I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who was clinically paranoid. But if I ever meet someone with that mental illness, I do know that he’ll be rolling two steel balls in his hand. I know that because that’s what Humphrey Bogart (Great American Things, August 11, 2009) did as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny.
As the minesweeper destroyer USS Caine performed its duties during World War II, the sailors on board noticed increasingly strange behavior from their Captain. Eventually, a lieutenant played by Fred MacMurray tells the rest of the crew that Queeg is crazy, and they have a duty to remove him from command. The second-in-command, another great Van Johnson role, eventually agrees. During a typhoon, the Captain’s erratic decisions threaten to capsize the Caine, so Johnson steps in and relieves Bogart of his duties. When they return to port, Johnson and MacMurray face a court-martial for mutiny.
I don’t want to spoil the ending in case you haven’t seen the film. José Ferrer is the defense counsel, and is the conscience of the film. And Bogart’s testimony is one of the most fascinating scenes ever shot on film, and perhaps his greatest ever on-screen moment.
Although the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, it didn’t win any. The Caine Mutiny was the second-highest-grossing film of 1954, coming in behind only White Christmas. (Great American Things, December 24, 2009)