"Watching this again many years after I first saw it, I expected to be disappointed. After all, the great films of our youth sometimes turn out to be something less than we had imagined. But Mister Roberts does not disappoint. This is one of the gems of the American cinema, a poignant comedy featuring a multitudinously clever and delightful script by Frank Nugent and Joshua Logan from a novel by Thomas Heggen made into a play by Logan and Heggen that ran for many years on Broadway. The movie features sterling performances from Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon. Fonda is particularly brilliant in the kind of role from which legends are made. (He also played the part on Broadway.) You can take all your John Wayne classics and toss them overboard with the Captain's palm tree. Henry Fonda as Lt (j.g.) Doug Roberts, cargo officer of the USS Reluctant, shines forth as the noblest hero of them all. He is a quiet, strong, fair, courageous man in a story sure to mist up your eyes even if you're watching it for the twentieth time.Jack Lemmon won a supporting Oscar for his performance as Ensign Pulver, a kind of lazy, but slyly resourceful Walter Mitty type who talks a great game but never follows through... James Cagney is the Captain, a sour, resentful man who mercilessly badgers Mister Roberts and grossly neglects the morale of his crew. He is just perfect. The way he bellows "Mister Roberts!" or way he trembles out the line, "Mister...Mister...this time you've gone too far" delights the audience. William Powell, in his last film, plays the ship's wise and ever diplomatic doc with graceful precision.Marty (1955) starring Ernest Borgnine, a kind of politically correct (for its time) love story about ordinary folk, won the Academy's honor for best picture in 1956, the year Mister Roberts was nominated. Henry Fonda, in perhaps his most beloved and certainly one of his finest performances, was not even nominated. Incidentally, Hollywood legend John Ford directed, but fell ill and Mervyn LeRoy--no slouch himself (e.g., The Bad Seed, 1956; No Time for Sergeants, 1958, etc.)--finished up. There are a number of memorable scenes in the film, the kind recalled with delight. My favorite involves the crew, their binoculars and the nurses. I also loved the careful concocting of the "scotch whiskey" by Doc. The weekly letters requesting a transfer, the Hoot Gibson films we (thankfully) never see, the ever worshipful palm tree, Pulver's marbles in a tobacco tin that he shakes in Roberts's face, vowing to prove his manhood by putting them in the captain's overbin, his "firecracker," his "If I could be with you/One hour tonight/To do the things I might/I'm telling you true/I'd be anything but blue," the giddy nurses, and the infamous liberty are other unforgettable bits. But more than anything, what makes this a great movie, are the indelible characters so very true to our experience, and how nicely they meld and contrast.This is, along with From Here to Eternity, Das Boot, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Caine Mutiny, Stalag 17, and Twelve O'Clock High, among my favorite movies to come out of World War II. What sets Mister Roberts apart is the humor born of the boredom, frustration, and tedium that most truly characterizes life in the service. In this regard I recall a saying that goes something like this: "War is filled with long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of absolute terror." The crew of the Reluctant got only the boredom."
One of the BEST Casts EVER!!
R. Barnes | Ft. Lauderdale, Florida | 12/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This excellent war comedy/movie will always be one of my personal favorites. Based on the WWII guideline, the basic premise is a rather anal boat captain trying to make "ship shape" a merchant/transport type ship. (in the Pacific).
From an original play of Broadway, starring Hendy Fonda to the big screen. (My parents saw this Play on Broadway on their honeymoon and I still have the Playbill) So naturally I am biased.
Start with an assembled cast second to none.
Henry Fonda (Wry humor..this movie IS him.) William Powell (The thin man returns...his sarcasm is perfect here) James Cagney (Does his talent ever end? One of his best roles) Lemmon (Ensign Pulver), shows his talent for the site gag and, lets say, driftiness, early. This perfomance spawned a few sequels on Pulver alone.
If you were ever in the Navy, you will see Cagney's Performance as uncanny, and see a little bit of each actor in your own experience.
This is meant to be seen in its entirety. Its not cut to pieces for TV, and when seen in this format is like a new movie, meant to be seen from start to finish.
Highly recommended, and will be seen again and again "
Thank you, Mr. Roberts
Michael R. McCarty | Downingtown, PA USA | 04/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Henry Fonda received the Kennedy Center honors in the late 70's, as part of his tribute, the Naval Academy glee club sang. Red River Valley saluted Grapes of Wrath, but the highlight was Anchors Away, when the Midshipman director of the glee club turned about face, saluted and said "Thank you, Mr. Roberts." As each Middie left the stage, he saluted and former Lt (jg) Fonda returned each one. Mr. Fonda was reported to have said that that was the greatest honor he received in a truly distinguished career.This movie has that impact--it is a salute to "all those brave men who sailed from Apathy to Tedium, with an occasional side trip to Monotony" (I hope I have this right). When he died, the network news tribute was a dark screen and the sound track as Dolan and the others, having learned just what Mr. Roberts had done for them, each repeated those magic words "Good night, Mr. Roberts."This is my favorite movie, one which I have watched at least 100 times. With marvelous performances by William Powell (Doc), James Cagney (the Captain), and Jack Lemmon (Ensign Pulver), as well as a fine supporting cast, this is a "must have" selection."
Goodnight Ensign Pulver
gobirds2 | New England | 06/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The U.S.S. Reluctant has set sail on her final voyage. The U.S.S. Hewell was the actual 250-ton cargo ship at the naval base at Midway, which doubled for the U.S.S. Reluctant used to film MISTER ROBERTS. Henry Fonda was Lieutenant (jg) Doug Roberts or just known as beloved Mister Roberts to his crew. Mister Roberts was a man of dignity and honor who just wanted to do his part in the war. Instead Mister Roberts is rendered impotent on the U.S.S. Reluctant commanded by a hot-tempered, eccentric basically uneducated Captain brilliantly played by James Cagney. The script under the tenure of director John Ford mixed his usual comic military camaraderie with the despair of the sailors stuck in remote out of action sea-lanes and ports during World War II in the South Pacific. In effect the Captain represents the enemy to the crew and the dregs of the naval officer corps to Mister Roberts. The ever stoic Roberts finds solace in the crew (Ward Bond, Nick Adams, Harry Carey Jr., Ken Curtis, Perry Lopez, Tige Andrews and many others), a fatherly William Powell as Doc and Jack Lemmon as Ensign Pulver. Jack Lemmon won an Oscar for his role as the knee-jerk compulsive and glib wheeler-dealer Ensign Pulver. The Captain shows no compassion for the crew and it seems that his only real feelings are for a palm tree he keeps on deck. As events unfold and personalities clash into a final confrontation and the realities of war hit home it is the unlikely Ensign Pulver who does a 180-degree turn at the film's closing shot. Henry Fonda, William Powell, Ward Bond, Nick Adams, Ken Curtis and even the Captain James Cagney among many other members of the crew of the U.S.S. Reluctant have now left us. Today I read of Jack Lemmon. I suppose the `Order of the Palm Leaf' has now been passed from the hand of its final owner and now rests below the calm blue waters of the South Pacific. As the U.S.S. Reluctant turns its final bend into the sunset we say, "Goodnight Mister Roberts, Goodnight Ensign Pulver. Godspeed.""
"How long have you been aboard Pulver?"
Ghenghis | Monvolia | 02/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the few truly perfect movies of all time. Four legendary actors (Fonda, Cagney, Powell, and Lemmon) provide the chemistry in one of the most inspiring and highly regarded films from the WWII era.
Henry Fonda reprises his Broadway role as Lt.jg Doug Roberts, a "college boy" that dropped out of Med School to join the war effort in the Pacific, only to be assigned as a cargo officer far from the perils of action, but daily waging his own personal war with the Captain played by Jimmy Cagney, himself from the school of hard-knocks and invested with a world-class Napoleon complex. Fonda's primary motivation is get transferred off the "bucket" and into the war, while at the same time maintaining the morale and providing a shield for the crew against the irrational tirades of Cagney. The results are Hollywood history, very powerful, moving, touching, and with a good dose of humor.
There's just something about this movie that stays with you, and as Jack Lemmon himself said in the audio commentary when talking about the respect he had for his cast members of the film...with certain actors "...it's not what they're saying, it's what's coming from the inside..." And how.
The tensions of the cold war brewing between Roberts and the Captain are well balanced with plenty of comic relief and wry humor, much of it provided by the extraordinarily cool and laconic William Powell as Doc. John Ford debuted as the director only to leave during production, for causes still debated, to be replaced by the multi-talented Mervyn Leroy. I sometimes wonder if it's not the combined impact of their mutual genius that makes this film so great? Ford's body of work is somewhat one dimensional compared to Leroy's, who after filming went to work on 1956's "Bad Seed," and then found he had a real knack for high comedy with the hysterical 1958 "No Time for Sergeants."
One reviewer complained about the DVD release...he really should dump his Playstation and invest in something with a little more utility. The quality of the transfer is excellent, with very few artifacts, and tones and textures that I promise you have not seen before if you're a fan. The Dolby 5.1 remastering is much more than you would expect from a film of this era, and the extras are worth the price of the disc, particularly the commentary by Lemmon, and the live performance of two scenes on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town. A cornerstone of any great DVD collection. 5 Palms."