Friday, April 4, 2014

From Here To Eternity (Best Picture 1953)

From Here To Eternity is one of the most famous Hollywood movies ever made. Have you ever seen the scene of the two lovers embracing on the beach while they are engulfed by waves? That's this. Have you ever heard of Frank Sinatra, and how he transitioned from pop singer to serious actor? That was because of this film. And somewhat more obscurely (and sadly), this was George Reeve's last film. Reeve was starring on television as SUPERMAN, but wanted to be considered a serious actor. He got a supporting role in this film, but according to Hollywood Kryptonite by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger, when Reeve appeared on screen many in the preview audience yelled, "It's Superman!" So director Fred Zinnemann ended up cutting most of Reeve's scenes out.  So there is a lot of history in this film, besides it being a heck of a good movie.
The story revolves around the men at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu in the autumn of 1941. Burt Lancaster is Sgt Warden, who runs a platoon under Captain Holmes (Philip Ober). Montgomery Clift is Private Prewitt, a new transfer to the base. He is well-known in the Army as a boxer, but refuses to get in the ring any more because of a boxing injury he caused his partner. Capt Holmes thinks more of himself and the prestige a boxing championship would bring him, so orders Prewitt to fight. Prewitt refuses, angering both Holmes (selfishly) and Warden (who wants things to run smoothly). Holmes orders the other boxers to give Prewitt "they business" until he agrees to join the team. When Warden calls Prewitt out on it, Prewitt tells him, "A man don't go his own way, he's nothing." From then on, Warden respects Prewitt and begins to warm up to him.

Everything in the film involves either Prewitt or Warden. Warden sees Holmes' wife Karen (a stunning Deborah Kerr) and goes after her, probably initially as an object of lust (he had heard she was "loose"). Then they end up making an emotional connection, staying together as two lonely halves of a whole. Their relationship is the heart of the film, literally. It is wonderful to watch two great actors moving from cynical loneliness to some type of minor happiness. The famous beach scene is not just representative of sex but also of happiness. Unfortunately, as Warden's star ascends, Prewitt's star nose-dives. He meets a "nice girl" (Donna Reed) who turns out to be a prostitute. His best friend (Frank Sinatra) gets into a grudge match with a supply sergeant (Ernest Borgnine) who ends up killing him; Prewitt then kills him in an act of vengeance. To top it all off, the Japanese attack (come on, you knew they would, right?). Prewitt is shot accidentally, and the two women meet each other on the ship taking them back to the mainland.
There's a lot more worth watching in From Here To Eternity than this short summary can cover. Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed, for example, earn their Best Supporting Academy Awards with their heart-breaking performances. Montgomery Clift brings a stoic "everyman" vibe to his role; when he's on screen you literally can not take your eyes off of him. Burt Lancaster's Sgt Warden takes longer to warm to; he only shows bits and pieces of the depths of his character. When he and Deborah Kerr first get  together, for example, you can't be sure if he is there for romance, or for lust, or if he is willing to rape her. Of course it becomes clear that he is a "good guy," but Kerr's fear at his intrusion is absolutely believable. This is a compliment to both of them. Clift and Lancaster were both nominated for Best Actor, but lost out to William Holden in Stalag 17 (an awesome performance, too). Kerr was nominated for Best Actress but lost to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
Besides all five of the main actors being nominated, the film won Best Director and Best Screenplay besides Best Picture. Besides the overall drama of the character, we can't forget the backdrop of the film. The ending, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, is one of the best I have ever seen. When the fighter planes dive-bomb the barracks there is a real sense of tension and fear from the actors, and the planes come quite close to the roof of the barracks in several of the scenes. It was very well done.   

From Here To Eternity is a great movie, with enough comedy, drama, and pathos to fill the two hours to overflowing.If you have not seen this film and you enjoy well-acted and well-written movies, I heartily recommend From Here To Eternity.
From Here To Eternity
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1953*
Produced by Buddy Adler
Directed  by Fred Zinnemann
Screenplay by Daniel Taradash
Based on the Book by James Jones 

This looks like it is new, made for a re-release or DVD sales.
Still, it captures the important scenes and the video itself is crisp and clear.
It really gives you the feeling of the movie, although the music is awful! 

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Julius Caesar
The Robe
Roman Holiday
I was never a big fan of the Biblical epics that seemed so popular in the Fifties, so I guess it's not a surprise that I have never seen The Robe. It's about the last robe that Jesus wore immediately before he was crucified; it stars Richard Burton. Likewise, Julius Caesar is the Shakespeare play but in the same general era; it stars Marlon Brando, believe it or not. Roman Holiday sounds like it would be a Biblical comedy, too, but it's not. It's a wonderful romantic comedy drama about a Princess who doesn't want to be a Princess. It makes me cry every time I see it. Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, and Audrey Hepburn are all fantastic. She earns her Best Actress award for sure, even though it cost Deborah Kerr. Shane was Alan Ladd's last great film (as well as Jean Arthur's); both should have been nominated for their roles. It is a tragic drama about a good man getting caught up in a bad situation. If you haven't ever seen either of these two films, you should. I'm sure you would enjoy them.

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