Set aboard a navy cargo ship during World War II, this comedic drama follows Lt. Doug Roberts (Robert Hays, Airplane!), who battles boredom and a tyrannical captain to the admiration of Ensign Pulver, Doc, and the crew.
The original Broadway production of "Mr. Roberts" by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan opened at the Alvin Theater on February 18, 1948, ran for 1157 performances and won the 1948 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Play. See more »
Coming ten years after the classic film made from the iconic Broadway play and that based on a best selling novel, Mister Roberts had a lot to live up to. Try as they may the cast simply couldn't do it and that's a shame because they did their best.
One has to remember that all the other works of Mister Roberts even with all the roughhouse comedy put in especially by John Ford that the film dealt with some serious issues. Navy regulations make the captain of any ship the equivalent of God. The problem that the S.S. Reluctant has in sailing from tedium to apathy to boredom is a captain who enjoys the privileges of command without the concern for those underneath him.
The character of Captain Morton is really the pivotal one. This is a man who writes people up for keeping their shirts untucked or even wearing them in a cargo hold that's got a temperature of over 100 Fahrenheit degrees. And for his own amusement would keep these guys from shore leave liberty. Mister Roberts performs a necessary function as a buffer between the crew and the captain. And he'd like very much to get into the shooting war, it's what he signed up for.
There's serious underlying drama in Mister Roberts that comes to a head in all the previous work. But here the drama is gone and it simply becomes an average military service comedy, all right but no particular distinction.
Roger Smith, Richard X. Slattery, Steve Harmon, and George Ives were also up against the memories of Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, and William Powell, four of the biggest Hollywood icons you could find. These guys were inevitably going to suffer by comparison.
The show gave it a try, but it was up against too much.
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