I watched this one again last night, and found it as entertaining as it was the first time I watched it. Henry Fonda depicted Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Douglas Roberts, the cargo officer on the Navy AK (cargo auxiliary) "Reluctant," referred to by her crew as "the bucket." Far behind the front lines of the war, Reluctant was charged with delivering "more toilet paper and toothpaste" than any other ship in the Navy to island outposts in the Pacific.
The dim-witted, hateful captain was acted by James Cagney--a different type of role than he usually played. He was superb! Jack Lemmon was Ensign Pulver, a lazy youngster with a juvenile attitude who was afraid of the captain. William Powell played the ship's doctor.
All of the parts were played magnificently, and the story was beautifully filmed. Pure entertainment.
The only criticism I have of the film is the moral behind the story. It makes Fonda a hero because he was a lousy officer who was chummy with the crew and hostile to his captain. Granted, the captain was supposed to be a vicious, nasty, small-minded tyrant, like the captain in "The Caine Mutiny," or Bligh in "Mutiny on the Bounty." But whatever the captain's temperament, a good naval officer would have tried to support him, or at the very least kept silent. To undercut his authority and incite disrespect for him is destructive to discipline, and on a naval vessel--in fact, throughout the navy--discipline is what makes the service an effective fighting force. The story must have been written by a civilian.
But, it was good entertainment, nonetheless.
Joseph H. Pierre, USN (Ret.)