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Mister Roberts
Henry Fonda and Robert Burton, 1950
Written byThomas Heggen
(novel, play)
Joshua Logan (play)
CharactersLieutenant Doug Roberts
The Captain
Ensign Pulver
Lieutenant Ann Girard
Shore Patrol Officer
Date premiered18 February 1948 (1948-02-18)
Place premieredAlvin Theatre
Original languageEnglish
SettingWorld War II; aboard the USS Reluctant in the South Pacific

Mister Roberts is a 1948 play based on the 1946 Thomas Heggen novel of the same name.

The novel began as a collection of short stories about Heggen's experiences aboard USS Rotanin and USS Virgo in the South Pacific during World War II. Broadway producer Leland Hayward acquired the rights for the play and hired Heggen and Joshua Logan for the adaptation.

Mister Roberts opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on February 18, 1948, starring Henry Fonda, David Wayne, Robert Keith, and Jocelyn Brando, who replaced Eva Marie Saint before the show opened. Logan's brother-in-law, William Harrigan, played the Captain. The original production also featured Harvey Lembeck, Ralph Meeker, Steven Hill, Lee Van Cleef, and Murray Hamilton. Fonda got out of a Hollywood film contract to star in the Broadway theatre stage production. He won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. The production ran for 1,157 performances (closing on January 6, 1951). Fonda later reprised his role of Lieutenant Roberts in the 1955 film of the same name.

A book dramatizing the play, co-authored by Heggen and Logan and also titled Mister Roberts, was published by Random House in 1948. The New York Times critic Lewis Nichols praised the work as standing on its own.[1]

Tyrone Power starred in the London company. John Forsythe appeared in a national touring production. Many actors began their careers in various productions and touring companies. Fess Parker began his show-business career in the play, in 1951.

Joshua Logan's account of his collaboration with Thomas Heggen in the writing of the play is in Logan's autobiography, Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life.

In 1963, the play was back on Broadway with Hugh O'Brian in the main role. Also in the 1963 Mister Roberts play were Chris Noel, Will Hutchins, Vincent Gardenia, Tony Mordente, Alan Yorke, Vince O'Brien, Bill Fletcher, and John J. Martin. It was directed by Billy Matthews.[2]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1948 Tony Awards Best Play Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play Henry Fonda Won
Best Producer Leland Hayward Won
Best Author Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan Won
Best Director Joshua Logan Won
Theatre World Award Ralph Meeker Won


  1. ^ "Mr. Roberts; MISTER ROBERTS. By Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan. Foreword by John Mason Brown. 163 pp. New York: Random House. $2.50". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  2. ^ Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969,page 402