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Mister Roberts
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Mister Roberts

4.4 7
Director: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy

Cast: Henry Fonda, James Cagney


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Henry Fonda returned to films after an eight-year absence in this masterful adaptation of the actor's Broadway hit Mister Roberts. Written and partially directed by Joshua Logan, the film stars Fonda as Lt. Doug Roberts, chief cargo officer of the supply ship "Reluctant." WW2 is in its last few months,


Henry Fonda returned to films after an eight-year absence in this masterful adaptation of the actor's Broadway hit Mister Roberts. Written and partially directed by Joshua Logan, the film stars Fonda as Lt. Doug Roberts, chief cargo officer of the supply ship "Reluctant." WW2 is in its last few months, and Roberts is itching for combat duty. But the Reluctant's surly, despotic captain (James Cagney), anxious to use Roberts to expedite his own promotion, refuses to sign any of Roberts' transfer requests. Helping to brighten Mister Roberts' humdrum existence are his best friends, Ensign Frank Pulver (Jack Lemmon, in an Oscar-winning performance) and the ship's philosophical doctor (William Powell, in his final film appearance). Most of the laughs are provided by Pulver, officer "in charge of laundry and morale." When he isn't wheeling and dealing to bring a bevy of beautiful nurses on board the Reluctant, Pulver is concocting elaborate schemes to avenge himself against the Captain -- even though he's spent 14 months on the Reluctant without ever meeting his nemesis. The film's highlights include the efforts by Roberts, Pulver, and Doc to mix a bottle of Scotch from Coca-Cola, Iodine, and other vital ingredients; and Mister Roberts' (and later Ensign Pulver's) assertion of manhood by tossing the Captain's precious palm tree overboard. Halfway through shooting, legendary director John Ford was replaced, ostensibly because of illness, by Mervyn LeRoy. One of the finest service comedies ever made, Mister Roberts spawned a less amusing sequel, Ensign Pulver (1964), as well as a 1965 TV sitcom.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Reprising the role he made famous in Joshua Logan’s Broadway smash, Henry Fonda stars in Mister Roberts, an almost perfect comedic drama distinguished by bright scripting, unobtrusively effective direction, and superb playing by a marvelous ensemble cast. The story takes place during World War II, largely aboard an American cargo ship where patriotic officer Fonda laments that he’s not seeing action. Additionally, he’s tormented by James Cagney, as the boorish, irascible Captain Morion, a career hack who bullies all his subordinates in general and Fonda in particular. Former leading man William Powell sparkles as a wryly philosophical doctor who commiserates with Fonda, and Jack Lemmon very nearly steals the picture with his dynamic portrayal of the crafty, opportunistic Ensign Pulver, whose schemes precipitate some of the film’s most memorable sequences. The adaptation by Logan and Frank Nugent retains much of the stage show’s snappy dialogue, and Fonda predictably brings his ineffable charm and quiet dignity to the title role (reportedly his favorite). Direction began under John Ford (The Searchers), who quarreled incessantly with the star and was eventually replaced by Mervyn LeRoy (I Am a Fugitive from the Chain Gang) with no apparent detriment to the final product. No other film better chronicles the lighter side of World War II, making Mister Roberts unique among movies set during that tumultuous conflict. The DVD includes a commentary by Jack Lemmon, relevant excerpts from the documentary Fonda on Fonda, nine theatrical trailers, production notes, and footage from Ed Sullivan's TV tribute to the stage show.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Mister Roberts was one of the more thoughtful, reflective films from the 1950s to deal with World War II. It was a reflection of the distance filmmakers as well as the public had come from the war, a distance which allowed for a more sophisticated dramatic treatment of the conflict and the people involved. Other films during this era also reflected the new maturity, among them, The Caine Mutiny, Between Heaven and Hell, and The Naked and the Dead. Mister Roberts was the most successful of them all, and for good reason -- though getting it made properly took real work. It stood to figure that John Ford was ideal for the project, since he loved the United States Navy more than almost anything else in his life (he retired from the reserves as a rear admiral). With Mister Roberts, however, Ford may have been too close to his subject and slightly too old to do justice to the script, and he butted up against the competing personality of star Henry Fonda. Fonda had scored a huge hit on Broadway in the stage version of Mister Roberts, but he'd given up hope of ever doing the movie, since he hadn't been on-screen in eight years and major studios weren't convinced that he was still a box office draw. As a condition of directing the film, Ford insisted on Fonda to star -- but the two were at loggerheads from the beginning of the production, mainly over the director's tendency to inject rough-house comedy into his movies. Such an approach breathed life into Ford's somber cavalry movies, such as Fort Apache, but Mister Roberts was a character-driven story with very little real action, and Fonda thought the director's emphasis on laughs would destroy the integrity of the material. Ford's demanding, dictatorial directing style -- exacerbated by his excessive drinking -- created tension between the two, which erupted into a fistfight after only a few weeks' work. Ford left the production and was replaced by Mervyn LeRoy, who essentially asked the cast to use their best judgement and make the kind of movie Ford would've made. The end result is a finely textured character study that captured the best dramatic moments of the play as it interspersed an effective, new comic element. Fonda, who'd previously performed in four films for the director, would never work with Ford again; the director would only make one more navy film after Mister Roberts, the successful Donovan's Reef.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Scene-specific commentary by Jack Lemmon; Vintage Ed Sullivan Toast of the Town excerpt featuring the movie's stars; Fonda on Fonda documentary excerpt recounting Henry Fonda's involvement in the play and movie; Soundtrack Remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1; Extensive production notes; Stage-to-screen theatrical trailer gallery

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Henry Fonda Lt. Doug Roberts
James Cagney Captain Morion
William Powell Doc
Jack Lemmon Ens. Frank Thurlowe Pulver
Betsy Palmer Lt. Ann Girard
Ward Bond C.P.O. Dowdy
Philip Carey Mannion
Nick Adams Reber
Ken Curtis Dolan
Frank Aletter Gerhart
Fritz Ford Lindstrom
Buck Kartalian Mason
William Hudson Olson
Harry Tenbrook Cookie
Perry Lopez Rodrigues
Robert Roark Insigna
Patrick Wayne Bookser
Tige Andrews Wiley
Jim Moloney Kennedy
Shug Fisher Johnson
Danny Borzage Jonesey
Jimmy Murphy Taylor
Kathleen O'Malley Nurse
Maura Murphy Nurse
Mimi Doyle Nurse
Lonnie Pierce Nurse
Gregory Walcott Shore Patrolman
James Flavin MP
Jack Pennick Marine Sergeant
Duke Kahanamoku Native Chief
Harold Kruger Schlemmer
Harry Carey Stefanowski
William Henry Lt. Billings
Stubby Kruger Schlemmer
Martin Milner Shore Patrol Officer

Technical Credits
John Ford Director
Mervyn LeRoy Director
Gordon Bau Makeup
Leland Hayward Producer
Winton Hoch Cinematographer
William L. Kuehl Set Decoration/Design
Art Loel Art Director
Joshua Logan Screenwriter
Moss Mabry Costumes/Costume Designer
William Mueller Sound/Sound Designer
Jack Murray Editor
Frank S. Nugent Screenwriter
Wingate Smith Asst. Director
Franz Waxman Score Composer

Scene Index

Disc #1, Side A -- Mister Roberts
1. Dawn/Reveille [3:57]
2. The Latest Letter [6:46]
3. Sick Call [2:38]
4. Taking in the View [3:00]
5. Captain on Deck [3:19]
6. Pulver and Nurses [4:08]
7. A Scotch Recipe [7:43]
8. Challenge/Pulver [3:04]
9. Roberts Wants In [3:21]
10. Firecracker Idea [1:04]
11. Never Getting Off [6:03]
12. One of My Officers? [3:43]
13. Harmless/Visitors [5:27]
14. Welcome to Elysium [3:58]
15. Price of Liberty [8:24]
16. Back From Liberty [8:59]
17. Shoving Off [1:41]
18. A Changed Roberts [4:16]
19. Big Bang V-E Day [10:22]
20. Cast Out the Enemy [3:17]
21. General Alarm [1:47]
22. "Who Did It?" [1:51]
23. Stabbed in Back [1:54]
24. Doctor on Double [1:14]
25. "Good Night" [1:04]
26. Transfer Day [2:10]
27. Thanks [3:45]
28. New Cargo Officer [1:01]
29. Order of the Palm [2:59]
30. Mail Call [1:13]
31. The Unseen Enemy [3:25]
32. Sad News [1:21]
33. I, Pulver [1:51]


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Mister Roberts 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No matter how many times I have seen this movie it has never ceased to amaze and entertain me. Fonda, Lemmon, Powell, and Cagney are among the all-time greats on the silver screen and make Mister Roberts one of the all-time great movies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A powerful film on so many levels! I have loved this flick ever since I was a kid fascinated with war movies. Nowadays, I continue to find new delights in the all-around talent and depth that makes this film one of the greatest. The direction and scripting was superb. And, of course, the all-star cast was wonderful (especially Lemmon and Powell). But the supporting cast, too, was filled with many fine actors (such as Ward Bond and Ken Curtis), some of whom were just getting started in the business (like Nick Adams, Martin Milner, Tige Andrews, and Patrick Wayne). Don't miss this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone of the legends in this film are outstanding. This was William Powell's last film, and he went out in wonderful form as the doctor. Jack Lemmon is a great talent, with a wonderful touch of comedy in this role. James Cagney is great as the overbearing captain of 'The Bucket'. Henry Fonda is extremely underrated as an actor. He had such a magnanimous presence, and such a wonderful delivery. He won a Tony for his role as Mister Roberts on Broadway, but wasn't even nominated for his role in the film. He is definitely not given the credit he should have for such a great performance and career. Top notch film!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If the concepts of loyalty, honor and personal courage need refreshing, look no further than a screening of this film. Messrs Fonda, Powell and Lemon (along with a truly great supporting cast) will give you new definitions of these sadly underused traits.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago