Mister Roberts (1955)

No One Can Succeed Like Mister Roberts

Fonda, Cagney, Powell, Lemon. What more do you want? Being a huge fan of all four actors, for me personally this may be the greatest accumulation of actors ever; thus I will try my best to contain my inner fan boy. Not only do all four play interesting characters but they all share interesting relationships between each other. Fonda and Cagney share a Bugs Bunny/ Yosemite Sam dynamic with Cagney being a frustrated old captain in a position of power but with no control and Fonda stepping over everything he does.

Jack Lemon’s Ensign Pulver on the other hand hates the captain but out of total shock the captain likes Ensign. I find this dynamic particular funny as I can relate to that situation of being admired by someone you dislike. However I also relate to the character of Mister Roberts himself in his predicament of being stuck in a rut of which he is desperate to escape from; wanting to leave the navy cargo boat and be right in the action of the Second World War. The entire film effortlessly combines tragedy and comedy with the final scene being one of my favourite movie endings ever. The claustrophobic intimacy of the ship as well as the simply superb dialogue and performances makes the dialogue heavy scenes so engaging. Even with two directors on the project which could have spelled disaster the film manages to come out perfectly fine. The other scene which always stuck out to me was at the beginning of the film when the men are attempting to get a glimpse of women in a shower and going crazy as hell over it. Would men have the same reaction today because of the internet? Was the prospect of seeing a naked woman more thrilling back then?

Mister Roberts would be William Powell’s final film although one of Jack Lemon’s first, so I see the film as a passing of the torch between two generations of comedic actors. Originally Powell retired after appearing in How to Marry a Millionaire but decided to appear in Mister Roberts after reading the script. A much, much better choice of final film.

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