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You're in the Navy Now is a Hollywoodmarker film released in 1951 by Twentieth Century Fox about the United States Navy in the first months of World War II. Its initial release was titled USS Teakettle. Directed by Henry Hathaway, the film is a comedy starring Gary Cooper as a new officer wanting duty at sea but who is instead assigned to an experimental project without much hope of success.

Filmed in black and white aboard PC-1168, an active Navy patrol craft, You're in the Navy Now featured the film debuts of both Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin in minor roles as crewmen. Screenwriter Richard Murphy was nominated by the Writers Guild of America for "Best Written American Comedy", basing his script on an article in The New Yorker written by John W. Hazard.

Plot

At Norfolk Naval Basemarker, Lieutenant John W. Harkness (Cooper), a newly-commissioned officer, has reported aboard a U.S. Navy warship in the opening months of World War II. Only one minute after learning (to his shock) that he has not simply been ordered to his first assignment, but has been made captain of a ship of war, Harkness opens and is bewildered to read his sealed orders:

Unbeknownst to Harkness, his civilian background in engineering and his Rutgersmarker education has elected him, by means of a hole punched in an IBM card, to head a secret project. Harkness has been given command of a submarine chaser, a twin-screw "baby sister" of a World War I-design destroyer.

Her crew all assume that Harkness is Regular Navy and an experienced seaman. Her chief boatswain's mate, Chief Larrabee (Millard Mitchell) is the first to greet Harkness and confesses that he has never been on anything "smaller than a cruiser". Then he confides, "Just between you and me, sir, I don't think you're gonna like this. Wait'll you see that THING in the engine room!"

The "thing" is a steam engine: the Navy wants to power its convoy escorts and patrol craft with high-pressure steam engines to increase their speed and maneuverability. PC-1168's crew are all newly-inducted civilians largely untrained to both the Navy and the sea, and her officers newly-minted "90 day wonders". With less than five minutes in command, Harkness faces his first crisis: the port commander (Ed Begley) orders him to move the PC-1168 immediately to make room in the berth for another ship. Harkness discovers that even his engineroom chief knows little about steam engines. Because he must personally get the engine to run, Harkness is not on the bridge when his ship gets underway and rams the side of an aircraft carrier.

His officers are both willing and enthusiastic but green. The exec, Lt. J.G. Barron (Eddie Albert), is a good-natured idea-man whose knowledge of the Navy is out of books. The engineering officer, Ens. Barbo (Jack Webb), has no training, education, or experience in engineering. And the supply-Mess officer, Ens. Dorrance (Richard Erdman), is plagued by seasickness.

In drydock to repair its badly damaged bow, Harkness and his officers meet gruff Commander Reynolds (John McIntire), who oversees Project XP11204 as the representative of Rear Admiral L.E. Tennant (Ray Collins). Their job is to test and develop an evaporator-condenser to provide sufficient water to make the engine feasible for sea duty. He brusquely informs them that sea trials will begin as soon as they are out of drydock, that he has come to brief them on the steam system, and that they better pay attention. When Barbo pleads that he has no engineering experience, Cdr. Reynolds replies that in his case, Barbo had better "pay very close attention".

PC-1168 winds up being towed into port after the distilled water runs out because of the crew's inexperience and is dubbed the "USS Teakettle". Cdr. Reynolds restricts the crew to the ship until they make the system work, but as the failures mount, fights break out between the crew members frustrated by the ridicule they endure from the crews of other ships. To further complicate his life, Harkness' wife Ellie (Jane Greer) has gotten a commission in the Navy and become secretary to the base commander, Captain Eliot (Harry Von Zell). Harkness suffers pangs of jealousy over the attention and familiarity that other officers show Eliie.

The morale problem aboard the Teakettle collides with its lack of success and becomes a vicious circle, each making the other worse. The officers hit upon a scheme to enter a crewman in the base boxing championship to raise the crew's morale. They train an engine room snipe, Wascylewski (Charles Bronson), as the ship's champion because he bested four of his shipmates in a brawl, but Wascylewski breaks four ribs in a fall during the sea trial on the day of the fight. His replacement, helmsman Tommy Morris (Jack Warden), literally has no stomach to fight. Ensign Barbo steps in--pretending to be Wascylewski--and surprisingly wins the championship.

The film climaxes with the Official Sea Trial of the steam system in which the crew, finally together as a team, faces its greatest test yet. Admiral Tennant puts a capper on the events by revealing to Harkness that the selection of his crew was no fluke: the Navy already knew that experts could run the system; it needed to develop one that the novice sailors who made up the overwhelming percentage of the wartime Navy could quickly learn to operate.

Cast



Production

You're in the Navy Now was filmed in black-and-white on location at the Norfolk Naval Yardmarker, Hampton Roads, Virginiamarker, and aboard the PC-1168 based there. Except for stock footage of a boxing match, verisimilitude in the film was high. The film marked the screen debuts of Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Jack Warden. U.S.S. Teakettle premiered at the Roxy Theater in New York Citymarker on February 23, 1951.

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