Different view on Keefer


Clearly, the villain in the movie is Tom Keefer. Keefer takes the stand and basically throws Lt. Maryk under the bus. Keefer's testimony is indefensible. However, its Keefer's actions before the court martial that can be credibly justified. The most important point is Keefer's diagnosis of Queeg was spot-on. Second, Keefer's contempt for the Navy was only in the aggregate. He appeared to be a competent officer. He was popular with the crew. He was friendly and supportive of Maryk and Ensign Keith. In fact, he appeared to have a respectful and supportive relationship with Captain DeVriess.

When Keefer first explained his diagnosis to Maryk, Maryk was unconvinced. It was only after observing Queeg for several months, that Maryk questioned Queeg's mental capacity. While it can certainly be argued that Keefer should have joined Maryk in presenting their concerns to Adm. Halsey, Keefer's reasoning was correct. Everything Queeg did would be interpreted by the Navy as an attempt to enforce discipline. In fact, even after Maryk relieves Queeg and saves the ship from floundering, the Navy prosecutes Maryk and supports Queeg. In the height of the typhoon, Queeg froze while the ship was endangered. Maryk relieved Queeg, changed course and maneuvered through the typhoon. I believe that Maryk would have taken the exact same action had Keefer never defined the term paranoia.

Lt. Greenwald was dripping with contempt for Maryk, Keefer and Keith at their initial meeting. Although Maryk was not the most sophisticated defendant in the world, he inexplicably auditioned for Greenwald's representation. It was at this point that Keefer gave an intelligent and forceful defense of Maryk. However, instead of immediately scheduling a deposition, Greenwald rejects Keefer's potential testimony and accuses Keefer of being an accomplice. Admittedly, it was at this point that Keefer's cowardice took hold. Keefer's subsequent testimony relinquished any claim of redemption. Had Keefer not succumbed to Greenwald's intimidation, his actions, up to that point, would have been totally justified.

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Keefer was an elitist snob who thought the Navy was beneath him, and as usual with elitists, they're out of touch with reality, and the whole thing with Keefer playing amateur psychiatrist was just a little game to him, he didn't realize the seriousness of the situation he was toying with on the Caine, until later on.

But the reality and seriousness of the situation finally hit Keefer when he chickened-out of seeing Admiral Halsey, and when he was called to the bridge and learned that Maryk had relieved Queeg, he was shocked -- Keefer never thought it would come to that -- I mean, the look on Keefer's face when Maryk told him he relieved Queeg.

Queeg, I never liked at all, I think he was a vindictive bastard. He knew damn well what he had done on the Caine, he knew he froze on the bridge, he knew he turned the ship upside down just to look for strawberries, yet he was all set to let Maryk and Keith hang. If Queeg had any real guts, he would've admitted in court that he did in fact, freeze on the bridge, and to his other antics on the Caine, as well. And Queeg also lied his ass off on the witness stand, and did worse than lie, he gave weasel answers, "I don't recall," "I don't recall."

Everybody in the Naval ranks sided with Queeg because Queeg represented the old Navy establishment.

And Barney Greenwald, in my opinion, needed a punch in the nose. I couldn't stand him. He was a loud mouth who had no idea what he was talking about, he wasn't even aboard the Caine. After he does his job and gets Maryk off, he feels all guilty and takes it out on the Officers of the Caine -- if he felt as he did, then he shouldn't have taken the job of defending Maryk in the first place. The guy had no backbone. I bet if Maryk had been found guilty, Greenwald would've come down on Queeg.

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Queeg, I never liked at all, I think he was a vindictive bastard. He knew damn well what he had done on the Caine, he knew he froze on the bridge, he knew he turned the ship upside down just to look for strawberries, yet he was all set to let Maryk and Keith hang. If Queeg had any real guts, he would've admitted in court that he did in fact, freeze on the bridge, and to his other antics on the Caine, as well. And Queeg also lied his ass off on the witness stand, and did worse than lie, he gave weasel answers, "I don't recall," "I don't recall."
could queeg have been tried for perjury? he lied as much as keefer did. i agree with you, queeg was a gutless s.o.b. willing to let someone hang for his own incompetence.

And Barney Greenwald, in my opinion, needed a punch in the nose. I couldn't stand him. He was a loud mouth who had no idea what he was talking about, he wasn't even aboard the Caine. After he does his job and gets Maryk off, he feels all guilty and takes it out on the Officers of the Caine -- if he felt as he did, then he shouldn't have taken the job of defending Maryk in the first place. The guy had no backbone. I bet if Maryk had been found guilty, Greenwald would've come down on Queeg.
i haven't read the book, but i thought greenwald's speech at the end was tacked on at the request of the u.s. navy, who was involved in the film's production. we know where greenwald stands right from the beginning, saying he'd rather procsecute maryk than defend him. also, having the rather unlikable jose ferrer play greenwald made the character less sympathetic.

i do think greenwald made one good point in his speech, - the one time queeg offered an olive branch, the other officers passed. that doesn't excuse queeg's lack of honesty or integrity, but i've worked for queeg's in my career and if they offer an olive branch, i always took it to improve the situation.

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Yeah, I agree with most that, but the movie seems to base Queeg being right and the Caine Officers wrong, totally on that one meeting where Queeg offered the olive branch, which I think is weak. Yeah, the Officers backing Queeg up at the meeting might've smoothed things over, temporarily anyway, but I disagree with the movie that that made the Officers the bad guys of the film, and it's a huge stretch to say the issue in the typhoon wouldn't have happened if they had backed Queeg up at the meeting.

Yeah, they were jerks with the Yellowstain business, but Queeg was no better -- insulting the crew for his own mistakes, and I don't remember what he said exactly, it's been a long time since I saw the movie, but I remember Queeg making a sarcastic remark to Keith over a bullhorn when Keith returned to the Caine after his shore leave had been cut short.

I know this never occured to Wouk or the director of the movie, but I also blame Queeg because he failed to develope a good relationship with his crew from the get-go. He should've listened to DeVressie in the beginning when he said the "crew is tired but every man is okay." I understand that aboard a Naval ship, the Captain's word is law, but it's not always best move to have a constant "my way or the highway" attitude toward your Officers -- don't forget, these same Officers had a good relationship with Devressie.

As far as Greenwald's speech, yeah, Jose Ferrer's obnoxious delivery of the speech might've made it seem worse than it really was, but not really, because in the book, I heard that Greenwald ripped into the Caine Officers even more deeply. But I personally found Greenwald's speech, in the book and movie, to be drama queen B.S.

And I haven't read the book either, but I've heard that Queeg was even worse in the book, something about Queeg was violating Navy regulations on the Caine, and he even blackmailed some Officers on the ship. So it was just a little confusing, if they wanted Queeg to be a sympathetic character, Wouk and the director should've made Queeg a nicer guy thoughout.

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excellent points.

one thing i'm not sure of is whether or not the director (edward dymtryk) wanted to make queeg sympathetic in any way. my guess is he didn't.

queeg got off to a bad start right away. his statement that "his way" was better than "the navy way", and that he and the crew would get along if they did things his way, antagonized the officers immediately.

what i wonder is how anyone in command could even think queeg was fit to run a ship. common sense would tell any captain that, if in a hazardous situation such as the typhoon, the crew would have to maneuever for the safety of the ship (as maryk said before taking command). then, during the trial, none of the witnesses mentioned how queeg froze during the storm - perhaps out of fear of retribution later?

i agree it is an enromous stretch by greenwald to claim that if the officers had backed queeg when he offered a truce, the issue during the typhoon would never have come up. it might have eased things in the short term, but some time had passed between that meeting and the typhoon. queeg, basically a coward, would have froze anyway.

i hate to use a trendy psychatric term, but queeg may have been bi-polar. there were times where he could actually be a decent guy, such as when he told keith to "forget he bawled him out", but at the drop of a pin, he would change into "captain bligh" (keefer's description).

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The main trouble is that the screenplay changed things from the book.

In the book, the night after the invasion of Roi-Namur (where the Yellowstain incident takes place), Queeg comes to the wardroom but doesn't offer any sort of truce. He simply demands some overdue paperwork.

At the court-martial, one of the doctors describes that Queeg isn't so much lying as he's rewritten the truth in his own mind. (It's called "an unreal basic premise".)

I totally agree that Ferrer's delivery of the speech -as well as his whole performance before that- was overblown. In the book, Greenwald is described as being soft-spoken. However, in the book, Greenwald says his admiration for Queeg is based off of the fact that he himself is Jewish and it was the professional prewar military that kept the United States safe from Hitler.

Queeg was simply unsuited for command. The stress of being in charge ate away at him. As well, he could see that his career was stagnating and it meant everything to him.

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This may be off the point, because most of the discussion has been about the movie version of Tom Keefer. In the original novel, his conduct and character are more subtle and complex. Contemptuous of the Navy and appalled by what he considers the waste, inefficiency, and filth of the Caine under Captain DeVriess, he is initially somewhat sympathetic of Queeg. Of course, he quickly becomes disillusioned with Queeg and, more than any other officer, becomes openly contemptuous of Queeg, while planting in Maryk's mind the idea that Queeg might be mentally ill and deserving of being relieved of command.

Of course, Keefer is unwilling to stand behind his words, and refuses to support Maryk either before Halsey or during the court-martial, for which Greenwald publicly humiliates him afterwards.

What's not shown in the film is that, according to the novel, Keefer himself becomes Captain of the Caine after the court-martial, and proves himself to be every bit as cruel, tyrannical, and cowardly as he had considered Queeg. In the end, after jumping overboard and deserting the ship during a kamikaze attack, Keefer expresses both remorse at his treatment of Queeg, and his sorrow at the prospect of living the rest of his life knowing he had disgraced himself as well.

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Well, I guess they could just show enough in the film, a novel you can write a great deal, with a movie time is limited . . . I guess they consolidated the character . . .

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He also expresses sympathy for Queeg. In fact he tells Willie -who is now his Executive Officer- that he feels more sympathy for Queeg than Willie ever could...Unless he gets a command.

Keefer finds commanding the ship to be a living nightmare. He can never forget that one mistake on his part can kill everyone on board. He says that Captain DeVriess wasn't imaginative so that fact never bothered him...What's more he also had the good luck, instinct and sheer ability that led him to make the right decisions. Queeg, he now realizes, knew the implications of a wrong decision and it ate at him until he cracked.

Keefer is definitely a better character in the novel. He somewhat redeems himself by realizing his own shortcomings and feels remorse for his actions.

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I's the difference between a movie and a novel . . . I guess they used Keefer for a dramatic element toward the end of the movie, while on the stand . . . the film went no further . . .

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I should mention that Henry Fonda played Greenwald in the original Broadway stage version. Obviously, his interpretation would've been much different than Ferrer's. But though it seems strange now, at the time CAINE was filmed, Ferrer was a bigger movie name than Fonda. Fonda had pretty much concentrated on stage work in his postwar career and in 1953/54 was not exactly box-office, whereas Ferrer was riding high as an Oscar winner (CYRANO DE BERGERAC) and movies like MOULIN ROUGE and MISS SADIE THOMPSON.

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I haven't looked up Ferrer, but Fonda actually was a junior officer in the Pacific in World War II, and had strong feelings about that, that were best manifested in his participation in MISTER ROBERTS, a vehicle about which he had very particular ideas. The indications are he was extremely proud of the wartime service of the unsung enlisted men and junior officers doing the unglamorous stuff in the Pacific war (in other words, 95% of what really went on) and he was very sensitive about their story being told right. The result is that anybody who was ever in the Navy will tell you that MISTERS ROBERTS depicts it better than anything else they've ever seen in a dramatic presentation.

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You sound like a bigger psycho-quack than Keefer was. Bogie's character is not even slightly "bi-polar", as psychologists use that term. The argument the movie makes is that while he has a paranoid personality type, so do a lot of people, and by itself that's not a mental illness. Rather, his problem is probably latent combat fatigue, so that his nerves are shot and he just can't handle one more pound of pressure. Pressure would simply exacerbate any other problem that might be going on. Wartime experience showed that if you gave guys like that enough of a rest period they normally recovered their confidence and could even return to combat effectively. This is also what happened in TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH. If you read your WWII history you will see references to this sort of thing in everything ranging from the 8th Air Force to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force. It was particularly noteworthy when it showed up in commanders. I think the story (through the vehicle of the lawyer, Greewald) takes the sophisticated approach and recognizes that war pressure can break good men, and that is ultimately what happened to Queeg. Even Maryk and Keith can see it once it is pointed out to them. What the rest of the ship's company of DMS-18 thought at the time might be another matter, but in that regard, however, in my own experience in submarines it seemed that people were a little in awe of a situation where somebody cracks up, not really sure what to make of it, rather than being automatically derisive, and there is no shortage of other things submariners would be derisive about. In the latter regard, Keefer is just a rat, a *beep* weasel. The guy nobody would tolerate is a Keefer, and the fact the rest of the wardroom turn their backs on him at the end is no wonder.

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Yeah, the movie tried to make Queeg not as mentally ill, but in the book he's a plain madman. The point is that Keefer was not wrong at all about Queeg and he was indeed not fit be a captain. It would've been insane to just ignore that like Greenwald apparently expected them to do. The idea of the book seems rather that Keith shouldn't have whined so much about DeVries just because he didn't like him. At least he did his job right.

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Keefer was neither elitist nor a snob, and certainly not out of touch with reality. Just the opposite: he, more than anyone else, knew exactly the lay of the land. That is why he chickened out at the court martial, because he didn't want to implicate himself. He said himself that he had a yellow streak 15 miles wide, and when he knew there was a very real risk of being held accountable and hung along with Meryk and Keith, he took the lesser risk of perjury. Even in this, the shots he called were on the money. He was never wrong about anything.

-He was right about Queeg
-He was right about how Admiral Halsey wouldn't believe them
-He was right about how he would have implicated himself had he told the truth on the witness stand

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They acted on what they thought they knew. The captain did freeze more than once, and seemed unsure of whether his decision to stay on course was the correct one because of the violence of the storm, but, just my interpretation, he seemed convinced that he should stay on course to try and stay with the fleet.

We know that several other ships (3? 5? 8? I can't remember what they said) were lost in that storm, but we don't know the circumstances of those losses, though it's safe to assume that they were overcome by the storm.

Was Captain Queeg's paranoia a factor? Was he paranoid of losing the fleet, or was he really just trying to follow orders? I don't think we'll know, but the ship did seem to benefit from coming about and taking a new course.

One thing is certain, Queeg may have been scared of the storm, but he was not so scared as to steer the vessel into the wind, which he probably should have for safety.

I've capsized in Lasers, Sunfish, Moths, Hobie Cats, all small bay, coastal or inland water craft. It's not that fun. I can't imagine capsizing in a navy destroyer that's maybe 50 to 100 times bigger. Such an event would have been lethal.

I've also been in rough seas during a storm on a vessel maybe about half the Caine's size. No fun. No fun at all.

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"I don't think we'll know, but the ship did seem to benefit from coming about and taking a new course."

In what way? There seemed to be more disorder than before.

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Exactly what I thought.

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