This film, starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon, was a fun look at boredom on an unimportant cargo ship in the Pacific during the later years of WWII. Mister Roberts, played by Henry Fonda, would like to get a transfer approved so he could see some action before the war is over. However, his transfer requests are continually being disapproved by Captain Morton, played by James Cagney.
While Mister Roberts tries to keep the crew peaceful by going around his boss or standing up to him, Ensign Pulver, played by Jack Lemmon, always avoids Captain Morton. The crew can’t help but respect Mister Roberts. They want him to get that transfer he’s been wanting for months. When Roberts finally does get the transfer, the men realize the mark he’d left on their hearts.
Jack Lemmon’s work on this film won him a Best Actor Academy Award. He was energetic in a lazy character’s role, which sounds contradictory, but it’s not. Lemmon always brought energy to any role he played. He brought humor, sharp timing, and in the end, he brought the emotion that made the film.
Mister Roberts was William Powell’s last film. I’m a William Powell fan, so it was great to see him finishing his long career with such a fun movie.
The ship’s crew and others in the film included a lot of familiar actors. Martin Milner, of the Adam 12 police-themed TV show, played a Shore Patrol Officer. Betsy Palmer played Lt. Ann Girard in this film, but you might know her as Mrs. Pamela Voorhees (Jason’s mom) in Friday the 13th. John Wayne’s son, Patrick Wayne, played Bookser. Phil Carey played Mannion in this film, and then in the 1980’s began a twenty year stretch playing Asa Buchanan on the soap opera One Life To Live.
Ward Bond played Chief Petty Officer Dowdy in this film, and he was in many other well-known movies without a well-known role. He was in Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, You Can’t Take It With You with James Stewart and Jean Arthur, Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, and It’s A Wonderful Life with James Stewart. In fact, he played Bert, the cop on It’s A Wonderful Life, after whom the muppet Bert on Sesame Street is said to have been named.