Re-Review: Mister Roberts

Hey everyone I am so glad to be doing my first blogathon of the year (and decade) and there is no better way to start a new decade than to re-do a review of one of my favorite films 1955’s Mister Roberts. Be sure to check out the Out to the Sea Blogathon, and thanks to Moon in Gemini for Hosting!

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When I first reviewed Mister Roberts I was so fresh to film blogging and while its, well OK, I wanted to take this opportunity and re-do it.

Mister Roberts is based of the Broadway play of the same name in which the ship Reluctant (or The Bucket) is stuck on the Pacific Ocean during the end of World War II. The members on board are getting bored, but are never out of eye of the tight supervision of the Captain. With its colorful crew of clashing personalities, hilarious hi-jinks inevitably occurs.

Mister Roberts has a fascinating behind the scenes story: 2 (technically 3, with Joshua Logan un-credited) directors, a fallout and end of one of the most successful actor-director collaborations, a film that has viewers wondering who directed what; and yet against all odds- it’s a film that is so well done. And I mean everything from the stage to screen adaption, to the wonderful performances, right down to the humorous tone is just so delightful to watch.

The most defying element about this film is the success it had when John Ford stepped down as director and Mervyn Leroy took over. I declare we will never know the exact reason why Ford was replaced: there are reports of an emergency gallbladder surgery, and the punching Henry Fonda incident (maybe its both). If it were any other film, Ford’s departure would make it a failure, but what saved Mister Robets from failing was A- The source material and B- the cast- which just proved how crucial their casting was.

The cast is perhaps the best thing about this film: Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, William Powell, and James Cagney (not to mention Ford stock regulars Ward Bond and Harey Carey Jr) are all just so electrifyingly perfect. They gel in a way that one might not expect, as all of these men were used to being the leading man in their pictures. Their camaraderie on set as evidenced by this picture really translated to their roles and you really believe these guys are all stuck on a ship together.

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I for one love the scene in which Doc (Powell) helps Pulver (Lemmon) make homemade scotch to impress the nurses- who else would be able to do that other than Mr. Nick Charles himself!!! I smile about it every time I watch it, and it’s a nice little callback to Powell’s most famous role. Moreover, who could forget Patrick Wayne’s small but memorable role of young recruit Booksy- I admit the first time I watched I didn’t realize it was Patrick, he was so young; this was even before The Searchers and I failed recognize him!!!

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Doc “Nick Charles” making Scotch.. What Else!?

And then there is the plant gag: that stupid but beloved plant just gives the movie an unexpected funny edge. Every time that plant gets tossed, I just can’t help but laugh, and watching Cagney’s reaction is equally as amusing. Of course, I can’t forget Mr Henry Fonda: no one but him could have played this role, and I cant believe he almost didn’t reprise this role. I don’t even wanna think about him being replaced with Marlon Brando or William Holden (Still love ya Bill!). Fonda holds the film together with Mister Roberts being the go to guy for all the characters. The ending scene with the crew gathered round to read his letter gets me emotional no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

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The Captain with his Pride and Joy

Moreover, what’s also great about this film is that it’s a ‘war movie’ for people who don’t like war movies. Not one battle scene or dipiction of gruesome imagery exists in this film, and I wish more movies could be done in this manner. It’s all about context and atmosphere of war and not necessarily what you see, but what you feel.

Overall, on a personal level, I cant get enough of this film. I don’t care is it’s not “John Ford” enough for a John Ford film: it’s just a darn good movie that deserves multiple viewings. The cast is perfect and the humor is impeccably on point. There isn’t another film quite like it out there and I am glad that in a sea of movies, it stands out in the crowd.

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

In honor of Dame Olivia de Havilland’s 103rd birthday the two fabulous ladies of In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting a Blogathon in her honor.

I will admit I have not seen as many Olivia movies as I’d like to, but I really would love to delve into her filmography because she’s just one of the greatest stars from the era, and her star status is very clear when she made My Cousin Rachel (1952).

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(wikipedia)

Directed by Henry Koster and co-starring Richard Burton in his US picture debut, this film is the first of two movies based of the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. Furthermore its noteworthy for being Miss de Havilland’s first movie since winning her first Oscar for 1949’s The Heiress.

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Burton plays Philip Ashley who was taken in by his cousin Ambrose (John Sutton), who lives on a lavish estate in Cornwall. Ambrose marries his cousin Rachel (Dame Olivia) while on a holiday in Florence. However, shortly after the wedding Ambrose dies of a “brain tumor”. While Philip suspects Rachel’s involvement, he nonetheless invites her to stay at the estate, which he will now inherit upon his 25th birthday.

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Although skeptical of Rachel and swearing revenge on her for Ambrose’s death and her motives for being mistress of the estate, Philip eventually falls in love with her. Rachel though, is not interested in marriage, only the status of being with Philip and what he can give her. When Philip falls ill however, Rachel *does* nurse him to health- but she plans to go back to Florence. Fearing she plans to poison him before she leaves, Philip then sets out to prove it. It all culminates in a very Hitchcockian move, with all of Rachel’s guilt or innocence (including her feelings of Philip and her potential involvement with Ambrose’s death) contained in one single letter.

(dvdbeaver) The necklace!

On a personal note, I enjoyed this movie- not as much as Rebecca, as that’s a Hitchcock masterpiece, but it still holds that suspense with the simple question of: Is Rachel guilty or innocent, and who is she exactly? I often ponder what would have happened if Hitchcock directed the movie or even George Cukor, original director until creative differences with the studio either caused him to quit or be fired. (Imagine the discussions we could have had today of Hitchcock, the de Havilland sisters, and Daphne du Maurier if that had happened!)

She’s so lovely.. or is she? (dvdbeaver)

On the flip side, I do understand those who prefer the 2017 version with Rachel Weiz and Sam Calfin (which I have not seen), and also those who feel the book is the superior. I own the book, but have not read it- yet.

Part of what I feel held back the complexity and mystery of the Rachel character was the fact Olivia now had an image to live up to, as she was an Oscar winner. Had she made this movie before The Heiress, perhaps she could have played it closer to the source giving a layered performance along the lines of The Snake Pit (1948).

Overall, I do recommend the movie, as it is a great mystery and especially if you are a fan of Olivia’s and Daphne Du Maurier’s then it’s an essential!!!

2018 Classic Movie Day- 5 50’s Films

50's Blogathon

In Honor of National Classic Movie Day this year Classic Film and TV cafe is doing a theme of choosing 5 classic films from the 50s. Personally, I consider the 1950s the last true “classic” decade for movies as it all changed during the 60s. Without further ado, my choices (in chronological order) are as follows:

The Quiet Man (1952)- My favorite (non-western) John Wayne movie! I recently saw it in a theater setting in March; it was spectacular! (It really is more romantic on the big screen btw!!!)

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)- J’adore this film! Every song on the soundtrack, the sparkling costumes, and Jane and Marilyn together are just perfection! Who doesn’t want to be a “Little girl from Little Rock” and believe that “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”?

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Roman Holiday (1953)- Audrey and Greg are so wonderful!!! And no one but Audrey can be that perfect in a Hollywood debut!

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Rear Window (1954)- You gotta have a Hitchcock! This is one of my favorite movies of all time and it was not only my first Hitch film, but one of my first “Classic Hollywood” movies in general. (Grace Kelly is my favorite so I had to include it!!)

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Sleeping Beauty (1959)- I have loved this film since childhood. Princess Aurora is my second favorite Disney Princess, but she was one of the first that I ever saw on screen. The storyline and characterizations may suffer a bit, but the music and the cinematic look of this movie is just a masterpiece!! Sad that its Disney’s last fairy tale he actually worked on.

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And because I am gonna cheat a little bit here are 5 runners up (to complete a top 10): Sunset Blvd (1950), Niagara (1953), Mister Roberts (1955), Lady and the Tramp (1955), An Affair to Remember (1957).

I really loved doing this little post because its an ,”easy task”, but a hard decision!! I’m off to read all of your posts!!! Happy Classic Movie Day everyone!!

(All movie posters from WIKIPEDIA)