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Mister Roberts (1955)

Not Rated | | Comedy , Drama , War | 30 July 1955 (USA)
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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.

Writers:

Frank S. Nugent (screenplay) (as Frank Nugent), Joshua Logan (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:
Henry Fonda ... Lt. j.g. Douglas A. Roberts
James Cagney ... The Captain
William Powell ... Doc
Jack Lemmon ... Ensign Frank Thurlowe Pulver
Betsy Palmer ... Lt. Ann Girard
Ward Bond ... Chief Petty Officer Dowdy
Philip Carey ... Mannion (as Phil Carey)
Nick Adams ... Reber
Perry Lopez ... Rodrigues
Ken Curtis ... Dolan
Robert Roark ... Insigna
Harry Carey Jr. ... Stefanowski
Patrick Wayne ... Bookser (as Pat Wayne)
Frank Aletter ... Gerhart
Tige Andrews ... 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:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 July 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Keine Zeit für Heldentum See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$21,200,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros.,Orange See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At first the US Navy was not happy that the movie was to be made at all -- Capt. Morton (James Cagney) was not the kind of officer the Navy wanted the public to see -- and was going to withhold all cooperation with the filmmakers. However, John Ford, a former Navy captain, called on some of his friends at Navy headquarters in Washington to secure the Navy's cooperation. See more »

Goofs

Camera shadow falls on Doc when he gets up to go to "check on hypochondriacs." See more »

Quotes

Lt. j.g. Douglas A. Roberts: I looked down from our bridge and saw our captain's palm tree! Our trophy for superior achievement! The Admiral John J. Finchley award for delivering more toothpaste and toilet paper than any other Navy cargo ship in the safe area of the Pacific.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The seven top-billed actors listed in the opening credits are not listed with the other players in the end credits. See more »

Connections

Referenced in As Long as I'm Famous (2018) 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

 
Sailing on the Boredom Sea, from tedium to apathy and back
2 October 2005 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

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.


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