Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 1955. Warner Bros., Orange. Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, Joshua Logan, based on the play by Thomas Heggen, Joshua Logan, from the novel by Thomas Heggen. Cinematography by Winton C. Hoch. Produced by Leland Hayward. Music by Franz Waxman. Production Design by Art Loel. Costume Design by Moss Mabry. Film Editing by Jack Murray. Academy Awards 1955.
Joshua Logan and Thomas Heggen’s hit Tony Award-winning Broadway play is transferred to the screen with minimal results, its scrappy, mercurial humour deadened by oversized Cinemascope photography and a lagging pace. Henry Fonda reprises his stage role as the cargo officer aboard a supply ship that sees little action in the second World War, its condition raggedy and its mission to float in the Pacific Ocean and make sure those involved in fighting are always well supplied. Fonda is constantly trying to get transferred in order to experience the war for real, thwarted at every turn by the resentful captain of the ship (James Cagney in a one-note role) who is determined to keep him in his place. Also causing shenanigans are the rambunctious crew, who much prefer Fonda’s generosity to Cagney’s hard-nosed approach, while the boat’s doctor (William Powell in last onscreen role) and the girl crazy Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon in his star debut) are constantly getting into trouble of their own. Some sequences are delightful, others require patience while Winton Hoch’s gorgeous cinematography is always a pleasure to look at. The film’s uneven pacing is possibly due to Mervyn LeRoy taking over direction duty halfway through production, following disputes between original helmer John Ford and Fonda (which resulted in Ford punching the star in the face).