Mister Roberts Film Details
Overview: In the waning days of World War II, the United States Navy cargo ship Reluctant and her crew are stationed in the “backwater” areas of the Pacific Ocean. Trouble ensues when the crew members are granted liberty.
Tagline: All The Uproarious Fun Of the Smash Broadway Play!
Review: Through the collaborative efforts of John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy, Joshua Logan and Henry Fonda the film version of Mister Roberts finally got made. As in Spartacus a lot of creative differences were aired and there was animosity, but the thing got made and got made well. The film Mister Roberts is the screen adaption of a play that ran on Broadway from 1948 to 1951 for 1157 performances. It was based on the novel written by Thomas Heggen and was directed by Joshua Logan. It marked a return to the stage for Henry Fonda who for the rest of his life shuttled back and forth between Broadway and Hollywood. Mister Roberts became his career signature part. According to the book In the Company of Heroes by Harry Carey, Jr., Henry Fonda because this was his signature part, the part that won him a Tony Award on Broadway, he had a certain proprietary interest in seeing a faithful adaption was done for the screen. John Ford however wanted to put his own individual stamp on the picture as he always does. Fonda and Ford had done six films together before 1948 and Fonda was a willing pupil. But after the acclaim he got for this play Fonda was no longer willing to respond to Ford’s direction dutifully. This led to an ugly clash on set and Ford leaving the picture. The direction was taken over by Mervyn LeRoy officially, but Joshua Logan came over from Broadway and in the background Henry Fonda himself directed some of it. There are certainly enough Ford touches to recognize the film as a Ford product. But Fonda kept the essence of Doug Roberts as the average man doing a disagreeable task, serving as a buffer between the crew and the tyrannical captain. He makes life somewhat bearable for the crew of the cargo ship he’s the executive officer. And like James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life, Fonda also has to be shown just how important his contribution to the morale of that ship is. And what a boss they have. The role of the Captain is a very difficult part. Though there are certainly elements of comedy with the captain, James Cagney never allows the captain to become a figure of burlesque. It’s a very difficult tightrope to walk, but Mr. Cagney brought over 30 years of professionalism to that part. During the scene of the cabin confrontation with Fonda, Cagney does go into his background, going to sea as a kid, doing a lot of menial jobs and rising through his own efforts in the Merchant Marine. We get to understand Cagney, but we never sympathize with him. Even though Mister Roberts is a military setting, the themes are universal and that is why I think it got the popular acclaim it did. I think most of us in our lives as workers have occasionally had to work in settings where the boss was a tin pot dictator, using and abusing his position of authority. And maybe we’ve also had immediate supervisors who did buffer between the employer and the workers. I’m sure that applied to just about anyone who ever had any kind of work history. What allows Cagney to become the little martinet that he’s become is the fact that the cargo ship is in the backwater of the war. You do kind of wonder what might happen if the ship was ever a target of some Japanese submarines or airplanes. He and the man are bored, but he’s in the position of authority. Mister Roberts is the only film I know that ever made boredom a component of a successful production. William Powell who was a player for over 40 years on stage and screen put a cap to his career as Doc, the ship’s medical officer and confidante of Fonda. John Ford never met a doctor he didn’t like and I’m sure that part might have attracted him to the play. From Arrowsmith to Stagecoach to Seven Women, Ford’s doctors are all kinds of characters, but they are all wise and offer good counsel on all subjects, not necessarily medical. And the collaborative efforts of the creators netted for Jack Lemmon his first Oscar as the Best Supporting Actor of 1955. Lemmon is a nice man of admittedly limited character as Ensign Pulver. But his stay on the ship shows a dramatic growth in character as we see in the finale. The crew is populated by a mostly Ford stock company characters. In fact the only other player besides Fonda from the original Broadway production to repeat his part is Tige Andrews as one of the crew. It’s with them that we see the real Ford touches. Note that horse whinny that Ward Bond uses when the visiting nurses led by Betsy Palmer come to the ship at “Captain” Lemmon’s request. Bond did the same thing in My Darling Clementine to a passing Linda Darnell. Despite a difficult birthing, Mister Roberts has become an American classic and will be so as long as we have a planet.
Country: United States
Duration: 123 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, War
Also known as: Keine Zeit für Heldentum,Mister Roberts,La nave matta di Mister Roberts,Escala en Hawai,Permission jusqu’à l’aube,Sømænd i harnisk,Nattpermission,Mr. Roberts,Мистър Робъртс,羅勃先生,Belalı kaptan,ミスタア・ロバーツ,Yöloma paratiisisaarella,Domnul Roberts,Мистер Робертс,Містер Робертс