The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial: Is Barney Greenwald a Real Lawyer?

Showtime’s ‘The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial’ is a legal drama that takes place inside a single room but takes the audience through a tense ride where they are constantly on edge about what’s true and false. The trial of Lieutenant Maryk turns into an ordeal for Lieutenant Commander Queeg, whose mental health and capability as the ship’s captain are called into question, even though he’s not the one being tried.

Everything was set against Maryk, and he would have lost if it wasn’t for defense attorney Lieutenant Barney Greenwald. Even though he’d barely had enough time to prepare for the case, he knew what he needed to do to win it. His cunning and ruthlessness, despite not agreeing with the person he’s defending, puts him in a conflict, which is what makes him all the more believable. If you are wondering whether he is based on a real person, here’s what you should know.

Barney Greenwald is Likely a Fictional Character

‘The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial’ is based on the play of the same name by Herman Wouk, which is the final section of the larger narrative of the book, ‘The Caine Mutiny,’ also by Wouk. Director William Friedkin put a modern twist on the story by setting it in contemporary times, as opposed to the World War II setting of the book. In doing so, he tweaked a few things, but the central conflict, the characters, and their motivations remain the same.

Wouk based some of the incidents and characters in his book on the real things he experienced while he served in the US Navy during the Second World War. However, for the most part, the plot and the characters remain fictional, and it cannot be confirmed whether they were based on any real people the author personally knew. The character of Barney Greenwald, played by a brilliant Jason Clarke, is also most likely fictional.

The conflict in ‘The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial’ arises when Maryk forces Queeg to give up the ship’s command because he thinks the captain is unfit to lead them out of the storm and into safety. It is believed that Wouk based this on a real-life incident in 1944 when, aboard the USS Hull, a few officers considered doing the same thing to their captain. Their ship was caught in a terrible typhoon, and they were unsatisfied with the way their leader was handling things. They tried to persuade the executive officer to take matters into his hands, but he didn’t want to stir mutiny.

Image Credit: Marc Carlini/Paramount+, SHOWTIME

In his book, Wouk took this scenario a step further, where Maryk goes forward with the mutiny and lands himself in a court martial. When he is put on trial, he is to be provided with a defense attorney. However, whoever comes across his case decides not to take it because they know Maryk is guilty and the case is already lost. Eventually, it falls on Greenwald to defend Maryk, even though he, too, knows that Maryk is at fault in this case.

Because the trial comes purely out of Wouk’s imagination, considering that he extrapolated events in a “what if” scenario, it’s safe to say that he created Greenwald’s character by himself. He might have infused the character with the quirks of the people he knew in real life, but there is no credible comparison for that. With all this in mind, we can say Barney Greenwald is entirely fictional and was created to serve the plot.

Read More: Phillip Queeg and Stephen Maryk: The Real Inspiration Behind the Naval Officers and USS Caine