The Admiral Was a Lady

The Admiral Was a Lady is a 1950 American comedy film directed by Albert S. Rogell and starring Edmond O'Brien and Wanda Hendrix. The working title of the film was Once Over Lightly that was the title of one of the songs in the film.

The Admiral Was a Lady
Film poster
Directed byAlbert S. Rogell
Produced byEdward Lewis (associate producer)
Albert S. Rogell (producer)
Jack M. Warner
Written byJohn O'Dea
Sidney Salkow
StarringEdmond O'Brien
Wanda Hendrix
Music byEdward J. Kay
CinematographyStanley Cortez
Edited byWilliam H. Ziegler
Roxbury Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • August 4, 1950 (1950-08-04) (United States)
  • October 12, 1950 (1950-10-12) (New York City, New York)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States


After the end of World War II, Jean Madison (Wanda Hendrix), a former WAVE ensign, meets the former aircrew of an Army Air Corps A-20 Havoc light bomber named "Sinful Sinthia" when they go to collect their unemployment benefits. They are all members of the "52-20 Club," a government program which pays unemployed American veterans $20 a week for 52 weeks.[1] Jimmy and his men "prove" to the government clerk that they are looking for work by placing an ad in the newspaper - "At liberty: combat crew. Four specialists eager and willing to drop bombs" - and receive their checks.

The guys take Jean, whom Jimmy dubs the "Admiral", under their wing, showing her how to save money. For example, they open bank accounts in order to receive a free ceramic piggy bank and get their $20 checks cashed, then close their accounts without having to pay a fee. They sell the piggy banks to a pawnbroker for 25 cents each. The gang lives free in an empty aircraft factory because Jimmy is the night watchman. Eddie (Johnny Sands) artfully makes their furniture out of aircraft parts and other war surplus. They get their meals discounted for being stale or in trade, as when Mike (Steve Brodie) stands in for the lifeguard at a private club. Former taxi driver Ollie (Richard Erdman) drives them around in a sound truck from a local music store in exchange for providing advertising over a loudspeaker. All the while, Jean is secretly followed by a private detective.

When Jean learns that her fiancé Henry is returning to the United States, but has not even so much as mentioned her, she becomes upset and decides to get on a bus and go home to Walla Walla.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is summoned to the office of Peter Pedigrew (Rudy Vallee), the "Jukebox King". It was Pedigrew who hired the private detective. He threatens to put the men to work, ending their idyllic lifestyle, unless they keep Jean from leaving for 24 hours. Pedigrew later explains that his ex-wife Shirley (Hillary Brooke) intends to marry Henry. Pedigrew wants to remarry Shirley (again) because, after two expensive divorces, she has most of his money, and he needs capital desperately to expand his business. Also, he is still irresistibly attracted to her, despite her being "so beautifully wicked". So, he wants the crew to help get Henry back together with Jean. Jimmy reluctantly agrees.

Jimmy races to the bus and gets Jean to stay by lying to her about Henry. As they spend time together, Jean discovers that the men are living with a dark secret. Jimmy feels guilty for Mike's injuries when their airplane crashed during the war. Jimmy, the former head of an employment agency, will not rest until all his crewmen have resolved things. Jimmy even takes Mike's place in a boxing match, since the injuries could kill Mike, though Jimmy has never been inside a ring in his life before.

In the end, Pedigrew catches up with Shirley, Henry comes for Jean, and Eddie realizes he needs to go home to find out if his girlfriend will love him, even if he is poor. Finally, Pedigrew agrees to set up Mike and Ollie in business. So, that only leaves Jimmy, who by now is in love with the Admiral. When the unseen Henry finally knocks on her door, she leaves it locked in favor of Jimmy.



"Once Over Lightly" and "Everything That's Wonderful" were composed by Al Stewart and Earl Rose.

Home media

The film is in the public domain, and readily available on DVD, or online, with various running times, between 83–87 minutes.[2]


  1. Monday, Aug. 01, 1949 (August 1, 1949). "VETERANS: Halted Gravy Train". TIME. Retrieved January 26, 2012.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. "The Admiral Was a Lady (1950) - Overview". Retrieved January 26, 2012.
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