... Humphrey Bogart
Best Supporting Actor ... Tom Tully
Best Writing, Screenplay ... Stanley Roberts
Film Editing ... William A. Lyon, Henry Batista
Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) ... Max Steiner
Sound Recording ... Columbia Studio Sound Dept.