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Front to back: McHale, Binghamton, Parker, Fuji, Carpenter, Tinker, Virgil, Christy, Willy, Gruber.
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||138 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||25–26 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Sto-Rev-Co Productions|
|Original run||October 11, 1962– April 12, 1966|
Front to back: McHale, Binghamton, Parker, Fuji, Carpenter, Tinker, Virgil, Christy, Willy, Gruber.
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||138 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||25–26 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Sto-Rev-Co Productions|
|Original run||October 11, 1962– April 12, 1966|
McHale's Navy is an American sitcom that aired 138 half-hour episodes over four seasons, from October 11, 1962, to April 12, 1966, on the ABC network. The series was filmed in black and white and originated from an hour drama called Seven Against the Sea, broadcast on April 3, 1962. Universal commissioned the colorization of the series in the 1980s for syndication in hope of reviving its popularity. Currently reruns of the series can be seen on American television through Antenna TV.
Academy Award-winning dramatic actor Ernest Borgnine as McHale first appeared as the lead character in a one-shot drama called Seven Against the Sea, which aired as an episode of Alcoa Premiere in 1962, an ABC dramatic anthology also known as Fred Astaire's Premiere Theatre and hosted by Fred Astaire, who introduced television audiences to the Quinton McHale character. It is considered the pilot show for the series.
During World War II, Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale (Borgnine) is the commanding officer (CO) of the U.S. Navy PT boat, PT-73, stationed at the Pacific island base Taratupa. In the late spring of 1942, the Japanese heavily bomb the island, destroying the base. Only 18 of 150 Naval Aviators and Marines on the base survive. With Japanese patrols in the region too heavy for a Navy rescue mission, McHale and his men survive by hiding on the island. Assisted by the native tribes whom they befriend, the sailors live a pleasant island existence. After months of leisurely life, strait-laced, by-the-book Annapolis graduate Lieutenant Durham (Ron Foster) parachutes onto the island. His job is to assume duties as McHale's executive officer (XO) and help him get the base on Taratupa back into action.
Durham faces an uphill battle: The men have gone native. One man has started a native laundry service, and McHale operates a still, making moonshine for the men and the natives. In addition, McHale is friendly with the native chief and even bathes with him. When Durham informs McHale of his orders, McHale refuses to follow them. It is clear that while McHale is as loyal as any American, following the devastation the Japanese rendered on the island attack, he is reluctant to risk losing more men. His concern now is for their survival until they can be rescued, which creates friction between Durham and McHale.
When they get word that a Marine battalion is pinned on a beach, and an enemy cruiser is planning to attack the beachhead in the morning, McHale's attitude changes. McHale is ordered to use all their boats to protect the beachhead and the Marines; but McHale has no boats, since the Japanese sank them all. However, McHale manages to capture a Japanese PT boat patrolling the island. Surprising the men and Durham, McHale does not plan to use the boat to evacuate his men or the Marine battalion. Instead, he will attack and destroy the Japanese cruiser. He estimates that since they are on a Japanese boat, flying a Japanese flag, that they can move in and torpedo the cruiser twice and send it to the bottom.
Seven Against the Sea is available for public viewing at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) in New York City and Los Angeles.
This episode of an early dramatic anthology series received respectable ratings and ABC ordered a series. However, the series it wanted was significantly different in tone from the pilot.
Producer Jennings Lang recalled the film Destination Gobi inspiring a half-hour comedy with the Borgnine character's PT boat. Coincidentally, the lead character in Destination Gobi, played by Richard Widmark, was named McHale.
This wacky military service comedy series was set in the Pacific theatre of World War II—for the last season the setting changed to the European theater in Italy—and focused on the loony misfit crew of PT-73, wily boys with crazy antics, led by Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, played by Ernest Borgnine.
The producer, Edward J. Montagne, had enjoyed success with The Phil Silvers Show (1955–1959), a military comedy about an opportunistic non-commissioned officer and his loyal platoon putting loony things over on the camp commander. While the pilot had been dramatic, with overtones of Henry Fonda's introspective Mister Roberts, Montagne turned the "McHale" project into "Bilko in the Navy", and recruited Bilko actors and writers. However, unlike The Phil Silvers Show, which was set in peacetime, McHale's Navy was set during World War II although much of what takes place is, in some ways, as if it were peacetime with the crew permanently stationed in one location and concerns about peacetime duties rather than fighting a war.
If Borgnine had misgivings about the show's new direction, he hid them and played straight-man to the comedians around him. At the time of the series, then- President John F. Kennedy was known as the wartime commander of PT-109. A popular book, PT 109: John F. Kennedy in WWII by Robert J. Donovan came out the previous year, and PT-109 was sometimes slyly referenced in a few episodes relating to a young commissioned PT boat officer.
The basic plot revolves around McHale's crew's wacky schemes to make money, get girls and have a ball, and the efforts of Captain Binghamton (McHale's superior) to rid himself of the PT-73 crew. Although they are forever getting into trouble they (almost always unwittingly) get out of trouble. Despite their scheming, conniving, often lazy and unmilitary ways, McHale's crew are always successful in combat in the end. The entire show is based on only two locations, one in the South Pacific at a fictional base called Taratupa (the inferred location is in the Solomon Islands) and an equally fictional town in Italy called Voltafiore. The first few episodes merely indicate that it is "Somewhere in the South Pacific 1943". While in the South Pacific McHale's crew lives on "McHale's Island", which is described as across the bay from Taratupa. It keeps them away from the main base where they were free to carry out their antics and even fight the war. In the final season Binghamton as well as the entire PT-73 crew move to the liberated Italian theater to the town of Voltafiore "in Southern Italy" "in late 1944".
Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine) — A principal character of the series, who's also a former captain of a tramp steamer who is familiar with the South Pacific and is especially knowledgeable about the islands and natives around Taratupa which often helps him in combat situations and makes him a favorite with the admirals (Borgnine actually served in the U.S. Navy during World War II). Like his crew he is unmilitary in many ways but always a strong and competent leader who is very protective of his crew. Also like his crew, McHale likes to wear Hawaiian style clothing when off duty and to use the PT-73 to go deep sea fishing and water skiing (as Gruber says in the 1964 movie McHale's Navy, "That's no officer, that's our skipper"). Gruff but lovable, he often calls his crew "schlockmeisters" and goofballs. He is called "Skip" by his crew. Although he very often bellows at them and tries to put his foot down, he loves his crew too much to be all that hard on them.
McHale's catchphrases are "Knock it off you eight-balls" and, when trying to come up with an excuse, a rapid "Well a, well a, well a". He speaks Japanese, Italian and local island dialects. In the 1964 movie McHale's Navy he briefly speaks fluent French. When the crew is in Italy, McHale's knowledge of Italian serves him quite well and his mother is Italian (however, both of Borgnine's parents were from Italy). In a dual role Borgnine played his lookalike Italian cousin, Giuseppe, who doesn't speak English in "Giuseppe McHale" and "The Return of Giuseppe".
Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker (Tim Conway) — McHale's likable, but goofy second-in-command, referred to by McHale as "Chuck" and by the crew as "Mister Parker" (in the U.S. Navy, officers ranking from Warrant Officer to Lieutenant Commander who are not commanding are often referred to as "Mister"). Tim Conway's bashful, unassertive, naïve, mildly gung-ho bungler often succeeds in spite of clownish ineptitude (a theme that was career-defining). Like Conway, Ensign Parker is from Chagrin Falls, OH. Parker was born between about 1916 and 1920 and worked for the Chagrin Falls Gazette.
Although he tries to be military, he is too much of a dimwitted klutz to command too much respect and many of the episodes involve Parker getting into trouble because of his bumbling and ineptitude such as accidentally firing depth charges or shooting down Allied aircraft. Even before becoming a member of McHale's crew, Ensign Parker's personnel file is a laundry list of major foul ups including crashing a Destroyer Escort into a dock. Because of Parker's considerable bumbling the crew tries to protect Parker whom they feel won't survive as an officer without their help. Also he is very slow to catch on and doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut (McHale usually gives Parker a discreet kick or stomp on the foot to get him to shut up). For instance when Binghamton says "the cat is out of the bag", Parker's says "I'm sure it's around here somewhere, Sir". "Here kitty kitty".
Parker's catchphrase is "Gee, I love that kind of talk" and he loves to cite naval regulations which he knows by heart, but somehow can never remember his serial number correctly. In the episode entitled "The Great Impersonation," Ensign Parker impersonates British General Smythe-Pelly (Conway in a dual role) in Noumea, New Caledonia (where he dodges assassins) while the actual general leads an invasion against Japanese forces. In another Conway dual role Parker impersonates Admiral Chester "Rockpile" Beaty in "The Seven Faces of Ensign Parker". In "H.M.S. 73" Parker poses as a phony British rear admiral, Sir Reggie Grother-Smyth and impersonates British Admiral Clivedon Sommers in "The British Also Have Ensigns". From time-to-time, Parker is called upon to fool Captain Binghamton with a voice impersonation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Parker also does an impersonation of Roosevelt in the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force).
Captain Wallace Burton Binghamton U.S.N.R. (Joe Flynn) — McHale's perpetually frustrated and exasperated commanding officer, referred to as "Old Leadbottom" (usually behind his back – a nickname he received from a bullet wound to the posterior), but in the first episode (An Ensign For McHale) calls himself "Square Rig Binghamton" and in another "Forty Knot Binghamton". He is a married Naval Reservist and his job before the war was as the Commodore of a yacht club on Long Island Sound (possibly the South Bay Yacht Club) and the editor of a yachting magazine. His wife, whom he calls "Pumpkin" (played by Ann Doran in "Pumpkin Takes Over"), lives in San Diego, CA. and calls him "Teddy Bear". In the 1964 movie McHale's Navy Binghamton implies that he is from Youngstown, OH. which is where Joe Flynn was born. He was born circa 1902.
Cantankerous and cross, Binghamton often dreams of a promotion to Admiral or occasionally military glory, but is much too inept, cowardly and a bit of a goof himself (early in the series Binghamton is a rather serious officer but becomes goofier as the series progresses). Binghamton does come close to a promotion to Admiral Rogers's staff in "The Balloon Goes Up", but because Binghamton took too long in getting things squared away (because of McHale's crew) someone else gets the promotion. The one time Binghamton leads the PT-73 into battle he only succeeds in sinking an enemy truck on land with a torpedo (a gag used in the Cary Grant movie Operation Petticoat).
Binghamton is constantly trying to "get the goods" on "McHale and his pirates" in order to send them to prison or get them transferred. And he comes close just about all the time only to have McHale's crew get out of trouble, usually by having some kind of military success, through some form of blackmail (such as telling the Admiral what really happened) or because Binghamton wants some kind of a favor from McHale. When he isn't complaining about McHale and his crew to his superiors Binghamton constantly tries to impress superior officers, VIPs or people with connections for personal gain – which usually backfires making him look foolish. As a running gag, Binghamton is forever being knocked down (usually by Parker or Carpenter) or covered with something messy (also usually because of Parker). Blind without his glasses, Binghamton also has his glasses knocked or taken off (to keep him from seeing something) a number of times. Occasionally he is seen throwing darts at a picture of McHale.
His catchphrases are: "What in the name of the Blue Pacific" or "What in the name of Nimitz (or Halsey)?" (as when he sees gambling or native dancing girls on McHale's Island), and "What is it, wha', wha', wha', what?!" (usually in response to McHale's "Well a, Well a, Well a"). A running gag has a frustrated Binghamton looking up and saying, "Why me? Why is it always me?" or "Somebody up there hates me!" His favorite catchphrase is "I could just scream!" which was once used by McHale and once by Carpenter.
Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter (Bob Hastings, a Bilko veteran) — Binghamton's sycophantic aide who is in many ways just like Ensign Parker. He is a bumbler and tries to be military, but is too inept to be taken all that seriously by anyone. He is slow to catch on and doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut. Also like Parker (as in many slapstick routines), he often knocks or causes Binghamton to be knocked down because of his clumsiness and dimwittedness. However, again like Parker, Carpenter is also subjected to Binghamton's tirades and mild physical abuse also used in slapstick routines. He was born circa 1912. and McHale calls him "Carpy" for short. Early in the first season, Lt. Carpenter commands a PT boat, the 107, but soon drifts into less responsibility. In the 1964 movie McHale's Navy Carpenter says he is from Cleveland, OH. In the sequel movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force Carpenter is in charge of PT-116 which is promptly sunk in the first few minutes of the movie.
Quartermaster George "Christy" Christopher (Gary Vinson, also starred in the dramatic pilot Seven Against the Sea) — Besides Binghamton, the only married man and the only one with any children. Christy marries Lt. Gloria Winters (Cindy Robbins) early in the series in "Operation Wedding Party" and she moves to San Diego, CA. They have a daughter not long afterwards in "The Big Raffle" episode. Because his crew helped them get married their daughter is named Quintina Charlene Leslie Wilhelmina Harriet Virginia Hetty Fujiana after the crew (for Quinton, Charles, Lester, Willy, Harrison, Virgil, Happy and Fuji).
Radioman Willy Moss (John Wright, also starred in the dramatic pilot Seven Against the Sea) — a good-natured Southerner from Tennessee who operates the crew's still and is in charge of radio and telephone communication for the crew. In "The British Also Have Ensigns" it is revealed he has 9 brothers and sisters.
Torpedoman's Mate Lester Gruber Carl Ballantine — a hustler and hack magician whose get-rich-quick schemes (such as promoting gambling, selling moonshine and war souvenirs) often get the crew in trouble (that is when the crew isn't stealing supplies or equipment). Gruber hails from Brooklyn, New York, worked in a used car sales lot and frequently references the Dodgers and Ebbets Field.
Gunner's Mate Virgil Edwards (Edson Stroll) — the handsome and well built lover boy who is a crack shot with a .50-caliber machine gun. According to the episode "The Truth Hurts" Virgil has been in the service at least 6 years.
Seaman Joseph "Happy" Haines (Gavin MacLeod, later of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat) — MacLeod left the series before its final season to appear in the movie The Sand Pebbles. He also appeared in the 1959 movie Operation Petticoat which has a few similarities to McHale's Navy.
Seaman 3rd Class Fuji Kobiaji (Yoshio Yoda) — the most unusual character in the series, a lovable Japanese POW and deserter from the Imperial Japanese Navy who becomes a de facto comrade whom the PT-73 crew keeps hidden from Binghamton and almost everyone outside of McHale's crew. However, in the episodes entitled "A Letter For Fuji" his name is given as Fujiwara Takeo and in "The August Teahouse of Quint McHale" and the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force it is given as Takeo Fujiwara. Although Fuji is a member of the Japanese military and has a girlfriend in Japan (Mioshi, whom he finds out is married) his only loyalty is to the PT-73 crew and not the Japanese war effort. According to the episodes "The Truth Hurts" and "The Vampire of Taratupa" Fuji is from Yokohama.
In exchange for being given a home and not sent to a POW camp, Fuji gladly serves as houseboy and cook. Keeping Fuji from Captain Binghamton and others is a running gag, with wacky consequences throughout the series. For instance, to avoid detection by Binghamton, Fuji is passed off as a Polynesian chief ("With a Japanese accent?" –Binghamton) in the first episode (An Ensign For McHale) and in the first episode in Europe (War, Italian Style) he is passed off as a member of the 442nd Japanese-American Regiment (where he finds a second cousin through his mother's family of Kobayashi). In "The Mothers of PT-73" and "Orange Blossoms for McHale" he is passed off as a Filipino and half Hawaiian in "Fuji's Big Romance". Fuji's catchphrases, spoken with a thick Japanese accent, are the Yiddish phrase "Oy vey" and the Italian phrase "Momma Mia". He calls McHale "Skip-a-san" (see Japanese honorifics).
The first episode entitled "An Ensign For McHale" sets the tone for the entire series. It involves Ensign Parker's assignment to McHale's crew after they already had gone through several ensigns who couldn't put up with their unmilitary, slovenly and insubordinate ways. Parker is given one week by Binghamton to reform the crew or be given the worst reassignment possible. At first the crew treats Parker as badly as they treated the other ensigns, but after McHale sees Parker has integrity he decides to help Parker out by having his crew be much more like regular Navy.
The final season saw a total change of scenery as Binghamton, Carpenter and the entire PT-73 crew, along with Fuji (who hid in the -73 as it was being transported), move to the liberated Italian theater in "late 1944" to the coastal town of Voltafiore in "Southern Italy" where Binghamton becomes the Military Governor and they become members of PT Boat Squadron 19. Moneymaking schemes of the wacky and somewhat crooked Mayor Mario Lugatto (Jay Novello) and the looney antics of the citizens introduce many more plot twists and gags. For instance, when McHale and his crew first arrive in Voltafiore they are greeted by the newly liberated citizens with the Nazi salute Sieg Heil. While Binghamton and Carpenter live nicely in the city hall, McHale and his men are forced by Binghamton to bivouac in tents near the beach. However, they stumble on an abandoned wine cellar which becomes their secret underground hideout where they hide Fuji (and of course Binghamton nearly discovers it several times). They later add a submarine style periscope and fancy furnishings. Colonel Douglas Harrigan (Henry Beckman) of the U.S. Army is, as the overall military commander of the area, Binghamton's superior and a thorn in Binghamton's side. A schemer, Harrigan is sometimes on McHale's side, sometimes on Binghamton's side, or plays one against the other—whatever suits his purposes. Beckman also played Colonel Platt in the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force.
In "McHale the Desk Commando" McHale learns what a tough job it is when he replaces Binghamton as base commander of Taratupa so Binghamton doesn't have to face tough-as-nails Admiral "Iron Pants" Rafferty (Philip Ober), who is inspecting naval installations (an episode with a young Raquel Welch as Lt. Wilson). About the only other time Binghamton betters the PT-73 crew is in the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. He does so by pushing them off the dock one at a time (except Parker who jumps off after the others were pushed off – McHale and Gruber were not in the movie).
Sometimes Binghamton tries to use legitimate means to get rid of McHale and/or his crew (although usually in an underhanded way). In "All Chiefs and No Indians" Binghamton tries to get the whole crew promoted to Chief Petty Officers so they will be split up and reassigned. When they deliberately fail the exams after they find out what Binghamton is up to Binghamton gives them all passing grades anyway. Another example is in the episode entitled "Little Red Riding Doctor" in which Don Knotts is Army psychiatrist Lt. Pratt who Binghamton tries to con into believing McHale's crew is suffering a terrible case of combat fatigue and should be sent back to the States.
The two movies with the same basic cast McHale's Navy and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (both in color), have the same basic plot scheme as the show in the South Pacific and in many ways were merely extensions of the show. Even parts of the filming location for New Caledonia in the first movie are the identical to episodes from the show. Both movies give fans a chance to see McHale's Navy in vibrant color.
At the end of the fourth season in 1966 low ratings and repetitive story lines brought McHale's Navy to an end.
Many of the episodes in the South Pacific involve interactions with native islanders. The most colorful is Polynesian chief and witchdoctor, Pali Urulu (Jacques Aubuchon), who is as shifty and scheming as McHale and his men. When McHale and the crew are in Urulu's village, the chief displays a portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; when the Japanese troops arrive, Urulu turns it over to reveal a portrait of Japanese Emperor Hirohito (in another episode he does the same thing with the Japanese flag and the American flag). Though "primitive", Urulu is like Gruber (from whom he learns a lot, usually to Gruber's regret) a hustler who is always looking for ways to make money or get money from the Navy. In the episode entitled "We Do The Voodoo", after Binghamton refuses to pay Urulu for damage to his coconut grove, Urulu uses his powers to put a curse on Binghamton who then has a streak of bad luck. In "The Balloon Goes Up" Urulu displays the sign "Gone Headhunting" when he leaves his hut and is called a cannibal by Binghamton and McHale (no indication that it is meant to be taken literally). Aubuchon also played the Russian sailor Dimitri in the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force.
Another shifty character is "Big Frenchy" played by George Kennedy in episodes entitled "French Leave For McHale" and "The Return of Big Frenchy". He is a thieving French smuggler and captain of a small boat and an old friend of McHale's who knows better than to turn his back to him. In "The Return of Big Frenchy", he convinces Binghamton and Parker that he is a member of the "French Underground" (Free French) so he can steal supplies. Kennedy also played businessman Henri Le Clerc of New Caledonia in the 1964 movie McHale's Navy. Kennedy began his career in showbiz as a technical adviser on the Bilko show.
The show has its share of admirals. Admiral Rogers is played by Roy Roberts in 22 episodes. In some episodes his first name is John while in others it's Bruce. Herbert Lytton played Admiral Roscoe G. Reynolds in 11 episodes. Bill Quinn played Admirals Benson, Slocum & Bruce Elliott in 6 episodes. Willis Bouchey played Admiral Hawkins in 3 episodes. Admiral Rafferty was played by Philip Ober in "McHale, the Desk Commando" and "McHale's Floating Laudromat". Ted Knight played Admiral "Go-Go" Granger in "The Fountain of Youth" and "One of Our Engines is Missing". In "Uncle Admiral" Harry Von Zell played Ensign Parker's uncle Vice Admiral Tim "Bull Dog" Parker. Simon Scott played General Bronson 9 times when the show is in Italy.
Peggy Mondo played several varied roles in the series. She played the heavyset daughter of a Polynesian chief, "Little Flower", who is always looking for a husband such as Ensign Parker or even Binghamton. Mondo also played Fifi in "French Leave for McHale" and a few episodes as Mama Giovanni and Rosa Giovanni when the crew is in Italy. Stanley Adams played a native chief, the Shah of Durani and also political boss Frank Templeton in the last episode "Wally for Congress". Richard Jury played Lt. Plowright in "Parents Anonymous" and a goofy dentist in "The Novocain Mutiny". Both Syl Lamont, who played Yeoman Tate, and Clay Tanner, who played a Marine guard, appeared in the series a number of times. Tony Franke also appeared in the series several times and as Sgt. Frank Tresh in the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. Dick Wilson played Voltafiori citizen and partner of the mayor, Dino Baroni. Walter Brooke and Nelson Olmstead each played several different Naval officers. Among the actors who repeatedly played Japanese soldiers and sailors are Dale Kino (who also played a Nisei sergeant), John Fujioka and Mako (who starred in the movie The Sand Pebbles which Gavin MacLeod left the series to appear in).
In "The Missing Link" Marlo Thomas played Binghamton's niece, Cynthia Prentice, who takes an interest in Ensign Parker although it turns out entirely for anthropological reasons. In "Camera, Action, Panic" Arte Johnson played the bumbling Cameraman Sweeney who is making a movie of the PT-73 crew in action. In "Is There a Doctor in the Hut" Bernie Kopell (who starred with Gavin MacLeod on The Love Boat) played Colonel Pryer who is the obnoxious manager of the movie star Rita Howard played by Lisa Seagram. In "Hello McHale? Colonna!", McHale finagles to have comic Jerry Colonna do an unscheduled Special Services show. Pat Harrington Jr played the thieving Guido Panzini in "McHale's Country Club Caper". Steve Franken played the snooty Lt. Jason Whitworth III in "Birth of a Salesman" who Binghamton hopes will give him a job selling insurance after the war. George Furth played the self-centered Roger Whitfield III who tries to take advantage of Binghamton's hopes to get his old job back at the yacht club owned by Whitfield's father in "Dart Gun Wedding". Marvin Kaplan played the MIT electronics genius Ensign Eugene J. Kwazniak in "All Ahead, Empty" in which the 73 is wired for remote control. Bernard Fox played the clumsy Sub-Lieutenant Cedric Clivedon in "The British Also Have Ensigns". Susan Silo played Virgil's stowaway girlfriend Babette in "Babette, Go Home". Jesse Pearson played singing idol Harley Hatfield in "The Rage of Taratupa". In "Make Room for Orvie", Michael Burns played 18 year old Seaman Orvie Tuttle who is the newest member of the PT-73 crew, but who doesn't go with the crew when they move to Italy in the next episode. In "The Comrades of 73", in which the 73 is slated to be sent to the Soviet Union as part of Lend Lease, Sue Ane Langdon played Russian Commander Krasni and Cliff Norton played Russian Admiral Gurevitch (Norton also played an Australian sergeant major in the 1964 movie McHale's Navy and Major Bill Grady in the movie McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force).
McHale's always hopeful love interest while the show is in the South Pacific is Navy Nurse Molly Turner (Bilko's Jane Dulo), a New Jersey gal who is always trying to corner the ever romantically elusive McHale. Another love interest of the reluctant McHale is an old friend and a bit of a wildcat Kate O'Hara (Joyce Jameson). At first his crew tries to get McHale interested in her, then Kate tries to blackmail McHale into marrying her and then Binghamton tries to blackmail her into marrying McHale when she tries to back out herself. Yet another love interest of the always reluctant McHale is Maggie Monohan (Jean Willes) in "The Return of Maggie", the owner of a gambling joint in New Caledonia and an old flame of McHale's who wants him back but he doesn't want her back (Willes played a very similar role as Margot Monet in the 1964 movie McHale's Navy). Willes also played Congresswoman Clara Carter Clarke in "Send Us a Hero".
Though painfully shy around women, Ensign Parker's love interest in the South Pacific is a lovely French girl from a nearby island, Yvette Gerard, played by Claudine Longet (who also played an almost identical character, Andrea Bouchard of New Caledonia, in the 1964 movie McHale's Navy). In "A Medal for Parker", his girlfriend back home in Chagrin Falls is Mary (Kathleen Gately) who is more interested in dating a war hero than Parker. While the very bashful Parker is shy around women, women aren't always shy around Parker such as in "The Happy Sleepwalker" when Lt. Nancy Culpepper (Sheila James) finds Parker irresistible. In "The Vampire of Taratupa", Parker dates Lt. Melba Benson (Ann Elder) who is as big a klutz as he is. In the episode entitled "36-24-73", situated in Italy, there are hints of a relationship developing between Parker and by-the-book female Ensign Sandra Collins (Maura McGiveney) after he sternly corrects her about what sections certain regulations are in (they then talk about what regulations are their favorites). Along with other WAVES clad in bathing suits they provide valuable (albeit totally unwitting) assistance in capturing a German U-Boat when the U-Boat captain runs the U-Boat aground trying to get a better look. McGiveney also played the part of Judy in "The Stool Parrot" episode.
Although the crew (especially the lover boy Virgil) is forever chasing women (Navy nurses, native island girls or local Italian women) certain women gain their interest more than others. After receiving a "Dear John Letter", shy and broken-hearted Willy's love interest becomes Southern belle Nurse Cindy Bates (Brenda Wright). Tinker's love interest in "Scuttlebutt" is the fickle Nurse Betsy Gordon (Barbara Werle). Happy's love interest in "The Happy Sleepwalker" is Lt. Anne Wright (Lois Roberts). When Gruber's girlfriend Ginger (Jean Hale) shows up to surprise him in "Lester, the Skipper", McHale is talked into letting Gruber pretend he is the Lieutenant Commander of the -73 while she is there. Lonely Fuji falls for a lovely Polynesian daughter of chief, Sulani (Yvonne Ribuca), when the guys take him along to one of their luaus with the native islanders in "Fuji's Big Romance". Other than Binghamton and Christy none of the regular characters on the show are married and only Christy has any children.
Except where noted, the actors appeared on the show in every season:
In several episodes, principal actors played dual roles, including:
Like most comical shows about war there are bound to be at least some historical inaccuracies including typically no one ever getting killed or seriously injured (even when a bomb explodes right next to them) and the enemy willing to surrender very easily (which in the case of the Japanese is very much historically inaccurate). Also PT boats were lightly armored and very vulnerable to enemy fire, but other than a few bullet holes (which usually disappear by the next scene) and easily repairable damage to the engine or fuel tanks the PT-73 is in the series rather invulnerable. And despite this, the series was known as being fairly historically accurate, at least more so than the series Hogan's Heroes and F Troop.
In the first episode entitled "An Ensign for McHale" Binghamton points to a map of New Zealand and the surrounding ocean areas. He indicates that the Japanese are all around New Zealand and that the Taratupa base is located immediately below New Zealand's South Island. Although Japanese submarines and even sometimes German U-Boats were a threat to shipping in and out of New Zealand, the Japanese never seriously threatened New Zealand or controlled areas near New Zealand. The only American military forces stationed in New Zealand were only stationed on New Zealand's North Island and there would have been very little reason for the U.S. Navy to have a military base at the south end of New Zealand. In "The Ghosts of 73", Binghamton indicates on a map that McHale's Island (and Taratupa) are located just off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. Here again, the U.S. Navy had no PT Boat bases in New Zealand and New Zealand was relatively far from any combat zone as depicted in the series. A map of the area around Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands that hung on Binghamton's office wall behind his desk would infer Taratupa's fictional location (a goof in "Alias PT 73" has the map upside down early in the episode and then correctly hung later in the episode). In the episode entitled "One Enchanted Weekend", McHale points on a map of the Solomon Islands to an island along the Indispensable Strait and indicates that it is not far from the fictional Taratupa. Also the Solomon Islands was the closest war zone in the Pacific Theatre to New Caledonia which is referred to on numerous occasions where the PT-73 crew would go for R&R. The island of Tulagi, just north of Guadalcanal, was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II as a PT boat base for year and may have served as a role model for the fictional Taratupa. However, in "McHale and his Schweinhunds", Binghamton and McHale point on a map to an island northwest of Borneo in what was then the Dutch East Indies as not far from Taratupa, but this would be very far into Japanese territory for 1943 and very far from Tulagi.
Despite the fact that during World War II the front line constantly moved forward and, according to the series, the crew had been together about three years, the entire series is based on only two locations one on a fictional island in the South Pacific and the other in a fictional liberated town in Southern Italy. Also much of what takes place is, in some ways, as if it were peacetime with the crew permanently stationed in one location and concerns about peacetime duties rather than fighting the war. In reality PT boats and squadrons were moved several times to new bases as the front moved forward.
In the final year of the series the entire crew and ship are transferred from the Pacific Theatre to the European Theatre in "late 1944". While it was not uncommon for larger vessels to be transferred from one theatre to the other it would have been rather strange to take the time and go to the expense to transfer very small vessels like PT boats, as well as the entire crew, particularly to the European Theatre. After the invasion of France in the summer of 1944 and the Allies started winning the War of the Atlantic the U.S. Navy then shifted its emphasis to winning the war in the Pacific and sent men and ships to that theatre of the war (in other words if the Navy would have bothered to move a PT boat and crew from one theatre to the other in late 1944 it would have been from the European Theatre to the Pacific Theatre).
According to the episode "War, Italian Style", when Binghamton, Carpenter and the Pt-73 crew move to the newly liberated town of Voltafiore in Southern Italy they are part of "PT Boat Squadron 19". This squadron was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and never served in the European Theatre. Only two U.S. PT boat bases were established in Italy during World War II. The first was as an advanced base in September 1943 in Capri on the Island of Anacapri in the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy and the other in the City of Livorno (Leghorn in English) in Northern Italy in October 1944 (Livorno had been liberated a few months earlier in July 1944).
In "The August Teahouse of Quint McHale" several items McHale's crew stole from supplies are labeled U.S.A.F. which stands for United States Air Force. However, the U.S. Air Force during World War II was part of the U.S. Army and was known as the United States Army Air Forces or U.S.A.A.F. The U.S. Air Force didn't become a separate branch of the U.S. military until 1947.
The series depicts Japanese submarines and German U-Boats trying to hit the fast moving PT-73 with a torpedo. PT boats were too fast and maneuverable to be hit by a torpedo all that easily. The more likely scenario would involve the submarine or U-Boat surfacing and then shelling the PT boat with its deck gun.
Although the series is set during World War II, women on the series do not have hairstyles common during the war, but rather have hairstyles common during the early 1960s when the series was produced. Several references are made to nurses wearing Bikinis. The modern Bikini was not invented until 1946 and was named after Bikini Atoll after it started being used for numerous atomic bomb tests after World War II.
In several interviews Ernest Borgnine said that the U.S. Navy sent over a technical adviser but after the filming of the first episode the adviser walked off the set in disgust because of the show's farcical and comical portrayal of the Navy saying "Don't call us; we'll call you".
As a note of clarity, in the episode entitled "The Comrades of 73", situated in the South Pacific in 1943-1944, the United States and the Soviet Union are correctly portrayed as allies without any suggestion that they are allies against Japan. The Soviet Union did not declare war against Japan until August 8, 1945—two days after the U.S. dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945. By the end of the series the PT-73 and crew are fighting in Italy and Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 well before the Soviet Union declared war on Japan.
The real life PT-73 was finished being built on August 12, 1942 by Higgins Industries, inc., New Orleans, LA. It was 78 feet long, weighed 56 tons and had a top speed of 40 knots. It was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13 under the command of Commander James B. Denny, USN. The squadron participated in the Aleutian Islands Campaign from March 1943 to May 1944. The squadron was then transferred to the Southwest Pacific where the squadron saw action at Mios Woendi, Dutch New Guinea; Mindoro, Philippine Islands; and Brunei Bay, Borneo. The squadron was also based for a time at Dreger Harbor, New Guinea, and San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands, but saw no action from these bases. Overall the real life PT-73 did not have the kind of illustrious combat record depicted in the series. On January 15, 1945 it ran aground off Lubang Island in the Philippine Islands after delivering supplies to Filipino guerrillas and was destroyed by the crew to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
The Pacific Ocean naval base stood on the back lot of Universal Studios. For years after the show went off the air, the sets were an attraction on the studio tour. The portion of the Universal Studios tour involving Bruce the Shark attacking the tourist tram takes place on McHale's Lagoon, according to the tour guides.
There were three PT-73 boats used in the show. One was for shots at sea and two were converted 63-foot World War II Army Air Force Sea Rescue boats based at Universal Studios. The vessel used in filming the PT-73 underway was a 72-foot type II Vosper MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat), a British design built in the U.S. for export to Russia. The war ended in August 1945 before the boat, the number of which was PT-694, was sent to the Soviet Union. The boat was purchased by Howard Hughes for a chase boat for the only flight of his Spruce Goose aircraft. The boat was sold to the studio—as there were few PT boats in existence—and liberties were taken in reconfiguring it to look like a PT boat (machine gun turrets were added to both sides of the pilot house, and a mainmast was added aft of mid-hull). Shots of the crew aboard the PT-73 were staged on a full-scale mock-up at Universal.
PT-73's final appearance was in the 1970s show Emergency! ("Quicker Than the Eye", season 4, episode 8, aired: 11/9 1974). Station 51 was dispatched to a movie studio to rescue a man trapped beneath a boat. The boat in question was being moved from one end of the studio to another by truck and wooden supports holding it had broken and trapped a man underneath. "PT-73" is visible on the bow, appearing as if the numbers had been removed, but an image of them remained. The boat was missing the pilot house, masts, and depth charges.
PT-73 was sold to the mayor of Hawthorne, California, Hal Crozer, and converted to a sport fishing boat. In 1992, the boat was destroyed when it broke from its mooring near Santa Barbara and washed up on the beach during a storm.
Producer Edward Montagne set up a female version of McHale's Navy entitled Broadside, which ran for 32 episodes in the 1964–1965 ABC season. In place of the PT crew were a group of WAVES led by Lt j.g. Anne Morgan (Kathleen Nolan) consisting of Joan Staley, Sheila James, Lois Roberts and Jimmy Boyd (as a male with a female name), up against Binghamton type Captain Edward Andrews and his Lt Carpenter clone George Furth. Furth guest starred in an episode of McHale's Navy entitled, "Dart Gun Wedding". Dick Sargent provided a love interest for Nolan.
Although not an actual spinoff, Tim Conway and Joe Flynn teamed up playing characters with similar personalities in The Tim Conway Show, which lasted only 12 episodes in 1970 (see Tim Conway).
There were two feature film spin-offs based on the series: McHale's Navy (1964) and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965). The cast appeared in both films, with the exception of Borgnine and Ballantine in the latter film; Borgnine was not available due to schedule conflicts with the filming of The Flight of the Phoenix; it is not known why Ballantine was absent. To beef up the crew, Gavin MacLeod, who left the series, returned for this appearance. In a Cinema Retro interview, Borgnine said the producer Edward Montagne wanted to make the film cheaply, without him and would not show him the script.
Both films were extended-length episodes of the series, without laugh tracks. While both did well at the box office, the latter film was not as successful and was derided by critics as being too excessive in its use of slapstick comedy, though others praised it for satirizing of military incompetence (after a typical screw-up, the Japanese POW Fuji sighs, "Beats me how they beating us."). William Lederer, who co-authored the second film with John Fenton Murray, used scenes lifted directly from his comic novel, All the Ships at Sea. Unlike the television series, both movies were filmed in Technicolor.
In 1997 a sequel was released, starring Tom Arnold as McHale's US Naval Academy graduate son, which showed the PT-73 and its crew operating in a modern, post-World War II setting in the Caribbean. Borgnine has a cameo appearance as the senior McHale, commanding rear admiral of what appears to be the United States Naval Special Warfare Command and going by the code name "Cobra."
Shout! Factory has released all four seasons of McHale's Navy on DVD in Region 1. In Australia, Madman Entertainment has released all 4 seasons on DVD. Madman Entertainment had released the first three season in Australia on August 3, 2009 in Slimline packaging replacing the original releases which, were box sets. In June 2011, a Slimline packaged set of Season 4 was seen in Big W stores in Australia in Region 4, however, there are no details on the item being available elsewhere.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 4|
|Season 1||36||March 20, 2007||August 16, 2007|
|Season 2||36||September 11, 2007||November 8, 2007|
|Season 3||36||March 18, 2008||August 6, 2008|
|Season 4||30||November 18, 2008||May 20, 2009|
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