The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960) Poster

The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960)

  • Rate: 6.1/10 total 983 votes 
  • Genre: Comedy | War
  • Release Date: 29 December 1960 (USA)
  • Runtime: 99 min
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The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960)


The Wackiest Ship in the Army 1960tt0054453.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1960)
  • Rate: 6.1/10 total 983 votes 
  • Genre: Comedy | War
  • Release Date: 29 December 1960 (USA)
  • Runtime: 99 min
  • Filming Location: Kaua'i, Hawaii, USA
  • Director: Richard Murphy
  • Stars: Jack Lemmon, Ricky Nelson, John Lund | See full cast and crew
  • Original Music By: George Duning   
  • Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)
  • Plot Keyword: Navy | Army

Writing Credits By:

  • Richard Murphy (screenplay)
  • Herbert H. Margolis (screen story) (as Herbert Margolis) &
  • William Raynor (screen story)
  • Herbert Carlson (story "Big Fella Wash-Wash")

Known Trivia

  • The movie is loosely based upon an actual commissioned Navy ship, the USS Echo (IX-95). As in the movie, the Echo was a scow loaned to the Navy from New Zealand in 1942, but was used for carrying cargo and supplies to Army bases in the South Pacific, earning her an Army commendation. She was decommissioned in 1944 and can be seen in Picton New Zealand as a museum.
  • As Lemmon and Nelson are training the crew in how to unfurl the mainsail, you can see the stern of the USS Fletcher in the background. The Fletcher earned 15 battle stars in WWII and Korea. She was one of the most decorated destroyers to serve in the South Pacific. She was scrapped in 1972.
  • The original name of the boat in the movie was the “Fiesta”. She was built in Hong Kong in 1932 entirely of teakwood. She was a 72 foot gaff-rigged schooner and came with a 165hp auxiliary diesel engine, weighed 28 net tons, drew 8 feet of water and could make 7.5 knots under power. She was also equipped with 3 tiled heads (bathrooms), two of them with showers, 1400 gallon fresh water tank, a 19 cubic foot deep freezer, and a 24 cubic foot refrigerator. Prior to the movie the Fiesta was owned by Martin J. Vitousek and his wife the former Beatrice Leiseder. (Source: The San Francisco Chronicle Sept. 14, 1952).

Goofs: Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Several times during the movie the "Air Force" is mentioned. Naval aviation was listed in many wartime Navy documents and was referred to by Navy men as the Naval "Air Force." Navy men would have referred to the US Army Air Forces as the "Army Air Force" or (incorrectly) as the "Army Air Corps," a term officially phased out in mid-1941.

Plot: Lieutenant Rip Crandall is hoodwinked into taking command of the "Wackiest Ship in the Navy" – a real… See more » |  »

Story: Lieutenant Rip Crandall is hoodwinked into taking command of the “Wackiest Ship in the Navy” – a real garbage scow with a crew of misfits who don’t know a jib from a jigger. What none of them knows, including Crandall, is that this ship has a very important top-secret mission to complete in waters patrolled by the Japanese fleet. Their mission will save hundreds of allied lives – if only they can get there in one piece. Written byA.L.Beneteau <>

FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Fred Kohlmar known as producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Jack Lemmon known as Lt. Rip Crandall
  • Ricky Nelson known as Ens. Tommy J. Hanson
  • John Lund known as Lt. Cmdr. Wilbur F. Vandewater
  • Chips Rafferty known as Patterson
  • Tom Tully known as Capt. McClung
  • Joby Baker known as Josh Davidson
  • Warren Berlinger known as Radioman 2nd Class A.J. 'Sparks' Sparks
  • Patricia Driscoll known as Maggie
  • Mike Kellin known as Chief Mate Jack MacCarthy
  • Richard Anderson known as Lt. Dennis M. Foster
  • Alvy Moore known as Seaman J. Johnson
  • Joseph Gallison known as 'Cameo' (as Joe Gallison)
  • Teru Shimada known as Maj. Samada
  • George Shibata known as Capt. Shigetsu
  • Richard Quine known as Narrator
  • Phillip Adams known as Crewman (uncredited)
  • John Anderson known as Sailor (uncredited)
  • Tom Anthony known as Crewman (uncredited)
  • Nesdon Booth known as Chief Petty Officer (uncredited)
  • Naaman Brown known as Cpl. Goroka (uncredited)
  • Henry Faber known as (uncredited)
  • Fuji known as Japanese Sergeant (uncredited)
  • Clive Halliday known as Australian Major General (uncredited)
  • Gavin W. Harper known as Seaman (uncredited)
  • Dale Ishimoto known as Japanese Pilot (uncredited)
  • Roy Jenson known as Shark Bait – USS Echo Crewman (uncredited)
  • Lloyd Kino known as (uncredited)
  • Hudson Shotwell known as Adm. Hathaway (uncredited)
  • Sid Tomack known as Arthur, Bartender at Kangaroo Club (uncredited)
  • Richard Torrence known as Horse (uncredited)
  • Russ Whiteman known as American Colonel (uncredited)
  • Mose Wilson known as Sailor (uncredited)



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:

  • Helen Hunt known as hair stylist
  • Ben Lane known as makeup supervisor
  • Robert J. Schiffer known as makeup artist (uncredited)




Production Companies:

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation (presents)

Other Companies:

  • Department of Defense, The  we wish to thank for their willing assistance in the production of this motion picture
  • Panavision  photographic lenses
  • Pathé  Eastman Color by
  • U.S. Navy, The  we wish to thank for their willing assistance in the production of this motion picture


  • Columbia Pictures (1960) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1965) (USA) (TV) (original airing)



Other Stuff

Release Date:

  • Japan 25 December 1960
  • USA 29 December 1960
  • West Germany 21 March 1961
  • Finland 31 March 1961
  • France 5 April 1961
  • Italy 25 August 1961
  • Sweden 25 September 1961
  • Denmark 13 June 1962



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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Posted on February 11, 2013 by Movies DVD New Releases Blu-ray in Movies | Tags: , .


  1. Mr. Whispy from Midwest
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    This is one of those overlooked films Lemmon made in the early years ofhislegendary career. It kind of became lost in the midst of such higherprofilefilms as "Some Like it Hot" and "The Apartment", and never truly founditsway out. "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" represents a list of forgottenLemmon titles that deserve recognition. Such films include, "It HappenedtoJane", "Operation Mad Ball", "The Notorious Landlady", and "Alex & theGypsy".

    "Wackiest" is a one of those type of films that is perfect for a lazyafternoon. Often amusing and boasting a quintessential Lemmon performance,it’s worth checking out just for pure nostalgia!

    *** (out of 5)

  2. benbrae76
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    I've just watched this movie again (and taped it), and found it just asamusing as when I first watched it 40 odd years ago (just after it'srelease in fact). Jack Lemmon never fails to impress, but after allthis time I now realise that Ricky Nelson (although a great loss to themusic world) wasn't the greatest of actors. However his naivety in thisdepartment somehow added charm to this movie.

    The WWII storyline based on true events couldn't be simpler. AnAmerican naval officer/ex-yachtsman Lt Rip Crandall (Jack Lemmon), anda young Ensign Tommy Hansen (Ricky Nelson), are ordered to sail an oldsloop, the "USS Echo", with an unexperienced crew across the GreatBarrier Reef to Port Moresby, where (although Crandall doesn't knowuntil later) the boat is to be used to convey an Aussie coast-watcherto his destination, with a different crew. Crandall doesn't like thechange-over so steals the mission. End of plot…almost.

    The only real down side of this movie was the awful "Austroylian"accent of Irish actress Patricia Driscoll. Almost as bad as Dick vanDyke's Cockney accent in "Mary Poppins". Almost, but not quite.Although lovely to look at, it's a blessing Patricia only had a minorrole. However I find it strange that the part couldn't have been givento a genuine Aussie.

    All in all, I always found this movie very entertaining, and strangelyenough, for a war film, and rather like "Mr Roberts", no violence worthworrying about. Which rather pleases me now, for my grandkids love it.

  3. Ralph Michael Stein ( from New York, N.Y.
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    Based on true events (we were at war with the Japanese in 1943 in thePacific), "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" stars Jack Lemmon as, once again,a naval officer.

    Lemmon made his first big film in 1955 when he played the con artist, EnsignPulver, in "Mister Roberts," a movie that’s attained classic status. Inthis 1961 film he dons the navy uniform again, this time as a lieutenant(senior grade). A reserve officer who was a dapper yachtsman in Californiabefore the war, Lemmon is assigned to command a sailing vessel with (barelyfunctioning) auxiliary mechanical propulsion.

    The U.S.S. Echo is hardly the dream command of any officer, reserve orregular. But the new C.O. gamely takes on training an eager but totallybemused crew in the art of sailing a vessel.

    The Echo is assigned to land an Australian coast watcher on an islandoccupied by the stereotypically portrayed Japanese (more Japanese officerswith U.C.L.A. degrees appear in film than ever showed up on the front). Theheroic coast watchers were very important during the island hopping campaignand they deserve every bit of cinematic recognition they have received. Many died, some after being tortured by their captors.

    Nowhere nearly as smoothly directed as "Mister Roberts," "The Wackiest Shipin the Army" (and there’s no rational reason for the title-the Army doesn’teven play a role here) teeters unevenly between some nice comedy and somevery 1950s-1960s war action supplemented by combat footage (one Japaneseplane has been shown blown out of the sky so often in movies that if thepilot’s estate was entitled to royalties the heirs would be richer than BillGates).

    The exploits of the Echo’s crew led, we are told, to the American victory inthe Battle of the Bismarck Sea, an important engagement.

    This is a good film for renting. Jack Lemmon plays the competent and caringC.O. very nicely and is the center of the story.

    The Navy must have really liked the script. They put a fleet anchorage atthe filmmaker’s disposal. Here’s a quiz for the sharp-eyed. At one pointthe stern of one of the most famous and important smaller combatant vesselsof World War II is shown while Lemmon is instructing his crew. What ship isit?


  4. broosr from Lawrence, KS
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    It’s too bad Hollywood stopped making war flicks like this one. They weremuch more enjoyable than the kind of hand-wringing performances you seenowadays. Lemmon took a break from chewing the scenery in the classics"SomeLike It Hot" and "The Great Race" and returned to a more straight-mancharacter of the kind he played in Mister Roberts. Although Lemmon is, asusual, great, the movie suffers somewhat from a bland supporting cast andthe insufferable Ricky Nelson, whose acting is as wooden as it was in "RioBravo." Although slow to get going, the movie eventually takes off andmaintains a robust pace to the conclusion. Note that TV showings tend totrim this one heavily, so if you see it sitting in the bargain bin, besureto pick it up!

    For fans of Lemmon or the genre only!

  5. bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    As military service comedies go, The Wackiest Ship in the Army isn’tthe best one going, but it is pretty amusing.

    Jack Lemmon plays a naval lieutenant who in civilian life had sailboatracing experience. Therefore he’s just the man to command a sailingcraft made up to look like a native trading vessel. The object being toland Australian coast watcher Chips Rafferty in the middle of Japaneseheld territory.

    Lemmon has a callow young ensign as his executive officer in RickyNelson and a crew of men, none of whom have any kind of experience in asailing craft. The laughs come as he tries to whip this crew into somekind of shape before the mission.

    Jack Lemmon had just come off Some Like It Hot and The Apartment so hewas hot box office back then. The Wackiest Ship in the Army isn’t inthe aforementioned league of films, but it’s still good and unlike theother classics was turned into a television series, albeit a shortlived one, just like that other Lemmon film, Mister Roberts.

    Ricky Nelson was never the greatest actor going, but he was their forthe teenage girl market at the box office. What he was though was avery good singer and he does get to sing Do You Know What It Means toLeave New Orleans which sold a few platters back in the day.

    Outstanding other performances in the film are from Chips Rafferty,Australia’s greatest cinema star, Mike Kellin playing the CPO of thesailing crew and Tom Tully who seems to continue where he took off fromin The Caine Mutiny.

    Even today I think cinema fans will enjoy the comedy of Jack Lemmon inThe Wackiest Ship in the Army.

  6. bob the moo
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    When Lieutenant Rip Crandall is offered his first command he jumps atthe chance. However when he arrives at his ‘ship’ he finds that theEcho is more of a tub than a destroyer – being practically a yacht!With an inexperienced or inept crew and a second officer who has barelyever been on water for any length of time, Crandall is ready to dropout until guilt gets the better of him and he decides not to leave theyoung Ensign Hanson carrying the bag. After a few days of intensive andquite unsuccessful training, Crandall’s ship sets off on its mission.

    Starting out with a credit sequence and opening 10 minutes thatsuggests that the film may be as ‘wacky’ as the title suggests, itgradually settles into humour that is rather basic but passable beforegoing for a more traditional plot that lacks humour and fails to reallybe that interesting. In some regards the turn away from the ‘wacky’first few minutes was a relieve because I really don’t like things thatknowingly describe themselves as ‘wacky’ (personal ads with the words’bubbly’ or ‘wacky’ are generally my idea of hell) and the humour atthe start of this just seemed too forced. However once it settles, itsettles into humour that isn’t very funny but is amiable enough. Thiscontinues with the usual ‘training’ stuff and ‘mishaps’ that passes forentertainment just about but then in the final 30/40 minutes it triesto actually have a plot – and falls to pieces as a result.

    By this point I didn’t really care about the plot more than a basicdescription and it was too late in the day to try and suddenly becomeengaging or exciting. The film also completely drops the humour (forwhat it was) and creates such a sudden change of tone that its likewatching another film – something that damages it even further. Ofcourse, its not awful, its just a film of two halves, neither of whichare much cop but neither of which are really bad. The cast doesn’t helpmuch either since most of them are fairly average and just play to thelevel of the humour. Lemmon tries hard but cannot do much other thanhis usual stuff – which isn’t as good when it is built on material likethis. Nelson is about as wooden as you could get and only has presencewhen he is given a musical number – he was a singer after all and neverreally convinced me as an actor. The support cast are pretty averageand you can see their basic characters in almost any other ‘uselessensemble crew’ movie that you can pick.

    Overall this is a strange film that doesn’t really work. It tries to bewacky and funny but the material is weak and it never really getsgoing, with the humour tailing off with every passing minute. When iteventually drops off altogether, the plot becomes more of a traditionalwar story but by then it is too hard to really care what is going onand it more or less fails too. As a total film it is a strange split;neither of the two halves really work but neither of them are bad. Theend result is a film that is just about passable but one that willdisappoint many who view it regardless of their expectations.

  7. Charles Tatum from North Dakota
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    In this WWII comedy, Jack Lemmon plays a young lieutenant who

    finally gets command of his own ship- a small sailboat with an

    inexperienced crew. Rick Nelson is his second in command, and

    the ship must sail. This lightweight comedy is not terribly funny, but

    not bad, either.

    The breezy feel of the film is helped by an almost complete lack of

    plot. Lemmon takes the boat through dangerous waters watched

    by the Japanese, picks up an Australian spy who tracks Japanese

    navy positions from the jungle, and sails him to the jungle. The

    ship is captured, but our heroes escape and return back to base.

    Aside from the Japanese, the only other conflict is between

    Lemmon and the ageless Richard Anderson, who plays a hard

    nosed commander ready to take over the sailboat.

    The film works mostly because of Lemmon. He is so good and so

    likable here, you forget little things like a romantic subplot that

    never pans out. Nelson even finds a chance to croon a song,

    giving us a break from the loud, unsubtle musical score.

    Despite the title, most of the humor here is derived from the men’s

    war situation; not anything terribly wacky happens. There are

    laughs, two running gags involve people knocking themselves on

    the head, and a funny one involving Lemmon’s quest for a decent

    cup of coffee. Another light moment that is not pounded into the

    ground- the men dress as natives, complete with grass skirts and

    coconut shell bras, to fool the enemy into thinking they are a local

    trading ship. The scene is funny without being racist andoffensive.

    The suspense about the mission is often undermined by a

    reliance on stock footage to show battle scenes. This is a comedy,

    yet we are watching actual footage of war, and this is a little

    unsettling. When director Murphy is allowed to shoot his own

    action sequences, they work, especially the cruise through the

    mined harbor.

    "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" spawned a television show, and

    that is about the level of the script. This is nothing that will change

    your life, but watching Lemmon’s comic skills and good nature

    make this an enjoyable enough time filler. I slightly recommendit.

    This is unrated, and contains some physical violence, some gun

    violence, and mild adult situations.

  8. JohnRouseMerriottChard from United Kingdom
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    The Wackiest Ship In The Army is directed by Richard Murphy and writtenby Herbert Carlson. It stars Jack Lemmon, Ricky Nelson & ChipsRafferty. It's filmed in CinemaScope and Eastman Color on location atPearl Harbour & Kauai (Charles Lawton Jr. director of photography).

    The basis for the film is to thrust the bemused Lemmon onto a past itssell by date schooner, and surround him with sea-faring characters whodon't know a stern from a mast. Cue confusion with a mission thatnobody is all too clear about and you get a knockabout farce launchedfrom an Australian port in 1943. The writing unleashes the usualstaples of people banging their heads on things, falling overboard andpulling exasperated looks from time to time. The last third of thepicture oddly shifts to something resembling drama as the missionunfolds, but it's an awkward fit and one has to wonder what theintention of the makers was from the off.

    Funny in parts but dreary in others, the film is only watchable forLemmon's gusto and Lawton Jr's lovely CinemaScope photography. 5/10

  9. wes-connors from Earth
    11 Feb 2013, 1:40 am

    Classic example of a film that looked better on paper. "The WackiestShip in the Army" begins by failing as it was obviously promoted; to bebrief, it isn't very "wacky". With the comedy ship sinking, the filmbecomes more dramatic; and, much more enjoyable. Jack Lemmon (as RipCrandall), an expert at comedy-drama, tries his best. Ricky Nelson (asTommy Hanson), an expert at quip delivery, is given almost nothing todo. Promoted as a "team", Mr. Lemmon and Mr. Nelson have no chemistry;and, to be fair, are given no discernible direction to that end.

    Nelson sings one song, "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?"Although sweet, it isn't one of his better, or representative, songs;but, it did fit the film's World War II setting. The scene with Lemmonaccompanying Nelson's singing, on piano, is interesting. Lemmon ticklesthe ivories, clearly uncomfortable in a "Bob Hope" role, while Nelsonsings to the recording as if it were an "Ozzie and Harriet" TV bonussong. Still, the stars, supporting cast, and colorful photography (byCharles Lawton Jr.) are never less than pleasant.

    **** The Wackiest Ship in the Army (12/29/60) Richard Murphy ~ JackLemmon, Ricky Nelson, Richard Anderson

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