Friday, September 16, 2011

Film Friday: The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny is a classic. It’s also one of my favorite films. This movie does everything right, including having a fantastic twist long before twists were cool. It is an acting tour de force. And what makes this movie work, believe it or not, is subtlety.

** Spoiler Alert -- If you don’t know the ending, see the movie before you read this review. **
The Plot
Adapted incredibly well from Herman Wouk’s novel of the same name, The Caine Mutiny is the fictional story of a mutiny aboard a United States Navy destroyer-minesweeper during World War II. The story begins with the arrival of self-centered, spoiled Ensign Willie Keith aboard the Caine. Keith resents being assigned to the Caine, an ancient, beat up minesweeper, because he saw himself as more important than this. What’s worse, the Caine’s captain is a slob who has let discipline fall apart.

Keith befriends the ship’s executive officer Lt. Stephen Maryk (Van Johnson) and its communications officer Lt. Thomas Keefer (Fred MacMurray). Maryk is earnest and loyal, but not very bright. Keefer is cynical and cowardly. Soon the Caine’s captain is replaced by Lt. Commander Phillip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a no-nonsense career officer who has served in hard combat for several years. At first, Keith is happy that Queeg has taken over because Queeg demands regular navy discipline. But it doesn’t take long for Keith to resent Queeg because Queeg seems arbitrary and tyrannical. It also becomes apparent that Queeg’s nerves are shot. All of this alienates the crew and worries Maryk, who fears that Queeg is unfit for command. During an ensuing monsoon, Queeg freezes up and Maryk relieves him of command to save the ship. A court martial follows.
What Makes This Film So Great
At the core of The Caine Mutiny lies some truly spectacular acting. Van Johnson walked a tightrope with Maryk, between being a simple, earnest man we could trust and respect and being just dumb enough to be made a patsy. MacMurray had to be trustworthy enough that we believed Maryk would trust him, but cowardly enough to explain how he kept his hands clean, and cynical enough that his attacks on Queeg were sharp and eviscerating and would sway the audience. Both of these performances required real understanding of human nature and how to walk the fine lines that separate very different personalities.

But the real star was Bogart. The Caine Mutiny includes one of the greatest acting performance ever when Humphrey Bogart testifies at the court martial. Bogart’s portrayal of a man breaking down on the stand was so captivating the entire film crew actually gave him a thundering round of applause when he finished. It was well deserved.

This was an incredibly fascinating and subtle performance. We’ve seen Queeg throughout the film and in each instance, he was arbitrary or cowardly. Even when he tried to be jovial, he seemed tyrannical. Moreover, we know for a fact he froze up in the monsoon and put the ship in danger -- thus, we know Maryk was justified in his actions and has essentially been wrongfully accused by Queeg. Hence, we are predisposed to hate Queeg. But Bogart can’t let us hate Queeg because of the twist to come. So Bogart needed to find a way to make us sympathetic to both Queeg and Maryk, even though they are directly opposed.

Here’s how he pulls that off. First, when Queeg shows up at trial, he tries to diffuse the whole proceeding by being magnanimous and stating that he holds no malice against the mutineers. This teases the audience by suggesting he may recant. It also suggests mental instability because of the personality shift. But as he’s questioned by the prosecutor any pretense of honesty vanishes and he knowingly shades the truth. Bogart tells us Queeg knows he's lying, because he acts like a man trapped in a lie. He’s hesitant in his testimony, he shifts uncomfortably in his chair, and he seems unable to make eye contact with the defendants.

Bogart has done two interesting things here. First, he gives the audience hope that Queeg will break on the stand because Queeg is already falling apart. This raises the stakes for the cross-examination and heightens the tension. Secondly, by suggesting that Queeg feels trapped in his lie, Bogart starts to break down the audience's hate. When Queeg first walked into the room, the audience saw Queeg as a petty tyrant. Suddenly, there is the suggestion that Queeg can’t help himself. This introduces the idea that Queeg is actually a pathetic character rather than a genuine tyrant.

Then the cross examination begins. As defense attorney Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer) hits Queeg with a series of questions about seemingly minor incidents, Queeg begins to embellish. He doesn’t rant or rave or scream or challenge Greenwald, he simply changes his story as needed, each time adding more people to the list of people he’s calling disloyal. This reinforces the idea that Queeg has a problem, rather than being malicious. As the list grows, Bogart’s Queeg gets more and more nervous because even he realizes that while he might have thought he was right in each instance, the sheer number of instances and their similarity are starting to sound paranoid.

Then Bogart makes a key dramatic shift. Queeg is confronted with an incident where he is absolutely certain he was in the right and he jumps on it. Now he rants and raves and exorcises all of his frustrations about the disloyalty he felt he received. But rather than direct Queeg's anger at the mutineers, everything he says is aimed at proving he was right in his suspicions. In other words, Bogart transforms Queeg from a man accusing others to a man trying to justify his actions himself. This is a vital difference. If Queeg is accusing others, then we are happy when he fails. But if Queeg is trying to prove his own sanity, then we are sad when he fails. And when Queeg looks up and sees the shocked faces of everyone in the room, he stops. He knows he’s wrong.

At that point, we are relieved that Maryk and Keith have survived the trial, but we also feel a great deal of pity for Queeg. Then the film hits us with the twist.

As the mutineers celebrate their victory, Jose Ferrer shows up drunk. He’s upset because he thinks the mutineers were the real bad guys and he feels horrible about “torpedoing” Queeg to help them. Queeg was worn out, his nerves were shot. The crew fought him at every turn, and when you think about it, what seemed like humorous disobedience aimed at a tyrant really was a tantrum aimed at a man who was trying to hold together a United States Navy vessel that was falling apart. Ferrer even reminds us that we scoffed at Queeg when he came begging for help.

And like that, your view of every event in the film suddenly changes. Suddenly, we realize that the mutineers, and we the audience by proxy as we enjoyed their games, have been unfair to Queeg the entire time. We mistreated Queeg. We caused the very circumstances that led to the mutiny and we destroyed him. And that makes this one of the best twists of all time, because it fundamentally changes the meaning of the film and because the evidence was there from the opening frame. We just didn’t want to see it.

This is a classic example of everything that can go right with a film when you’ve got great actors, writers and directors who understand subtlety and how humans respond to certain behaviors. Every fact we needed to know was there all along, but we never saw the truth because our opinions about the characters were expertly manipulated so that we just didn't want to see it. This is how movies should be made.


CrispyRice said...

I just happened to sit down with a bowl of strawberries to read C-rama this afternoon. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.... ;)

Excellent review of an excellent movie. It certainly hit me and twisted me like that. And to me, that's the point of a good "twist" -- it's more than just an unexpected ending; it needs to change my view of everything in the movie and my reactions to it. This one excels in it.

AndrewPrice said...

And exactly how many strawberries did you have? ;-)

Thanks Crispy, I agree. I think a good twist needs to change your view of the entire movie, and it also needs to be there to be seen all along. Too many twists today simple pull something shocking out of a hat and say "here it is." But great movies like Caine Mutiny do it right -- they have you wondering, "wow, how did I not see this before?"

CrispyRice said...

Exactly, and then you can watch the movie again and have an entirely different experience. Much of M. Night Shyamalan work is like that. You really have two different movies in one. It's masterful work when done correctly.

When I re-watched the Caine Mutiny, I found myself looking for the bits that reflected a different reality, and it's there, too, all along.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, I agree. And M. Night is a good example to use. A couple of his films really change once you know the endings and in each case you can go back and see that the evidence is there all along and it really becomes a very different movie at that point.

I think Caine Mutiny is the same -- it's really two different movies depending on which perspective you take. It's very well done.

Ed said...

Andrew, Excellent review! This is a great film and indeed has one of the best performances of all time. What I really like about what Bogart does is that he pushes the boundaries of being crazy, but remains just functional enough that you can believe him as a Navy officer. I think too many modern films would make him really out there so that you could never really see a man like that being put in charge of anything.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Thanks! That's an excellent point. I honestly don't think about subtlety when I think about films from the 1950s, but this is much more subtle than anything today. When Hollywood does crazy today, it does cartoon crazy. That never would have worked here because (1) you couldn't actually make the twist work that way and (2) it wouldn't have been believable that anyone would have trusted Bogart with a ship.

BoilerRoomElf said...

While we concur that Bogart gave a great performance, you haven't really seen this movie 'til you've seen it with the original Elfphrey Bogie. There is a true "elf on the edge" there!

And, you know that it wasn't strawberries originally, either, right? But, no, Bogart refused to go spouting off about cookies. Said it wasn't very "naval officer." Sheesh!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I've seen this movie so many times that I know half the dialog by heart. Great movie, nearly flawless. I had one small quibble with the story line (which wasn't apparent in the book). Several of the sailors tetified that Captain Queeg "didn't act crazy." In the movie during the typhoon, he freezes, gets wild-eyed and gets a death grip on the ship's instrument panel. At the same time he didn't respond to questions and panicky requests for orders from the crew. He only un-froze when Maryk took command. In my estimation, that's a little crazy.

AndrewPrice said...

BRE, "elf on the edge"! LOL!

I didn't know that about the cookies, but I always suspected something was wrong with that scene! ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Good point. I put that down more to perception or memory than anything else, or maybe they just weren't focused on him like we were? He doesn't run around and scream or start spouting jibberish, so maybe that's what they meant? It's hard to say. But you're right, as an audience member, he clearly freezes up at that moment. It would have been nice if they had explained that in some way. Still, that's a minor flaw.

I've got to say, when people say "they don't make 'em like that anymore," this is the film I think about.

T-Rav, Emperor of the Sockpuppets said...

Since I haven't seen this movie, I will refrain from commenting or reading the review, since it's apparently important that I don't. Enjoy.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: You're so right about them not making 'em like that anymore. Now the ship would be nearly swamped by a CGI sea monster, the captain would have to puke a few times (with a full camera view of said puke), a pretty boy semi-actor like Matt Damon would take over the ship and get the Congressional Medal of Honor for getting the ship through 200 foot high CGI waves. The JAG lawyer would be played by Brad Pitt, who would spend most of his time either grinning or scowling. The Fred McMurray part would be played by Peewee Herman in drag.

I actually had the fun of seeing a restoration of the original stage play in NYC back in the 60s. The play was shortened and confined to "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" for obvious stage reasons.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Lord High Executioner of Sockpuppets

This film is definitely worth seeing and it's best not to know the twist before you see it, because the twist really changes the meaning of the film. I won't say more, except to tell you that you should see this -- it's definitely worth your time!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Yep, that's what they would do with this one... how sad.

I honestly don't think we have anyone who compares to Bogart right now. And even Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray impressed me a lot in this -- I like them, but don't normally think of them as "great" actors.

I have never seen the play, though I would be interested in seeing that. I enjoyed the book a lot and I loved the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. T-Rav, if you want to go check it out now... we'll wait for you! ;-)

ScyFyterry said...

I haven't seen this, but I did see the remake. Does that count?

Outlaw13 said...

As a military officer I find this film fascinating and have recommended it to fellow officers as it has a great deal to say about what a junior officer owes his commander. Far too often people look at the command climate from the point of view of "what has the commander done for me/made me do that I didn't like/made decisions I didn't care for". That is an easy trap to fall into. We are taught from the beginning however that if I am a junior officer it is my job to help the command and by extension the unit succeed. SOmetimes that is easier said than done and we all aren't always the bigger man.

You can see in the movie where the junior officers willingly let down Queeg and at turns undermined his authority. It's a good object lesson in bad leadership.

Another great movie about these themes is 12 O'Clock High.

Unfortunately I have experienced some bad commanders in my career and witnessed events eerily like the frozen strawberry incident. The difference in our case was we accomplished our mission in spite of the commander and not because of him...and the guy retired when we returned to the USA.

Awesome film.

AndrewPrice said...

ScyFyTerry, Nope, that doesn't count! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw13, I am very impressed with the way this film handles the chain of command issues. I haven't served, but I've known a lot of people who have and listening to them (and years of reading military history) has given me an appreciation that the military truly is not like the civilian world -- it can't afford to be. And you really can't pick and choose which commands you want to follow. That's probably the hardest thing for civilians to grasp. But this film really makes that point incredibly well.

As a civilian audience member, you go into this thinking that (1) the Caine was running well without discipline so what's the big deal?, (2) Queeg is kind of a jerk, (3) I like Maryk and the others and I don't like Queeg, and (4) Queeg deserved what he got because his orders were arbitrary. But when Ferrer lays it out at the end, it become crystal clear that kind of thinking just doesn't apply. And then you realize that these guys you liked so much really acted in a very despicable manner and they destroyed Queeg with their disloyalty. Was he a bad commander? There's no doubt. He was falling apart from the very beginning. But their DUTY was to help him, not to resist him.

As I often do, I have to wonder how modern Hollywood would handle this message? Leaving aside that they would make Queeg into a murderous maniac, I wonder if they would even try to suggest to the audience that these junior officers had a duty to their commander? I doubt they would. To the contrary, I would think a modern remake would make Maryk a hero for standing up to the evil Queeg -- kind of like Crimson Tide.

By the way, the one scene that I always end up thinking about when the film ends is the scene where they go to visit the Admiral to talk about Queeg and they end up deciding against it when MacMurray backs out. I wonder if their complaint actually would have been well received or if they would have been read the riot act for failing to do their duties at that point? I've always wanted to know how that would have played out. My guess is the Admiral would have seen this as nothing more than griping. But on the other hand, Maryk is the Executive Officer and that may be enough to warrant an investigation?

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, Excellent breakdown of Boggie's breakdown! :D When you watch it, you don't really realize how all the little changes they make affect how you think about the character, you just go with the flow. The end result is brilliant here.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, That's where the real skill lies, in finding the little things that no one notices that change people's minds. It's easy to create an over-the-top, one tone character. But creating a character that changes people's opinions without being blatant about it is what good writing and good acting should be about.

That or being chased by giant robots.

Ed said...

Andrew, I think Hollywood would never remake this film with the same moral. Hollywood no longer respects a concept like duty. Also, Hollywood is anti-military and would never portray a career military officer in a positive light.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It's hard to argue with that. It's the rare military film today that even portrays the military in a positive light, and when they do it's usually just an enlightened few within the military.

kristina said...

great movie. It was supposed to be Richard Widmark initially in the Bogie role. Makes a great double bill with Treasure of the Sierra Madre (and Two Mrs. Carrolls as well I guess) for "crazy" Bogart roles, which he could play so well. He shoulda won the Oscar that year. Cheers!

AndrewPrice said...

kristina, I didn't know that. Widmark would have been an interesting choice, though I have a hard time seeing anyone better than Bogart in this role at this point.

This film and Treasure of the Sierra Madre really convinced me that Bogart was a spectacular actor and not just a good actor in some famous roles. He was great in films like Maltese Falcon and To Have And Have Not, but those films never struck me as all that demanding as far as acting goes. But then I saw Caine and Sierra Madre and was blown away by his abilities. That's even got me wondering if his other films aren't more demanding than they seemed, but that he's just so good in them that he makes them look easy?

By the way, another interesting bit of trivia, this film revived the career of the director (Edward Dmytryk), whose career had crashed after naming names to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

kristina said...

whoops I was remiss in forgetting to also say "great post". Of course you're right about Dmytryk--if i remember correctly Bogie was hoping for Stanley Kramer to direct? But I do know for certain that Bogie took a teeny tiny salary, like less than $100K, because he wanted the part so badly, and boy did he make a good pick there. Youre right too, about this being a juicier role, I think the acting can be kind of subservient, or I suppose, in service to the wisecracks in the noir type movies like Maltese, To Have&Have Not, where in this type of movie there is much more going on than is just in the lines, stuff that really needs to be handled carefully by a talented actor. Very good post on a great movie, thanks

AndrewPrice said...

kristina, Thanks!

I agree. In the noir films, the acting can be secondary to everything else -- though it's still not irrelevant. But in this film, the acting was everything because there weren't any other clues in the plot that he was going insane, so he had to convey that through how he handled the character. In fact, you could probably read the lines straight up and Queeg wouldn't have seemed insane at all. So I absolutely think what made this film work was the way Bogart choose to play it.

That's also why I wonder if modern films could repeat this, because the way everyone plays insanity now is more maniacal and sinister. There are "crazy" scenes written into these films to make sure the audience knows the character is crazy. The idea of someone who is just on that line of paranoia (like Queeg) and asking the actor to leave it ambiguous isn't something you see these days.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I completely forgot to mention that, you are right, Bogart wanted Stanley Kramer.

Also, I've been looking at your blog, it's very nice!

Anonymous said...

I saw this film for the first time a few years ago. Unfortunately, I don't remember much but your review (and a few clips on YouTube) brought a lot of it back. I honestly didn't know what to expect when I sat down to watch it. Maybe I was expecting less of a courtroom drama and more of a Mutiny on the Bounty.

It was certainly an acting showcase for Bogart. To answer the question of "Who could play this character now?" I would suggest Gene Hackman (yeah, probably because of his work in Crimson Tide), Jack Nicholson, or the man many used to refer to as a modern day Bogart, Harrison Ford (circa 10 years ago).

If you'll excuse an aside...

When my friend and I worked as production assistants on The Simple Life, our boss was a production manager who was in over her head, flighty, generally unpleasant, and bad with time management. Obviously, we didn't "mutiny" against her or anything so dramatic but it was generally known that she pushed us harder than she should have.

Reading your review made me wonder, "Was she right and were we wrong to complain about her?" The answer, of course, is NO! She was simply an unqualified person given a job she couldn't handle (I'll let you figure out that metaphor). :-D

As for Hollywood and the military, I can't argue with you but I will submit that there are plenty of individual filmmakers and performers who have no problems with the military. Sadly, The Powers That Be won't let any movie get made that paints the current conflict (and the man who presided over it) in a positive light. Even folks like Tom Hanks and Spielberg have shown by their actions that they support the troops but they won't go that far.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, As always, you bring up a plethora of issues!

First, on the other actors, I'm not sold that those guys could handle the role. Nicholson is too over-the-top. For example, I see his role in A Few Good Men as the same role that Bogart played here. But unlike Bogart, I don't think he could pull it off. He came across as nasty and sane rather than borderline insane. Plus, his insanity is too violent -- it's hard to see someone as unstable as Nicholson's characters rising through the ranks in the Navy.

I think Hackman could do well in the role, but I also don't think he could quite pull it off. I suppose he could if he were trying to mimic Bogart's performance, but if he was just left to interpret it on his own, you would get a repeat of his role in Crimson Tide, where he interprets the character more as just egotistical rather than insecure. And when he does play insecure characters, he tends to play them as far too sheepish. I've never seen him play a guy who is as insecure as Bogart's Queeg, yet simultaneously trying to pretend he's in control.

In terms of your production manager, I think it's hard to equate civilian life to military life. The military needs unquestioned discipline except in the most extreme circumstances because the things that are asked of soldiers. No production manager is going to ask you to do something that might lead to your death or the deaths of other people. So the military can't allow the kind of leeway to let people pick and choose what orders to follow.


AndrewPrice said...

That said, theoretically, your job was to do what you were instructed by your boss. They were entrusted with the job and you were hired to do what they instructed you to do. So even if you didn't like the style or the decisions, it isn't a valid decision to sabotage the person. If you think it's bad enough, you can always go over their heads, but you can't sabotage them. Your job is to do your job, whether you like the way the boss is handling it or not.

BUT... here's the key difference. In the military, you really have a duty of loyalty, which I think is missing in private sector employment. In the military, it's not enough to just do your job, you're also supposed to be a loyal member of the team and keep everyone on the same page. By comparison, in the civilian world, you can always just do what you're told and keep your head down. That might not be the path to success ultimately, but it's technically all you owe the company.

On the pro/anti-military stuff, I have to wonder if the problem isn't more fundamental than just being pro/anti-military. I have to wonder if ideas like duty haven't been weakened in our culture? At one time, people had all kinds of duties. But these days, those all seem to be disappearing to be replaced by due process. I'm not sure that hasn't infected Hollywood's thinking about the military enough that it can no longer really deal with concepts like duty of loyalty?

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Re: my production manager, of course we wouldn't do anything to sabotage her but even she was put on notice the first day for keeping us several hours past our shifts. And many times, she was just plain wrong. It happens.

And yeah, I forgot to mention that it's not the same as military life. Filmmaking has always had various battle metaphors associated with it but it's NOT life and death. Having said that, I'm guilty of ascribing certain "larger than life" qualities to otherwise mundane events, so for me, loyalty is important with any job. Of course, as a temp, such an old-fashioned statement is usually met with, "That's nice but they'll replace you in a second if they want to. Now get back to work and stop eating all the bagels!!" :-)

I think you might be on to something about duty but I'm not sure I get the due process connection.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Let me clarify. I'm not saying these guys CAN'T do it. they are talented enough that if you describe the role in enough detail, they could deliver almost any kind of performance.

What I'm saying is, I see no one in modern Hollywood who would ever come up with what Bogart did if they were left to choose their own performance. I don't think modern Hollywood actors accept the character choices Bogart made anymore.

On the one hand, Bogart is insecure, but not sniveling. You don't see that combo anymore. On the other hand, Bogart is highly aggressive, but not in a "yelling" or "nasty" sort of way. He's not smug or getting a kick out of pushing people around. Again, you don't see those combos anymore.

Bogart is acting like someone who is desperate to be followed, but knows in his heart that he's not a leader, and he acts like he's trapped in this role he would probably rather not have. That's not like anything you see now. These days, they draw a much wider line between Type A and Type B.

And when they interpret insanity, they go for maniacal or "falling apart, weeping" insanity. They simply don't accept "a little bit crazy" anymore.

That's what I mean when I say I see no one who could do this.

kristina said...

:) thanks for dropping by my blog and for the compliments--

following up your last comment here, the concept of duty has been damaged by entitlement mentality, and authority figures in general tend to be automatically questioned if not suspect (not in the military on either count, but by a big share of modern audiences) so possibly the very concept of a mutiny may no longer represent such a big deal to some ppl anymore. Hmmmm. Sign of a great film/post, when it makes you go hmmmm.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, People always assign greater significance to things that happen to them than they merit. That's part of being human.

On loyalty at work, I value it highly -- but I've learned over and over that it's a rare trait either from the bottom or the top.

Due process....

Our society has been legalized. It used to be that certain things were done because they were morally right, i.e. people felt they had a duty to do them. For example, people felt they had a duty to help people who were starving or to help someone who is drowning. There were duties regarding taking care of sick family members and kids. Doctors and lawyers had duties to their clients like taking particular care of the indigent and those who could not help themselves.

Each of these duties arose from morality and was enforced by the threat of public shame. If you violated that duty, everyone turned their backs on you... and there was no appeal.

Overtime, these duties have been turned into laws, which replaced morality as the source of those duties. Law, by it's nature, is pure process. It cannot look into your heart or decide if you tried "hard enough"... it only looks that you followed the required process. If you didn't, then you face prison or fines. If you did, then you are not-guilty, even though you may have acted reprehensibly.

Thus, whereas in the past, if you did the wrong thing, you would pay a heavy price, these days you can do the wrong thing so long as you are technically within the letter of the law, and except for rare moments, all will be forgiven.

Let me put this in religious terms. Assume two people go to church. One person goes because they have faith, i.e. a moral duty to go. They listen, they think about what they've heard, they try to live their lives according to the teachings they hear. The other person goes because they are required by law. They sit in the church and think about football.

If we had a moral duty to go to church, then the first person would be considered a good person and the second would be considered immoral and would find themselves shamed by the rest of the church. But if we convert the moral duty to a legal duty, then suddenly there is no distinction at all between the first and second person.

And historically, legal duties have not supplemented moral duties, they have replaced moral duties because people find it hard to complain about someone who has lived up to the letter of the law. So once the moral duty vanishes here and all that is left if the legal duty, it becomes impossible for society to distinguish these two people.

Thus, when you make a movie about going to church, it becomes very hard for the public to grasp the idea that the first person actually is better than the second because both are doing what is now defined as "their duty", i.e. duty has been replaced by due process.

Does that make sense?

AndrewPrice said...

kristina, You're welcome!

I think you're right about both the entitlement mentality and how it makes authority figures automatically suspect. And you raise an excellent point -- do modern audience even recognize why a mutiny is wrong, or will they just weigh which side they think is right? I honestly don't know, but that's an interesting question!

Anonymous said...

Does that make sense?

Yes, it does.

I have nothing further to add at this time. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Very well. :-)

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I have nothing to add here except that Jose Ferrer's speech is one of the most devastating moments put to film. It also highlights a lawyer's duty as a zealous advocate even if he finds his clients repugnant.

And Fred MacMurray is one of the most underrated sleazeballs in Hollywood history -- My Three Sons indeed! The guy was a menace! ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Well said -- "one of the most devastating moments put to film." It really is. I can't think of any moment in film where someone does a better job of just putting a character (and the audience) to shame. There is simply no rebuttal to what he says.

Good point too about this highlighting lawyers' duties to their clients. Though one aspect of that I've always found interesting is that he makes it clear, the reason he took the case was "I found the wrong man was on trial." I think that's the only reason he didn't tell them to plead guilty.

Outlaw13 said...

I think what a lot of people don't understand about 'loyalty" in the military is that it is a two way street. The commander and the leaders owe their loyalty not only to their bosses and the nation as a whole but to the troops they lead as well. It's in the loyalty to the troops that some leaders have issues. Command is of course not a popularity contest, but you do have balance the needs of the mission with the needs of your troops. Believe it or not when the situation is explained to the Soldiers they (for the most part, there's always an exception) put up with a lot of crap before they start getting upset. The key though is information flow.

In the times I had commanders I had issues with, I tired to think about it in the terms of the loyalty I had to the unit as a whole, to the reputation of all of us. A commander is a caretaker of sorts in that he/she is only around for a year or year and a half. The rest of us are there for years...we are in effect "the unit" you figure out ways to cope until he/she is gone and hope the next guy is better.

In reference to Andrew's question about visiting the Admiral, it was unspoken but I think they left because McMurray's character realized they they would be hung out to dry because they really didn't have a leg to stand on. The others were too inexperienced or dumb to figure that out.

Just so people know, yeah the military is at times life or death situations, but even in those situations you usually aren't given orders like, "YOU, yes you there stand up and attack that bunker." It's more like we need to accomplish objective A this is how I propose we go about it, any questions/ideas/gripes/bitches/ complaints? OK let's do it.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Thanks for the response and thanks for the discussion of the military duties of loyalty. I think you make a great point that people need to remember that the "unit" is a thing in and of itself and deserves to be respected and is owed duties. That's not something you really find much in the private sector. For example, a McDonalds employee doesn't really feel they owe a duty to McDonalds to protect the restaurant. But on the other hand, something like a film (see Scott above) or a sports team might engender that kind of loyalty with people wanting to see the film/team succeed as well as whatever duties they owe to their boss/coach.

On the life and death orders, that's a good point, though the military still has a much stricter set of rules than the civilian world and they are still ordering you into a dangerous situation -- which is a rare thing in the private sector. And the fact they can issue those kinds of orders that require that soldiers not be able to pick and choose which orders they like.

I think you're right they left the Admiral's ship because they knew they had no case, and I suspect the Admiral would have seen their complaints as disloyal griping at that point -- because that's about all they had... "he tried to figure out who stole strawberries... he was complaining about people not wearing their uniforms... etc." So I suspect the meeting would not have gone well for them.

Outlaw13 said...


No problem. Yeah, when for instance I was in Iraq and was told to go fly a mission non-compliance was not an option. That was our duty...we signed up for it. I think what some people don't understand is that my duty was given to me, but it was up to me to figure out how to get it done. I have found that a lot of people have an impression of the military built mainly from films and TV that gives the impression that there is no room for thought or difference of opinion, but in many ways that's not true at all.

In planning mutiple opinons are encouraged by the good commander. After a decision has been made however we execute the plan...the debate is over.

I fully understand that with the exception of police and firefighters very few people in the civilan world have jobs that put them in harms way, but the decision making processes and leadship techniques that we use could be used effectively in business.

The concept of unit however is something that has gradually been drained away in our society however. In the Army from day one you are drilled about selfless service...the concept that we are here to do something for something other than ourselves. That is a concept that is really mission from society today. Because I see selfishness everywhere...and that is what Quieg's crew suffered from as well.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Excellent points. Hollywood really does tend to show the military as being much more "mechanical" than it is, in the sense of giving precise orders, taking no input, and expecting soldiers to never use their judgment -- but that's not at all true.

And you're right, the same leadership principles you're talking about work extremely well in the business world, and that's what you find with good managers. The bad managers are the ones who don't get input, don't trust their people, and can't inspire loyalty.

Good point about "the unit" vanishing throughout society. If you look at Japan, which is still run much like the US was in the 1950s, people do have an incredible sense of loyalty to their companies. My father's generation had the same sense of loyalty here. But that's slowly drained away and there isn't much loyalty to companies, communities, or even other institutions anymore.

98ZJUSMC said...

They sit in the church and think about football.


AndrewPrice said...

98ZJUSMC, LOL! I'm sure there's more than a little bit of that going around! :-)

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