Mister Roberts

1955, Movie, NR, 123 mins


Mister Nowhere. This stodgy film version of the famous Broadway success was one performance too many. Hank Fonda plays the title role of the cargo officer dying to leave his supply ship for the glories of battle like a wounded spaniel, all sad eyes and monotoned whining. James Cagney, as the megalomaniacal captain with the palm tree, acts like something out of a cartoon. The Tasmanian Devil is much funnier, folks. William Powell is good, but he doesn't have much to do as the sympathetic ship's doctor. That leaves it up to Jack Lemmon, in his film debut as Ensign Pulver, to pump some life--and some humor--into this baby. To his immense credit, he does it. Oscar voters, with their usual inferiority complex about theater, probably felt they had to give this heavy, dull film some kind of honor, and they were so grateful for the Lemmon-fresh pledge that they voted for him lock, stock and barrel. John Ford began the film, came to blows (literally) with Fonda, who had played the role about a million times on stage and didn't want to change a thing, and then suffered a gall-bladder attack. Mervyn LeRoy, way past his peak as a director, took over for a time, and even Josh Logan, who helmed the Broadway production, directed some scenes. The behind-the-scenes tinkering shows. leave a comment

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