|The Best Years of Our Lives
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Ex-best friends judah ben-hur & messala fight it out against a backdrop of roman imperialism & rising christianity. Studio: Tcfhe/mgm Release Date: 01/22/2008 Starring: Fredric March Myrna Loy Run time: 168 minutes Rating: Nr
Winner of seven Academy Awards, including best picture, director, actor, and screenplay, William Wyler's brilliant drama about domestic life after World War II remains one of the all-time classics of American cinema. Inspired by a pictorial article about returning soldiers in Life magazine, the story focuses on three war veterans (Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell in unforgettable roles) and their rocky readjustment to civilian life in their Midwestern town of Boone City. Capturing the contradictory moods of America in the mid to late 1940s, this three-hour drama spans a complex range of honest emotions, from joyous celebration and happy reunion to deep-rooted ambivalence and reassessment of personal priorities. A movie milestone when released in 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives still packs a punch with powerful, timeless themes. --Jeff Shannon
- Great Movie But Too Bad About the DVD!
This movie is almost 3 hours long but as a testament to how good it is you don't really feel it. From the beginning you can tell you are watching a classic; from the great score to the excellent script and cast it's hard not to be caught up in the story and to be touched by it as well. Despite its age, the film ages well because it covers themes that are still relevant today such as loyalty, adapting to new environments, self-sacrifice and lack thereof etc. This movie stands the test of time and despite repeated viewings will still amuse, entertain and touch most of us to the core.
Unfortunately, this DVD version of this great film is an unworthy version to pay any respect to this classic. It hasn't been restored well and so many picture quality imperfections exist and the sound quality is just Dolby Digital Mono which should be improved. There are no Special Features to speak of as well making you wonder if you are better off getting the VHS. Here's hoping that they will consider another restoration project for this film to vastly improve the picture quality and the sound quality by adding Dolby Digital 5.1 or THX Surround options plus some Bonus Features worth shouting about.
In the meantime, while this film is a true classic, you may want to wait for an improved DVD to surface so as to get the most enjoyment that you can from your viewing experience. Perhaps a Blu-ray version may be just the excuse to restore this film to the quality that it surely deserves. As for me I'll be keeping a lookout for a well-restored version and perhaps you should too....more info
- 10 Stars
This would certainly have to be in contention for one of the best films ever made. Unbelievably great acting and a profound story. I do hope a better quality, widescreen if possible, version comes out ASAP. But I'm glad I went ahead and bought this one for now. This is the rare type of film that adds quality to your life ... rather than just wasting a couple of hours of it....more info
- A 5 for the movie and a 2 for the transfer
I'll just review the movie. If you want to know how it really was after the fighting stopped then this is a must movie to watch. This isnt a John Wayne type war flick. This is about as true to life movie about readjusting to being home after hell. My dad was at PH and never talked about it. I kinda understood better why after watching one of the best movies of all time. All top rate acting....more info
- Gem of American Film
This deeply moving, beautifully written and performed film, was a long-planned tribute by director William Wyler to veterans of World War II, whose heroic service Wyler witnessed first-hand. Posted overseas himself during the war, Wyler vowed that when he returned to Hollywood, he would make a film that paid some sort of tribute to the men he worked with. "The Best Years of Our Lives" is the fulfillment of Wyler's promise. Released in 1947, the film won seven Oscars (it was nominated for eight) including Best Picture and Best Director.
"The Best Years of Our Lives" tells the stories of three veterans returning home to their small midwestern city from active service in WWII: Fred, a much-decorated Air Force pilot (Dana Andrews) from a poor background who, before the war, worked as a soda jerk at a drugstore lunch counter; Homer, a Navy sailor (Harold Russell) and former high school football star who has lost both arms; and Al, an army sergeant who, in civilian life, is a successful banker with two teenaged children.
As the veterans return to homes and wives and/or family (only Homer is not married, although waiting anxiously for him is his high school sweetheart, Wilma, played by Cathy O'Donnell), they confront difficulties reintegrating themselves into ordinary life, and re-establishing emotional contact with those who have been waiting at home. The men carry horrifying war memories that have changed their values and outlook on life, yet also experience disorientation going back to an existence that lacks the immediacy of life lived at the edge of survival.
Al Stevenson finds himself initially shy and reluctant to resume intimate relations with his strong-willed wife (Myrna Loy) - he has to realign the parameters of their relationship with her and their two children who in his absence have blossomed into adulthood. Fred Derry, the Purple Heart pilot, finds that Marie, his lively blonde bombshell of a wife (Virginia Mayo), whom he married without knowing her well just before being sent overseas, has left his parents' home and gotten an apartment and a job of her own; Homer, the disabled sailor, cannot cope with his family's well-meaning but pitying response to his disfigurement, nor can he believe or trust that Wilma still loves him.
The film traces each man's response to the placid pace of civilian life, and to the readjustment he must make to the societal and economic changes of the post-War era that are already spreading across the country. As a disabled veteran, Homer does not have to worry about re-entering the work force, but he feels like a freak and resists Wilma's attempts to reassure him that the loss of his arms has not changed her feelings toward him - he withdraws from his family into a painful depression. Fred is plagued by nightmares about being shot down in his plane, and finds that while his old job behind a five-and-dime lunch counter is now inadequate for a man with his experience, his lack of higher education or other training leaves him few options. Moreover, Fred finds that his pretty wife is unsympathetic to his issues and self-involved, interested only in having a good time. Al finds that although he is welcomed back into his fine job at the bank, his desire to approve loans to returning veterans who haven't much collateral to back them up are challenged by his higher-ups, to whom he must explain why he trusts these men to honor their debt, and to whom the country owes a debt.
As Homer tries to drive Wilma away, because he does not want her to marry him out of pity, Fred's and Al's lives overlap. Fred finds himself unable to function at his old job or take orders from a fresh-faced college grad who did not serve in the war, and loses the job when he slugs a man at the lunch counter who insinuates that the war was an unnecessary one foisted on America by Roosevelt. Marie is unwilling to adjust her lifestyle downward to accommodate only his service benefits and resents not being able to go out and enjoy life, and eventually she leaves him for another ex-serviceman who is doing better. At the same time, through his friendship with Al, Fred has met Peggy, Al's daughter (Teresa Wright), who is charming, intelligent, and virtuous, and falls in love with her. Touched by Fred's struggles, and by the innate qualities that she discerns in him, Peggy is equally attracted to this diamond in the rough. But Al, much as he admires and likes Fred, cannot approve of his cherished daughter's relationship with the drifting, still-married Fred, and tells Fred to stay away from Peggy.
Finally, in one of the most tender scenes ever filmed, Wilma one evening helps Homer remove his prosthetic arms and get ready for bed in his parent's home. Homer realizes that Wilma truly loves him and tells her that he has always loved her and will never love anyone else. In another wonderful scene, the disrupted relationship between Al and his wife moves into calmer waters as they relate to the confused Peggy the emotional hardhips of the early years of their marriage, and how they moved forward, anyway, committed to their lives together as a family. And, in what is perhaps the film's most famous scene, Fred exorcises some of his wartime demons in the cockpit of a B-52 that is about to be dismantled, needed for materials to fulfill the demand for inexpensive housing in post-War America. Fred persuades the boss of the outfit performing the work to give him a job.
At the end of the film, the three veterans gather for Homer's wedding in Wilma's parent's house. Marie is divorcing Fred, who is living with his father and stepmother. During the touchingly home-made parlor wedding (compare it to the luxurious church wedding of the spoilt Kay Banks in "Father of the Bride" just three years later), Fred and Peggy, at opposite ends of the parlor, gaze at each other during the simple service and silently commit themselves to each other. While the other guests are congratulating the newly married Homer and Wilma, Fred takes Peggy in his arms and as he does so, her hat falls off as she embraces him, a charming symbolic reference to surrender and the move from girlhood to womanhood.
"The Best Years of Our Lives" is a long film, nearly three hours, but is worth every moment of your time as Wyler, whose love for his protagonists shows in every frame, portrays their shifting relationships and the adjustment both they and America make as they move into the new environment of post-World War II America.
The performances are sensitive and heart-felt, with special mention going to Dana Andrews as Fred Derry, the tormented air force hero from the wrong side of the tracks who finds himself adrift in a new world. Harold Russell, who plays Homer, was, in fact, a disabled veteran who had never acted when he was selected for this role. While clearly the work of an amateur, his (wisely) unadorned performance works well and garnered a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Frederic March has never been one of my favorite actors, but his undeniable gifts bring Al Stevenson to life, and won for March the Best Actor Oscar. Cathy O'Donnell (who would later appear as Charlton Heston's young sister in "Ben-Hur") gives an affecting, low-key performance as the patient, loving Wilma. Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright are perfect as, respectively, the classy, forthright Mrs. Stevenson, and as Peggy Stevenson, who shows her mother's backbone in her determination to stand by and help the man she has chosen.
Virginia Mayo, a highly under-rated actress, is marvellous as the high-spirited, "selfish" Marie. Mayo has a thankless role here as the one woman in the film who is unwilling to sacrifice her own interests to support her man, but she makes the most of it and gives the role bite and life. The role of Marie brings me to the one quibble I have with this otherwise flawlessly conceived and delivered film, of which I am deeply fond, and which never fails to reduce me to tears.
Wyler draws what is, in my opinion, far too sharp a distinction between the "good" and "bad" women in this film. It is notable that Marie, the one woman in the film who is overtly uninterested in making sacrifices for the returning soldier, is also the only woman in the film who is overtly sexual. Marie's curvaceous figure, blondeness, provocative clothes, and love of a good time stand in contrast to the rather extreme asexuality of Peggy and Wilma, the two young virgins, who are both very thin, dress plainly, and are constantly seen happily performing routine household tasks such as cooking breakfast and washing dishes. They appear to have no individual cores whatsoever that do not revolve around Homer and Fred. The climate of the post-War era must be taken into account here, as a time when women were being heavily pressured to give up the jobs they had held during the war in the men's absence (and consequently, give up their taste of economic independence) so that returning veterans could have the jobs; women were also being heavily pressured to take up lives centered wholly on homemaking - the result, of course, was the post-War "baby boom".
Fred Derry is a sympathetic character with legitimate issues, but it is not as if Marie is entirely wrong to be disappointed at how things seem to be turning out when he returns. Fred IS a difficult package, and he and Marie married without knowing each other at all. Marie loves her independent life and that she should be demonized (that is the only word for it) for preferring to move on and enjoy life, rather than staying home with a brooding, troubled husband who refuses to let her augment their slender income with a job, begs some questions of the ideals women were expected to fulfill in the post-War era - ideals which led to the first wave of feminism as the 1950s closed and the 1960s opened. As Marie storms out of their small apartment, she shouts, "I'm going to live for myself!". No sentiment could have been less appreciated in American women after the war, and Marie's declaration is meant to demonstrate the height of unwomanly behavior, particularly compared to the purity, selflessness, and curious asexuality of Peggy and Wilma, as they commit themselves to men with notable problems. Only Myrna Loy, among the "good" women, is allowed to show a bit of pepper and curve, but then, she has been proven as the faithful matron and mother. In this reviewer's opinion, the contrast Wyler draws between the openly sexual and independent Marie and the two selfless, asexual younger girls, is unfair and, as history proved over subsequent decades of social upheaval, unrealistic.
That issue aside, my respect and affection for this exceptional film has remained undimmed over the years.
- Picking Up The Pieces After WWII
I'm a confessed sap for old movies. But even among mid twentieth century films, this one is superlative. It was made in 1946, just at the conclusion of world War II.
Three men, unknown to each other in their previous lives, return home to the same town. Al (Fredric March) was a banker, but in the war was an infantryman in the Army. Fred (charming Dana Andrews) prior to the war worked behind the counter serving ice cream and soda but ended up as a Captain (bombadier) in the Air Force. Straight up nice guy Homer (Harold Russell) was a sailor in the Navy and had his hands blown off. This movie is an atypically (for its time) hard look at the difficulties returning veterans had as they tried to get back to the business of living normal lives. Their lives are now intertwined because they share a common experience; a common pain. In many ways I suppose this film was a broad social attempt to begin to heal. Plus, Myrna Loy was in it! :-)
For me, the scene in which Fred deals with his demons in the shell of an old grounded bomber accompanied by a tortured musical score as the camera moves up slowly behind him was one of the great cinematic moments of an already excellent film....more info
- It was a landmark film, back in its day...
I think "Best Years" is now terribly dated, and it has always been overlong, but there are great performances here, especially Harold Russell's portrayal of Homer, the double-amputee, who must return from WWII with artificial hands. Set in a large, fictional, midwestern city, the film tracks the troubles of three veterans as they return to civilian life. Russell is so impressive because he was the real thing...a non-actor amputee vet. The movie is worth seeing for him alone. The Hollywood pros, of course, do good jobs in their roles as well. If your parents or grandparents were young adults in the post-war 1940's, this film will help you understand their experiences. It is fascinating, too, for the cars, the airplanes, the jobs, the courtship rules, and the relation of young adult vets to their parents or partners after years of separation. I think every adult citizen should see it at least once. We have wounded vets returning from war experiences every day in the USA in 2006, and while the nature of work and relationships have changed tremendously in the past 60 years, the fears and joys and hopes and challenges are largely the same....more info
- A deeply personal motion picture...
This American masterpiece came as near perfection as popular art contrives to be, from its beautifully equivocal and suggestive title to the magnificent performance elicited by William Wyler from the nonprofessional amputee Harold Russell...
The film epitomized both the dream and the reality of the postwar world... This intimate engagement with the psychological facts of American life gave it an almost universal audience... But, unlike contemporary and preceding "message" pictures, it was not a preachment... It showed Americans as they are, presented their problems as they themselves see them, and provided only such solutions--partial, temporary, personal--as they themselves would accept... The picture's values are the values of the people in it...
William Wyler, an outstanding director, triple winner of the best picture Oscar, adds an air of distinction to melodrama, epic and Westerns... With his distinguishing visual style and his taste for solemn material, he gained a reputation as a meticulous, serious artist... Wyler's most adept use of deep-focus reveals the real commitment to emotional content...
The film tells the story of three men coming home from war to a small middle-American community, and find it variously difficult to pick up where they left off... The three heroes are: a middle-aged sergeant (Fredric March), magnificent as the devoted family man who succeeds in breaking the ice with his family; an incisive Air Force captain (Dana Andrews) returning to an unfaithful wife; and a tormented sailor (Harold Russell) who has lost both hands in service, replaced by hooks in real life...
Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, "The Best Years of Our Lives" is eloquent and compassionate, a deeply personal motion picture with touching wordless homecoming scenes:
- The first words of the sergeant's loving wife when he arrives home unexpectedly: "I look terrible! It isn't fair of you to burst in on us like this."
- The involuntarily sob of the sailor's mother when she first sees her son's mechanical hands... She blurts out: "It's nothing!"
With her dry-martini voice, Myrna Loy combines charmingly her wifely qualities with motherly ones; Teresa Wright is lovely as the sergeant's nice daughter who falls in love with the pilot; Virginia Mayo is harsh as the disloyal flashy blonde wife whose first loves are money and high life; and Cathy O'Donnell is wonderful and sensitive as the sailor's fianc¨¦e...
The situations and even some of the characters seem a little obvious, but this is a superb example of high-quality film-making in the forties, with smiles and tears cunningly spaced and a film which says what is needed on a vital subject...
- The coming home from war movie.
I love this movie, it is a must see for anyone who is in the military or is a military family member. It is emotionally charged with issues every military family deals with when the soldier returns from war. Keep a box of tissues handy, I cry everytime I watch it. Eventhough it takes place post WWII, the feelings remain the same for every generation. ...more info
- What a great movie!
I had only seen snippets of this movie on TV through the years, so I was surprised and pleased at how good a film it is -- still relevant in many ways more than half a century after it was made. It gives a realistic picture of what it was like for returning veterans from WWII, who came back to a largely mundane existence after the terror and excitement of war. It shows how hard this adjustment was for the vets, and how their families also had to struggle with the changes. I highly recommend it. ...more info
- Deeply Moving American Masterpiece
Although this movie was made in 1946, it is still fresh, real, and deeply moving today. The story involves the adjustments military men have to make when they come home. (This was before we knew about post-traumatic stress disorder.) Surely the men and now, women, who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will each have their own stories.
William Wyler must have been a terrific director for actors because he got such spontaneous, naturalistic moments from this cast. I found this quality of acting unusual in a film of that time. The cast is terrific--each one gives a deeply moving performance. Myrna Loy is so charming and at once sophisticated and sweet, tender and tough. She makes you think about what the wives who were left at home to raise their children alone had to cope with. Harold Russell's performance, as others have said here, is worth the price of the DVD. I knew nothing of him, if he was a real amputee, a professional actor, or what, until I read the reviews. He has an amazingly open, beautiful face and the sunniest smile you'll ever want to see. The marriage scene which shows each detail of the hands, clasping each other, giving the ring, brought tears to my eyes!
Dana Andrews is great as the young, carefree, ex-soda jerk who married a blonde bombshell but comes to realize he may have made a mistake. Frederick March is wonderful, too, as the ex-banker who returns to face a wonderful family, but there are still problems. We see that he drinks too much and this is probably the only problem that isn't spelled out and resolved. Teresa Wright is luminous as his grown daughter who falls in love with Dana Andrews. I have found her acting a bit sappy in other films but here it rings true. Virgina Mayo is gorgous and certainly convincing as the girl who just wants to have fun.
I really enjoyed the appearance of Hoagy Carmichael, a very cool guy, who gives additional class to this film.
It plays for three hours and I was glued to the screen for the entire time. As a snapshot of a moment in America's history and as a universal human picture, it has great value....more info
- One of Our Family's Favorite during Holidays!
We love this movie! It is REAL and real life. Don't let negative reviews convince you otherwise. See it for yourself. We watch it every year! Moving! Awesome! Real! Life is not always Disney and this is good!...more info
- a nice start
what happens after the war...the post-effects of war in the lives of everyone, not only the soldiers.
great film...more info
- Surprised. . .
I was very surprised to see a relationship between a girl and a married man included in a film made during an era where innocence was still reigning. The story line is good, the acting is great, but I wish that whole relationship would have been different....more info
- Best Years is the best
This movie is one those classics that you can enjoy over and over again. It is timeless in its telling of men coming home from war and the struggles they face. The characters and richly drawn and you find yourself caring for them. The men come home to a place much altered than when they left. Trying to get back into a routine with friends and loved ones, married couples re-adjusting to each other, parents and a girlfired dealing with the double amputations of their son and fiance. To the couple that never should have married and his growing affection for the daughter of another returning vet. Time has been kind to this story and with the current war in our lives it only proves that some things in life trancend time. I really love this story and I think you will too....more info
- The Best Years Is One of the Best Films...Ever
The Best Years of Our Lives is a film that seems to transcend time itself. This is one of the best films ever made. A rich ensemble cast and a compelling, touching story make this a film to treasure and invites repeated viewings, and it isn't hard to see why it won Best Picture in 1946 as well as a high mark on AFI's best films ever made.
The film surrounds three men who are just returning from World War II. They are Air Force Captain, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), Sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), and Navy Shipman, Homer Dobkins (Harold Russell). The film's central plot issue is how these three men are able to re-incorporate themselves back into society.
Fred Derry finds the challenges of getting re-acquainted with his new wife, wonderfully played by Virginia Mayo, and finding a good job, as he was a soda-fountain man before he entered the war. He also has an estranged relationship with his father who can't seem to express his admiration and affection for his son. Dana Andrews is wonderful. His best work is in this film and in the classic thriller, Laura.
Al Stephenson find his challenges in getting re-aquainted with his family who seem to have grown away from him in the sense that his kids are grown up. He also finds the challenge of going back to a job as a bank loan officer, a job he hasn't much enthusiasm for, as well as his tendency to drink just a bit too much! Fredric March is simply brilliant in this film and he justly earned an Oscar for this role.
Finally, there is Homer Parrish, played by real-life veteran with genuine touch and appeal by newcomer Harold Russell (the only actor in Oscar history to receive two Oscars for the same role!). Word has it that William Wyler was so impressed and touched by Harold's true-to-life war experience which cost him his hands, that he incorporated much of Harold's own experience into the story.
Our three men return to Boone City to vast changes within the town itself. They are blown away by the commercial boom that seems to have struck. So much progress has been made that, at first, our heroes wonder just where do they fit in.
Fred quickly discovers that he really doesn't know his wife. While attractive and appealing physically (especially to other men), he realizes that she's lacking in any real substance. Nor, apparently, is she interested in him outside of his "military" uniform and position. However, he quickly finds romance with Al Stephenson's young daughter, Peggy (Teresa Wright). He finds a young woman with genuine feeling who cares deeply for him, especially when she's awaken one night by one of Fred's nightmares. His wife wonders why he can't just "get it out of his system," while Peggy shows concern and empathy for Fred's plight. The problem grows more complicated since Fred is married. The budding relationship between Fred and Peggy doesn't please father Al at all who warns Fred that he will do everything to keep Peggy away from him. Teresa Wright was one of those wonderful actresses with the perfect blend of beauty and sense of the girl next door. She wasn't glamorous, and she never had a desire to be. Her appeal was always in playing very sweet, down-to-earth characters.
Al returns to a loving wife (Myrna Loy), Milly. Even Milly is wondering what happened to her husband, who at seems is more interested in bar-hopping than in recapturing his romance with her. Al discovers a promotion waiting for him at the bank, but he wonders at what cost? Especially when he feels compelled to give a "break" to a young return veteran who has no collateral for his loan. He ends up questioning just where the heart of America is. Even while intoxicated, Al ends up giving one of the most compelling speeches about the future of America.
Finally, there is Homer Parrish who just wants to be treated like everyone else. His girlfriend, Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell) tries everything she can think of to try and convince Homer that she doesn't care about his debilitating condition, but only about him. It finally takes a true touching situation for her to finally convince him of this truth. This is greatly amplified when he finally wraps his arms around her, and she nearly cries out with joy that he's finally done this.
There have been several such films made throughout the history of Hollywood, but none have approached the touching and genuine feeling that this one does. William Wyler is one of the best directors of all time, in my opinion, behind such classics as "Mrs. Miniver" and "Ben-Hur". He has always done compelling and touching stories, and not many directors are able to combine these two elements so successfully.
The movie is nearly 3 hours long, but it never feels like it. We find that for these three men, the best years of their lives are yet to come because they've overcome all of the odds of war and all of the odds of coming home. ...more info
- Great Movie and Interesting Social Histoy
This film is one of my favorites and stands the test of time. It's good to know that it was appreciated when it was released, over 60 years ago, winning so many Oscars. A great and moving story (it's schmatlz only adds to it). For the most part it's very well acted too, creating great sympathy for the characters.
The plot is well described elsewhere here, but there were several things in it I found very interesting pieces of social history.One is the information regarding some actual salaries of 1946. These included the wages of an Air Force bombadier, a bank VP and soda jerk. I was amazed at how high the first two were. Another notable thing is the general tone of worry about the future with high unemployment, economic worries and a dread of the "next war when we'll all be killed". The opinion was also voiced that "we just fought the wrong enemy". This at a time when the US was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons and about to start the biggest economic boom in it history. But the best was the bank president lecturing on bank policy with regard to risky loans to men with no collateral and "never gambling with investor's money"! ...more info
- When Johnny Came Marching Home Again
The Best Years of Our Lives
Captain Fred Derry is trying to get a flight back home to Boone City. He meets two others from his home town, one who lost his hands. All that Derry wants is a good job for his future. They see hundreds of airplanes that will be junked for scrap. The ride down Main Street shows hundreds of small businesses. [Most would be gone in another generation.] Homes have big porches. Elevators have operators. The film shows the homecoming for each veteran, and the reaction of each to their new situation. There is an interesting comparison of military rank to neighborhood. Would that ever occur again?
After a night out their adjustment to civilian life continues. No one finds any tragedies at home. Fred's old owner-operated pharmacy is now part of a chain. Al is offered a promotion to Vice President in charge of Small Loans at the Cornbelt Bank. Homer can practice firing his .22 in his backyard [what freedom they had!]; Wilma still loves him. Homer can't accept the reality of his prosthetic devices. Fred has nightmares from his war experiences. VP Al judges loan applicants by their character, not their collateral. At the Union Club VP Al expresses confidence in the bank's future and small loans to people. Fred's wife complains about the change in Fred's personality since the war. Peggy has ideas for her future, and this surprises her parents. Al talks to Fred to straighten out things. A reactionary shows up at the store and argues with Homer; Fred settles the argument and quits his job. Wilma shows that she has the right stuff.
Fred's wife has decided she wasted the best years of her life, and will change her status. Fred knows when it is time to bail out. Fred visited a junk yard to remember the past, and finds a future: he has a `can do' attitude. At Homer's wedding Millie worries about Al's drinking. Homer and Wilma will live happily ever after. There will be a future for Peggy and Fred too.
This film provides snapshots of life in 1945 America, as seen by Hollywood. The success of this film shows it was acceptable to the American public. It was the greatest success for independent film producer Samuel Goldwyn. This complete film is much better than the censored version shown on broadcast TV.
- Before the movie, before the screenplay, a book-length poem
Many viewers of this great American movie -- it won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, for 1946 -- are unaware that it was based on a most unusual book-length narrative poem by MacKinlay Kantor, "Glory for Me," published in 1945.
In 1970, I was a lieutenant working at the Air Force Historical Research Center. The older historians told a word-of-mouth story how the book and the movie came to be. No doubt the story had been embroidered over many years of retelling, but here's the way I heard it.
In 1944, movie titan Samuel Goldwyn knew that whether the allied victory in World War II would come sooner, or later, millions of American veterans would return home. Many -- especially those with physical and psychological wounds -- would have trouble finding jobs and "readjusting."
Goldwyn knew that journalist and playwright MacKinlay Kantor, who had flown missions with the 305th Bomb Group from England earlier in the war, had gotten to know American servicemen in combat at first hand. Goldwyn asked Kantor to write a screenplay for a planned movie on the veterans returning home.
According to the story, Kantor had driven up to a Tennessee mountain retreat to work on the screenplay. He took his typewriter and a case of bourbon. He emerged some months later with empty bottles and "Glory for Me," written in the form of a narrative poem, not a screenplay. Goldwyn was not pleased, and he eventually gave Kantor's poem to Robert Sherwood to reshape for the screen. When the film finally appeared, Kantor was given a minimum of credit. Sherwood -- deservedly -- won the Oscar for Best Writing.
If you like the movie, you will be richly rewarded by reading the poem.
Kantor's and Sherwood's treatments of the same characters and the same American town ("Boone City") shows two gifted men working the same basic story in different literary forms, poem and screenplay. Reading the book allows one to discover how, here and there, they made some different creative choices.
In Kantor's poem, Homer's disability is spasticity, which makes for some painful reading. Sherwood gave Homer a physical disability -- loss of hands and the use of prosthetic hooks. Sherwood's choice was a wise one for the moviegoing public, and few are the hearts not moved by Harold Phillips' portrayal of Homer in the film. But Kantor's portrayal of Homer and his girl Wilma are equally moving, perhaps because the poem gave more room for character development.
When Frederic March played Al Stephenson -- the older sergeant returning to his prewar life as a banker at the Cornbelt Trust Company -- he masterfully compressed much of Kantor's material in eloquent but short scenes. In Kantor's fuller telling of the story, Al was the son of a pioneer banker who had made loans to farmers a generation earlier. The poem has more social and historical texture.
In Kantor's poem, Homer's uncle Butch (Hoagy Carmichael's character in the movie) provides a vehicle to explore class feelings in pre- and post-war America. This was one of Kantor's themes that Sherwood could not fit into the film. Similarly, Kantor told his readers more about Novak (the veteran asking for a loan to open a nursery) and his experiences as a Seabee in the Pacific. Kantor's use of lilacs as a metaphor for peace and normality could not be picked up in the film.
On the other hand, Sherwood changed the story line to say more about wartime marriages. Marie (Virginia Mayo in the film) proves shallow and unfaithful when Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) returns home. The movie's title, not found in Kantor's poem, came from a scene when the two argued.
The book was published in January, 1945, months before the war ended. Kantor well anticipated the major contours of veteran adjustment, but there was more to his foresight. On the final page of the poem he showed real prescience when he alluded to the unresolved social tensions that all Americans, not just the veterans, would confront in the coming years.
Reading habits have changed in the six decades since the book was published, and readers may now find that it takes some pages to adjust to the poetic form. Kantor's poetic shortcomings earned some dismissive reviews. Poems similar in form by Kantor's contemporaries like Stephen Vincent Benet are now dismissed as middlebrow when they are read at all. I am confident, though, that with each page the reader will find new lines and new scenes to savor and treasure.
"The Best Years of Our Lives" is a truly great American movie. "Glory for Me" deserves equal recognition. Kantor recognized the coming drama of the returning veterans. He dignified their individual struggles in a literary form that recalled the great epics and placed the American veterans among mankind's heroes. He gave an immortal film -- a film that affected tens of millions -- its basic structure, plot, characters, tone, and feeling.
Not a bad result for a few months of solitude with a case of bourbon.
- Top Notch Transfer!
The review below which calls this transfer dismal, must be refering another edition entirely. I just received this one today and finished watching it moments ago. It is superb in every way. The black and white is crisp and the contrast deep and not at all grainy. The deep focus shots achieved by Gred Toland are breath taking. The sound is full and rich, and leaps from my THX 5.1 with perfect clarity.
We all know this is one of the best movies ever made so I won't say any more about that. The DVD however is WONDERFUL.
I wish all the transfers were this good. I have to think the other reviewer got a bad copy, or is talking about another edition. I love this one!...more info
- The Best Years Of Our Lives
Classic Movie. A Must see movie. WWII veterans return home to fine a difference in their lives. Touching and emotional. Great actors ,good movie....more info
- THE BEST FILM OF OUR LIVES
How dare that reviewer give this film 1 star just because of stupid technical issues. I could watch this film on a view master and still call it the greatest ever made.
Get a life!!!!!!!!!!!!...more info
- The Best Years of Our Lives
Great period piece. The way things were. Great...more info
- 3.5 stars out of 4
The Bottom Line:
An affecting and touching story or three soldiers returning from WWII to a country that has changed profoundly since they've been gone, The Best Years of our lives has lost little of its power over the years; though at times the movie feels overly melodramatic, it's a very worthy and well-acted tale....more info
- Touching look at post-WWII America
Although a bit schmaltzy and hammy in places, TBYoOL conveys deep feelings of Americans about the heroism and debt of gratitude owed to the men who defeated Nazi Germany and the Japanese. Three perspectives are bundled together - the rich man who's come to know the working-class man as his brother in arms, the poor man whose army glory far outshines his pedestrian civilian life, and the disabled veteran who must come to grips with his limitations. Each man is given greatest respect, presented to the audience as a noble warrior returned home with a new perspective on who they are and what they want from their lives.
Idealistic, over-simplified? Sure. But what's being conveyed through the film isn't intended to be the harsh reality of soldiers and sailors adjusting to life after war. The purpose of the movie is to embody the nation's love for their fighting men, to say that times may be tough as they adjust, but that the American people recognized the fighting men as heroes to a generation....more info
- "I'm glad to see you've all pulled through so well."
The world changed as a result of WWII, and it directly affected many people's lives. The soldiers that returned home faced a similar situation as the veterans from WWI. They found their jobs had been taken, their outlook on life had changed, and sometimes their families had been dismantled. The Best Years of Our Lives addresses the return home from war and the affects combat had on their daily lives. We follow Al Stephenson (Frederick March) home to his wife (Myrna Loy) and daughter (Teresa Wright). Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) returns to his new wife (Virginia Mayo). Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) comes home without hands and startles his family and fiancee Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell).
This film is a long and indepth look at the readjustment from a soldier's life to a civilian's life. We see the men returning to work, the disappointments that they face, and the changes they make. The movie has romance, heartache, and comedy which makes it appealing to a variety of audiences. This is one of those movies that was obviously made to contend for the Oscars; it won Samuel Goldwyn his first for best picture. It features a talented cast and well-written characters, and the direction is supurb. One will recognize many scenes from various film compilations and homages....more info
- TIMELESS CLASSIC
The Best Years Of Our Lives received 7 oscars, including Best film for 1946. William Wyler gives us a masterpiece about 3 war veterans returning home after WW11. The script is so good and the acting and direction so poignant that each scene is so memorable and tells a story all it's own.
The film is a timeless classic that still holds up today; in fact, as long as there are wars, this story will always be true.
The 3 sevicemen, (air force pilot, army sergeant, and sailor), face the anxieties of coming home to families they haven't seen for awhile and to an America that has changed while they have been gone. It is an honest telling of a story that so many servicemen faced, but also, in the end, an uplifting story filled with love, warmth and joy. In 1989, the National Film Registry selected this film for preservation in the U.S. Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
The powers that be at MGM, should really be ashamed of themselves for not treating this FINE FILM with the RESPECT it deserves. The picture quality is not very good and should be remastered; and there are no special features on the 2000 version DVD. You mean to tell me, that with a film that received 7 oscars, they couldn't come up with any special features? I hope one day, MGM or maybe some other studio, will do this great classic justice and give it the respect and fine treatment it deserves. How about Criterion? They do good jobs with their DVD releases.
MGM should take note as to how 20th Century Fox treats their classic films; they do their classics proud....more info
- Great Films
This movie tells the story of three servicemen home from World War II and their problems adjusting to civilian life. Dana Andrews should have gotten the academy award instead of Frederic March. And Teresa right was the girl every man loved....more info