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Mister Roberts (1955)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, War | 4 December 1955 (Japan)
Comedy-drama about life on a not particularly important ship of the US Navy during WW2.

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(screenplay) (as Frank Nugent), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Mannion (as Phil Carey)
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Rodrigues
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Robert Roark ...
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Bookser (as Pat Wayne)
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Gerhart
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Wiley (as Tiger Andrews)
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Storyline

Mister Roberts is aboard a US cargo ship, working in the Pacific during the Second World War. He'd do anything to leave the quiet of the ship to join in the "action". Trouble is, the captain of the ship, is a bit of a tyrant, and isn't willing to sign Roberts' transfer requests. Also on board is Ensign Pulver, who avoids work as best he can, whilst living off the riches of his buying and selling. Roberts and the crew are in constant battle, even over the smallest of disagreements. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Now . . . Hilariously on the Screen ! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | War

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

4 December 1955 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Keine Zeit für Heldentum  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$21,200,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Ford cast Jack Lemmon as Ens. Frank Thurlowe Pulver after accidentally viewed Lemmon's test for The Long Gray Line (1955). See more »

Goofs

When Roberts is talking to the sailors inside after his confrontation with the Captain about his letter requesting a transfer, all the sweat stains on his shirt have disappeared. See more »

Quotes

Doug Roberts: How did you get in the Navy? How did you get on our side? Oh you ignorant, arrogant, ambitious... keeping sixty-two men in prison 'cause you got a palm tree for the work they did. I don't know which I hate worse, you or that other malignant growth that stands outside the door
Capt. Morton: Why, you stinking little...!
Doug Roberts: How did you ever get command of a ship? I realize in wartime they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but where did they ever scrape you up?
Capt. Morton: There's just one thing left for you, Mister. A ...
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in Fedora (1978) See more »

Soundtracks

The Stars and Stripes Forever
(uncredited)
Written by John Philip Sousa
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"Sound the General Alarm"
13 October 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Somewhere between tedium and apathy the U.S.S. Reluctant sails to this day with it's crew of U.S. navy swabs who have to deliver cargoes of supplies to our men fighting the enemy (Japan) in World War II. The war is long over, but the spirit of men rotting under a vicious squirt of a Captain, with only an intelligent cargo officer (Lt. Doug Roberts) protecting them, remains an image that people retain sixty years after Japan surrendered.

In another review, I mentioned that (ironically) the American naval mutiny everyone recalls is that on board the U.S.S.Caine in the Herman Wouk novel and the film made as a result. That like "Mr. Roberts" was fictional, but the two stories have taken on a life of their own. The stories transcended the events that were the backgrounds for them. Oddly enough, both stories eventually center upon the events of the closing part of the Pacific War: THE CAINE MUTINY going up to the typhoon before the battle of Okinawa in January 1945 (Roberts sees part of the fleet headed for Okinawa early in MR. ROBERTS), and Roberts getting transferred to the battle zone where he dies after Germany's surrender in May 1945.

Despite problems between John Ford and star Henry Fonda, that led to Ford's removal as director, the film actually is one of those movies where several hands were involved and the results were good (like GONE WITH THE WIND). Fonda had been in the Broadway production and worked on it with Leland Heyward and Joshua Logan, so he knew precisely what was necessary for the film. Ford, before he was fired, set up the film perfectly - he was an old "navy" man himself, so he brought a sense of reality to the project that (mercifully) was not damaged.

One thing that Ford did which was worthwhile was casting Jack Lemmon (then at the start of his film career) as Ensign Frank Thurlow Pulver, would-be sex object and would-be pain-in-the-ass to the Captain. Lemmon had somehow caught Ford's eye, and had actually done a test for a current project that Ford was planning, THE LONG GREY LINE. Lemmon told an interviewer on AMC years ago that Ford gave him the test for the role that went to Tyrone Power, and Lemmon was delivering a speech as an old Irish-American man, complete with a brogue. Ford later told Lemmon he was dreadful for the role in THE LONG GREY LINE, but he wanted him for Pulver. It was a great opportunity, as it netted Lemmon the first of his two Oscars (here for best supporting actor). He would have some great moments here, singing "If I can be with you" several times in the film, watching Fonda and William Powell turn a bottle of Coca Cola into Scotch, explaining to an amazed Jimmy Cagney that he has been the laundry officer on the boat for over a year but has managed never to see Cagney, causing a massive explosion in the ship's laundry on May 8, 1945, and finally pulling his guts together and taking up where Fonda left off as the movie ends.

Fonda, Cagney, Powell, and Ward Bond were all old hands in film. For William Powell, "Doc" would be his last movie role - but a good one as it showed his humanity and wryness so well. Towards the end, he shows Ward Bond that his wife selected a new wall paper for home, and sent him a sample (I keep imagining the wife, of course, is Myrna Loy, but that is besides the point). Cagney had a number of films left in the next five years (and two follow movies in the 1980s), and Fonda would have movies and stage work (and a final Oscar for his last film, ON GOLDEN POND) in 1982. But the scenes between Cagney and Fonda were wonderful, with the latter (even when explaining what caused his miserable personality) failing to win audience sympathy. Fonda does knuckle under to help the crew, but his act of defiance (throwing the palm tree off the boat) ends his deference to this tyrant. It is typical of Cagney's acting gifts that he balances the comic and ruthless aspects of his villains. When he finds the palm tree destroyed he starts screaming the line in the "Summary" Line above. As for Bond, besides giving his role as Robert's cargo assistant good mileage, he also makes the word "coffee" have a disgusting and ironic connotation at the film's end. It was a terrific cast in a great film.


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