MISTER ROBERTS (1955) C widescreen 121m dirs: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy
w/Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, William Powell, Ward Bond, Betsy Palmer, Philip Carey, Nick Adams, Harry Carey Jr., Ken Curtis
From Variety's contemporary review of the film: "Thomas Heggen's salty comedy about life aboard a navy cargo ship had no trouble moving from the printed page to the stage [in a play by Heggen and Joshua Logan]. Figuring importantly in the sock manner with which it all comes off on the screen is the directorial credit shared by John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, the former having had to bow out because of illness midway in production.
"Henry Fonda, who scored on the stage in the title role, repeats in the picture as the cargo officer who resented not being in the thick of the fighting in the Pacific during World War II.
"James Cagney is simply great as the captain of the ship. William Powell tackles the role of ship's doctor with an easy assurance that makes it stand out and Jack Lemmon is a big hit as Ensign Pulver."
From The Movie Guide: "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."
Lemmon's Oscar was awarded for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Sound (William A. Mueller).