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The novel, Mister Roberts, was an instant hit after being published in 1946 and was quickly adapted for the stage and screen. The title character, a Lieutenant Junior Grade naval officer, defends his crew against the petty tyranny of the ship's commanding officer during World War II. Nearly all action takes place on a backwater cargo ship, the USS Reluctant, that sails, as written in the play, "from apathy to tedium with occasional side trips to monotony and ennui." This irreverent, often hilarious story about the crew of the Reluctant has enjoyed wide and enduring popularity. Heggen based his novel on his experiences aboard the USS Virgo in the South Pacific during World War II, and began as a collection of short stories. It was subsequently adapted as a play, a feature film, a television series, and a television movie. The film version with Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon is one of the most well-known movies of WWII.