Operation Mad Ball

Operation Mad Ball is a 1957 military comedy from Columbia Pictures, produced by Jed Harris, directed by Richard Quine, that stars Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Kathryn Grant, Arthur O'Connell, and Mickey Rooney. The screenplay is by Blake Edwards, Jed Harris, and Arthur Carter, based on an unproduced play by Carter.[2]

Operation Mad Ball
Directed byRichard Quine
Produced byJed Harris
Written byArthur Carter (also play)
Blake Edwards
Jed Harris
StarringJack Lemmon
Ernie Kovacs
Kathryn Grant
Mickey Rooney
Arthur O'Connell
Music byGeorge Duning
CinematographyCharles Lawton Jr.
Edited byCharles Nelson
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
August 17, 1957
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.85 million (US and Canadian rentals)[1]


In a hospital unit in the U.S. Army in Europe after World War II, Private Hogan (Jack Lemmon) does not believe that a blue-stocking can be good-looking, but the first sight of dietetic nurse Lieutenant Betty Bixby (Kathryn Grant) sets him straight. When he picks up her cigarette lighter and puts his weapon aside, he is surprised by security officer Paul Locke (Ernie Kovacs) who admonishes him for putting down his weapon while on guard duty and confines him to quarters preliminary to a court martial. The colonel in charge of the unit (Arthur O'Connell), however, would prefer to keep everything "in the family" and avoid a court martial.

Soon, Hogan plans to organise a ball at an off-limits hotel with all the prettiest nurses and his fellow soldiers. Hogan and Cpl. Bohun (Dick York) go through all sorts of mishaps to make sure that the secret Mad Ball goes ahead. Hogan uses a General's X-ray and pretends it belongs to him to win the sympathy of Lt. Bixby, whom he wants to take to the ball. Hogan claims to be suffering from heartburn and an ulcer, and Bixby recommends dietetic changes. When Betty finds out that the X-ray doesn't belong to Hogan, she falls out with him, leaving both Betty and Hogan secretly sad to have lost each other.

On the night of the ball, each soldier has been paired with a pretty nurse, except Hogan. He waits for Bixby, hoping that she has forgiven him, but he ends up going to the ball on his own. When he arrives, he sees Betty with the Colonel. She takes off her long coat to reveal a pretty dress. At the end, she shares the last dance with Hogan.


Cast notes
  • This film marks the first time that Jack Lemmon received top billing in a film, and was also the first major screen role for Ernie Kovacs.[2][3]

Awards and honors

  • 1958 Golden Laurel Award - 2nd place - Top Male Comedy Performance - Jack Lemmon
  • 1958 WGA Award (Screen) - Nominated - Best Written American Comedy - Arthur Carter, Jed Harris, Blake Edwards

See also


  1. "Top Grossers of 1957". Variety. January 8, 1958. p. 30. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  2. Miller, John M. "Operation Mad Ball" on TCM.com
  3. "Notes" on TCM.com

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