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How dumb is Mister Roberts?


NipkowDisc
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I have some thoughts on mister roberts. the first few times I first saw it some I guess 35 years ago, I thought it was a masterpiece and enjoyed it very much but progressive viewings slowly began to reveal to me just how overblown the whole thing is. I can appreciate girl-starved sailors and a sympathetic officer sparking to a tyrannical captain but...

 

eventually one, at least I did, gets the sense that they're pushing the ensign pulver being a figure of fun line a bit too much...

 

we're supposed to believe that this guy used to run liquor across a state line in college with an equally daring buddy?

 

this guy couldn't even break the ice with some babes at a nurse's station...and on ship he froze up something awful and tries to get roberts and doc to take their presence off his hands because he's such a natural-born don juan. so roberts gives him an A for effort for blowing up some explosives in the laundry.

 

but the ending takes the cake. so a grateful crew inables mister roberts to commit an act of suicide because he feels inadequate as a cargo officer. he shoulda let cagney court-martial him then he coulda moved on to being a source of encouragement to men in a naval military jail. :lol:

 

so here's roberts looking down saying "thanks guys, that coffee in the wardroom tasted real good until the explosion".

 

I'm sorry but today it comes across to me as a very dumb movie.


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It's a comedy.  C-O-M-E-D-Y.  The viewer's active suspension of disbelief being part of the plot.  How else am I supposed to watch these movies with 110 lb boogeymen.

your point is very well-taken. I guess I think they coulda been a little bit more creative with the comedic aspects...

 

I woulda let bookser get left behind...

 

or better yet. the captain orders the young bookser to his quarters...

 

he gets there...

 

"you know what this is, young man?"

 

"no sir."

 

"it's a razor strap....and the next time you abuse a liberty, you're going to find out what it feels like across your young posterior...now get below!

b626uh.jpg

 

:lol:

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Much as I hate to agree with Nipkow about anything  (no offense, Nip?)  I do have to say, I don't like Mr. Roberts, and cannot understand why it's so revered by so many old movie fans. 

 

It's completely boring to me, last night was the second time I watched it, and it was even drearier and dumber than the first time. I guess it's just not my kind of humour. I like all those actors (Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney...), but not in this thing.

 

You can tell it's based on a play, and that's almost always a bad sign for me. Although I do have exceptions, I generally dislike movies based on plays - you can almost always tell the movie's source, and often, what works on stage is simply dull and claustrophobic on film.

 

It's all just a lot of shouting and screaming and very very broad slapstick comedy ( which sometimes I like, but not here), that just gets tedious very quickly.

 

I dislike Mr. Roberts so much, I was going to say so on the "I Just Watched" thread. But, despite its being initiated by Nipkow ( probably the first and only time I've ever agreed with him), this one will do.

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Well, sometimes I like "dumb" comedies with lots of slapstick. Airplane and The Naked Gun movies come to mind.

But they're genuinely funny. And in addition to all the physical and downright silly humour  ( which I enjoy in those films), they've also got a fair bit of wordplay. There's no such cleverness with words, no verbal humour, in Mr. Roberts.

 

In other words, I like a "dumb" comedy as much as anyone, and have nothing against "parking my brain" for a couple of hours of shameless silliness. But it has to actually be funny, too.

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You can tell it's based on a play, and that's almost always a bad sign for me. Although I do have exceptions, I generally dislike movies based on plays - you can almost always tell the movie's source, and often, what works on stage is simply dull and claustrophobic on film.

 

Me, too.  The few play adaptations I can think of that escape the talkiness of plays include The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932), Harvey (1950), and A Raisin in the Sun (1961).

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You can tell it's based on a play, and that's almost always a bad sign for me. Although I do have exceptions, I generally dislike movies based on plays - you can almost always tell the movie's source, and often, what works on stage is simply dull and claustrophobic on film. 

 

I felt that exact sentiment while I was desperately trying to sit through Mourning Becomes Electra on Saturday morning. I kept thinking : Man, this film is much too boring to be stretched into more than 2.5 hours!

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I LOVE "Mister Roberts." At its heart, it's an anti-establishment movie that might have starred Jack Nicholson or Elliott Gould a decade or so later.

 

You can't beat those four legendary stars in their only appearance together. It's like a great screen Harmonic Convergence. Powell making his swan song. Cagney winding down his long career. Fonda as mellow as a fine wine. And Lemmon delivering an Oscar-winning performance on the road to film greatness. 

 

My favorite moments: Roberts takes his sweet time reporting to the Captain's quarters after the palm tree episode. When the Captain becomes agitated and throws up, Doc is summoned. And he takes his time reporting to the quarters.

 

 

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I love MISTER ROBERTS and, frankly, I can enjoy filmed plays because they let me experience, pretty closely, what it might have been like to actually see the original play.

 

One of the great filmed plays is LIFE WITH FATHER.  One of the interesting cinematic adaptations of a play is BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, based on OUTWARD BOUND (filmed previously under the original title in 1930).

 

GLEN GARY, GLEN ROSS is a great filmed play.

 

TOP BANANA is a virtual filmed play and not terribly successful.

 

As for ROBERTS, the original book and play gave immediate post-war audiences a chance to laugh at the awful ordeal they had just been through.  It was a national phenomenon.  The film upped the ante by casting Powell and Cagney in the roles played by Robert Keith and William Harrigan.  David Wayne must have been wonderful as Pulver, but Jack Lemmon was brilliant.  If anything, Fonda was, by 1955, too old for the part and his awful toupee actually made him look older.  He looked younger two years later in THE WRONG MAN when he went au natural.  Ford directed most of the location scenes and I think LeRoy did most of the studio stuff and it shows.  The studio scenes were stagey (partially a result of the new CinemaScope).  Still, it's a classic script and Franz Waxman's music is fantastic.

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Wonder was "Mr Robert's" the inspiration for "McHales's Navy"? :lol:

 

There's more of a link to the 1953 drama "Destination Gobi," in which Richard Widmark plays a World War II Naval officer commanding a top secret weather operation in Inner Mongolia.

 

Or at least that's how Jennings Lang, who was in charge of MCA's TV subsidiary Revue Productions, remembered it.

 

The name of Widmark's character in the film: Sam McHale.

 

 

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If anything, Fonda was, by 1955, too old for the part

 

Fonda was too old on Broadway. Doug Roberts is supposed to be around 26-7 (Tom Heggen's age at the time; he based the character on himself -- a very idealized version of himself.). Fonda was 43 in 1948. Even David Wayne (the orginal choice for Roberts -- he stepped aside when the producers got the chance to sign major star Fonda, and movied over to Pulver) at 34 was too old for Roberts. And of course he was much too old for Pulver, who is supposed to be just out of the fraternity house.The Roberts-Pulver dynamic is meant to be older-younger brother, but with Fonda and Lemmon it became father-son.

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Well, sometimes I like "dumb" comedies with lots of slapstick. Airplane and The Naked Gun movies come to mind.

But they're genuinely funny. And in addition to all the physical and downright silly humour  ( which I enjoy in those films), they've also got a fair bit of wordplay. There's no such cleverness with words, no verbal humour, in Mr. Roberts.

 

In other words, I like a "dumb" comedy as much as anyone, and have nothing against "parking my brain" for a couple of hours of shameless silliness. But it has to actually be funny, too.

 

Eeh! Now whaddaya talkin' about here, MissW?!

 

The following is just ONE example of some of the clever wordplay in this flick:

 

Doug Roberts: Frank, I like you. There's no getting around the fact that you're a real likable guy.

Ensign Pulver: Yeah? Yeah!

Doug Roberts: But...

Ensign Pulver: But what?

Doug Roberts: Well, I also think you're the most hapless, lazy, disorganized, and in general most lecherous person I've ever known in my life.

Ensign Pulver: I am not!

Doug Roberts: You're not what?

Ensign Pulver: I am not disorganized!

 

(...and lady, IF you haven't noticed after all this time, AND all modesty aside, I'M a pretty damn good judge MYSELF of the fine art of "wordplay", ya know...okay okay, I said "judge", NOT "practitioner" here, remember!!!) ;)

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There is the problem. Next time, try conservative viewings.

 

Exactly what I was thinkin' here too, Rich!

 

(...well, THAT and that it was probably the FIRST time I've EVER seen ND use the word "progressive" around here and it not being used in a pejorative sense, anyway!)

 

LOL

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Question:  How Dumb Is Mister Roberts? 

 

Answer:  I don't know; I lost my yardstick with the 'Dumb' measurements and only have a stick with inches and feet.  Sorry 'bout that cos I really wanted to help ya, Nipkow!     

     -------------------

     I like MISTER ROBERTS well enough.  I enjoyed watching it the other night for the 3rd time.  I could envision Ensign Pulver doing occasionally mischievous things in peacetime like smuggling a bit o'booze. 

 

      I noted, ND, that through repeated viewings you are enjoying MISTER ROBERTS less. 

 

     ♣My suggestion♣ :  Don't watch it again if you're not enjoying it any more.  That's what I do when the long, dusty, arid movie LAWRENCE OF ARABIA shows up on TCM's schedule.  

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I guess I might have been a tad too negative in my appraisal of mister roberts. if I really hated it that much I wouldn't still be watching it after so many years.

 

I just think roberts shoulda played ball with the captain. that woulda been the smart thing to do.

 

I thnk the real problem is they got overly sentimental with the story. they doan show what happened to pulver after his outburst with the captain at the end...the captain had pulver for dinner! :lol:

 

I submit that in the real world the captain would be just as indomitable in his rigid disciplinarianism as roberts was in his laxity.

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While I know that much of the humour of Mr. Roberts is broad (John Ford was not a director known for much subtlety when it came to comedy), I find it difficult to resist any film with such an impressive quartet of male stars.

 

There's an easy chemistry in the scenes shared by Henry Fonda, William Powell and the young and ever-so-eager Ensign Pulver played by Jack Lemmon. It's touching to see Lemmon's admiration bordering on hero worship of wise veteran Fonda's Mr. Roberts. And Powell brings a grace and dignity to his playing of wise Doc that makes this a fine curtain call for the veteran star.

 

One of my biggest quibbles with the film has always been with James Cagney's broadstroke take on the Captain. On the one hand, it may well be that the actor plays his black-and-white comic villain this way (a really nasty little man at the core) because he was being faithful to writer Joshua Logan's stage portrait of same (does anyone know the stage version well enough to know if the Captain's characterization was so black and white?).

 

Perhaps for the sake of the film, too, it makes it clear as to who is to be hissed by the audience, and Cagney's Captain certainly fills that bill.

 

On the other hand, I have to feel some exasperation with this film because I think James Cagney was one of Hollywood's greats actors, as well as stars, but you really wouldn't know it by this performance. He was an actor capable of bringing subtle shadings of vulnerability to a tough guy role but perhaps that was the last thing the makers of this film wanted. Thus a great actor plays it like a cartoon.

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