Mister Roberts

Lieutenant JG Doug Roberts Henry Fonda
The CaptainJames Cagney
DocWilliam Powell
Ensign Pulver Jack Lemmon (Academy Award)

ProducerLeland Hayward
DirectorJohn Ford and Mervyn LeRoy
ScreenplayFrank Nugent and Joshua Logan
MusicFranz Waxman

The USS Reluctant, or "The Bucket" as she is lovingly known to her crew, plows the Pacific carrying cargo along the backwaters of World War II, while her crew struggles to survive not so much the dangers of the war as the boredom and indignity of war. As they swelter under the blazing sun and the equally fiery wrath of their tyrannical captain, the men struggle with the knowledge that the war is passing them by.

The film is buoyed by the strong direction of Mervyn Leroy (who took over for an ailing John Ford), a solidly written script (by Frank Nugent and Joshua Logan adapted from Tomas Heggen's book and the Tony Award winning play by Heggen and Logan), and by the strength of its outstanding cast.

The film stars Henry Fonda in his first role in seven years. Under LeRoy's deft direction Fonda crafts a sensitive and quietly heroic portrayal as the film's title character Mister Roberts. It is Roberts that the crew looks up to, not the Reluctant's petty, ambitious captain. The Captain is brilliantly portrayed by James Cagney in one of his best performances ever. Cagney provides the perfect counterpoint to Fonda's Roberts and their scenes literally crackle with tension. Indeed the film showcases these two extraordinary actors confrontations in some of the most memorable sequences ever captured on film.

Equally notable are two of the film's supporting performers. Jack Lemmon, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the redoubtable Ensign Pulver, is delightfully hyperactive as the officer in charge of laundry and morale. Of equal note, in his final screen appearance, William Powell turns in a mesmerizing performance as Doc, the world weary humane physician who dispenses as much sage advice as he does medication.

Mister Roberts is ultimately a bittersweet war story with moments of unforgettable hilarity tempered by anger and sadness.