|Lieutenant JG Doug Roberts||Henry Fonda|
|The Captain||James Cagney|
|Ensign Pulver||Jack Lemmon (Academy Award)|
|Director||John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy|
|Screenplay||Frank Nugent and Joshua Logan|
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.