Ensign for McHale
Captain Binghamton assigns a new executive officer to Lt. Cmdr. McHale with the expectation of bringing him about, as it were. McHale is a tramp steamer captain knowledgeable of the islands, he received his commission from Admiral Reynolds. Binghamton makes the mistake of admiring Ensign Parker’s foolish dressing-down of a Marine sentry, gives him the job.
“Square-rigged” Binghamton formerly edited Atlantic Yachting Magazine, and “ran a yacht club on Long Island Sound.”
The installation harboring PT 73 bears a sign forbidding armed forces personnel, but “Girls come on in!”, it’s called McHale’s Island. Parker says nothing of the dire consequences awaiting him should he fail, the commander admires this show of “moxie”, his men turn out for inspection in top form. Fuji, a Japanese deserter kept from prisoner-of-war camp as a cook, is spied by Capt. Binghamton but passed off as a native chief.
PT 73, Where Are You?
The single solitary joke is stated by Virgil, “I lost the boat.” He parked it for a date, walked the girl home and couldn’t find it.
Binghamton goes to town throwing every book in the naval library at McHale and his crew. Gruber simply goes out and paints their number on another boat, Lt. Carpenter’s PT 116, a thoroughly GI craft with torpedoes instead of beer cans in its tubes, ammo instead of chips and pretzels, etc.
Carpenter is Binghamton’s idea of “real Navy”. He reports, “we lost our boat.” It’s replaced for him.
PT 73 now gets underway as scheduled for “wine, women and hot showers” on New Caledonia, transporting the monthly reports, an admiral’s reward for services rendered against a submarine. Alas, no beer en route.
Movies Are Your Best
John Wayne, Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart are Capt. Binghamton’s heroes, their films are screened for him at once and exclusively, the crew of PT 73 watch a certain Penelope sing over and over again, “and they swam and they swam right over the dam”, etc.
There is a question of a switcheroo under the supply officer’s nose. It doesn’t work, so behind his back the switch is made.
There is a convoy due to pass under the guns of a Japanese emplacement. With the weapons at his command, McHale attacks.
The battle scenes of Action in the North Atlantic, etc., are pieced together on a single reel, which is run for the soundtrack alone to perplex a lone guard on the island’s other end. His report moves the emplacement.
“Now I lay me down to sleep” is the only prayer Ensign Parker knows, he recites it.
Operation Wedding Party
Christy wants to marry Nurse Winters, a lieutenant. There’s a padre on Kuakai, the secret slips out, Gruber caters a wedding party that swells to two PT boats with a three-tier cake and a wedding dress of war materiel stamped “Property of U.S. Air Force” behind.
Captain Binghamton orders an exercise on the night in question. Nurse Molly gives him a checkup by directive of ComFleet, with bed rest indicated and a sedative injected subcutaneously behind.
No sooner does the bridegroom kiss the bride than the shelling starts. He’s carried to sick bay on a stretcher in perfect health for his wedding night with the former Gloria Winters. A surly Binghamton in the ward receives a commendation from the admiral.
Who Do the Voodoo
Chief Pali Urulu demands compensation for his damaged coconut trees, “a nice round number, like my coconuts.” Denied, he chants a sequence of native words to put a curse on Binghamton. “I don’t care who your law firm is,” says the captain, “get outta here!”
Accidents befall him everywhere, until the hapless reserve officer is obliged to send in a form for the money.
Admiral Homer “Horrible” Hawkins is sent to replace him. McHale sets Gruber up as a witch doctor to undo the curse. Gruber in tribal costume outfits Capt. Binghamton with a bird headdress, Pali Urulu asks, “What happen, him flip wig?”
“What in the name of the Great White Fleet,” asks Adm. Hawkins, “is going on here?” He gets the curse instead.
It’s lifted from Binghamton by virtue of Gruber’s amateur magic act. He places a seed in the ground, covers it with a cloth, a mango tree doesn’t appear. “Shoulda used water.” But in the hour of need, it does, the chief gets a fresh mango, Gruber and McHale lift their eyes heavenward and say, “Thank you.”
The Ensign Gets a Zero
Ensign Parker can’t shoot, but that’s no reason to send him to the Arctic regions. Gruber changes his score, Capt. Binghamton puts him up against the best gunner on a rival’s ship, firing at tow targets. Parker shoots down the tow plane.
Fuji is dressed up in souvenirs, a captured pilot’s overalls and helmet, and picked up by PT 73 when Parker shoots his plane down, “coming in out of the sun” and zeroing in on Capt. Binghamton’s gold braid, en route to the victorious gunner’s ship for the ensign’s Artic duties.
Binghamton’s glasses are misplaced during the attack. Lt. Cmdr. McHale puts Parker in for a commendation, the captain agrees.
The Big Raffle
A classic variation on a logical theme. Gloria is Stateside and expecting, Christy lacks the needful. A bombshell on the cover of Yank gives Gruber the bright idea of raffling off “An Evening in Paris”, a date with the daughter of a French plantation owner rescued from the Japanese by PT 73.
Ens. Parker finds it difficult to look at her in a borrowed ensemble that is “snug”, as she puts it, let alone ask her, but she is agreeable, the cause is good.
Tickets are sold throughout the fleet, the kid is going to college all expenses paid. A Marine sergeant enforces a fair draw.
There is a great deal of huggermugger about keeping this from Capt. Binghamton, so that the girl is seen wearing Parker’s uniform, and he in his skivvies.
The winner arrives to claim his prize, he is the admiral known heretofore by his last name only, who introduces himself, “I’m Roscoe G. Reynolds.”
The admirable finish has the child born a girl, named as promised after each member of the crew in a long string of feminized names beginning with Quintine.
One Enchanted Weekend
The Japanese are jamming radio transmissions, Capt. Binghamton goes to ComFleet for a consultation. All leaves are canceled, so McHale sets up Ens. Parker on Yvette Gerard’s island as a coastwatcher, where he watches the Japanese invade the coast and seize the house.
Parker and Yvette are only on a first-name basis (“don’t be so formal, call me Shuck”), now he is disguised as a Frenchman and her husband, for his protection. Mako as the Japanese captain is puzzled by these honeymooners.
McHale and the crew rescue Parker as fellow French planters come to visit. The Japanese are captured, the jamming station blown up.
Capt. Binghamton is obliged to present a unit citation, with the admiral’s personal “well done”.
Even the Frenchman’s anecdote (with George Kennedy) is thrown in to show the foundation of the series in South Pacific, here of course the “town bully” does not die but wants to be indemnified for his pier at Noumea, he “owns half the town”.
The Australian Derby (later Ensign Parker as an ANZAC) starts the ball rolling, the horses have to be evacuated, there’s a debt to honor and also Sister Monique’s orphanage to maintain, the further expense on New Caledonia, and a fine purse at Noumea with one of the evacuees, whose ship was torpedoed.
Bosley Crowther (New York Times) had occasion to write, “which I found a little hard to grasp”, his readership must have been astounded. Variety was also out to lunch, “doesn’t attempt to prove any point.”
The Reluctant Astronaut
This is the pure
poetry of the Space Age, and exactly what was intended by the words “pure
poetry,” the distillation of a state of mind.
It all comes from a famous Bugs Bunny cartoon, and NASA’s rocket sled never had a more telling subject.