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"The Best Years of Our Lives" has been one of my favorite movies for a
long time. It touches on the difficulties of returning veterans,
admirably well for the era, but rather lightly when compared to the
approach later movies would take. There is even a love story. Still, it
does touch on a variety of veterans' problems, i.e. returning home
without limbs, the change in status from a glamorous officer in the air
corps to soda jerk, alcoholism, even touches on PTSD decades before it
was officially recognized as an illness.
The most powerful scene in the film for me was when the former bombardier walks among all the dismantled airplanes destined to be scrapped. All these mighty machines of war, now no longer of use and scrapped as junkwhat of those mighty men of war? Are they to be scrapped?
At its first 30 minutes, "The Best Years of Our Lives" summarizes the
dynamics of 3 servicemen returning back to their families after the war
is over. Intriguing are the expectations and the fear they hold within
their hearts. Fear of being forgotten, of being replaced by another
Another angle widely explored in the movie would be their (re)adaptation from life in campaign to the life in the cities. Things are not the same they were when they were deployed, and they must accept they will never be, as the construction of a new life with their families begins.
"The Best Years Of Our Lives" is a rich portrait of the American post-war scenario, full of emotion, but not drama. For those who would like to experience the 40's in the United States, this movie will do the job just like a time machine would.
This is my go to movie, when I am sad, or lonely, I put this movie on
and I feel..comforted, at home, peaceful.
My favorite parts are seldom mentioned..when Theresa Wright makes breakfast for the severely hungover Dana Andrews, the movements so familiar and homey, she continues to talk while toasting bread, scrambling eggs, pouring juice, you see how they are growing closer together. The scene where Myrna Loy makes breakfast in bed for her just home soldier husband, so fastidious in her nervousness, wanting to please, excited and then the unspoken tension and desire long suppressed as she come into the bedroom with his breakfast. But my ultimate favorite part is when she is on the phone and realizes he has come home, you only see her back as she tenses and suddenly "knows" her husband has returned!
Three WWII veterans return home to small-town America to discover that
they and their families have been irreparably changed.
Such a powerful film. At first the new lives of the soldiers seem to be facing small adjustments, such as their children's interest in "atomic energy" and "scientific efficiency". But soon we find that jobs are hard to find, and the wives and girlfriends sometimes met new people while the battles were fought.
Although a serious topic, the film has the right balance of entertainment and drama. It never gets outright depressing, and things like depression and suicide are overlooked. But it still remains a valuable lesson: as bad as dying in the war is, sometimes the transition back to normalcy can be just as damaging.
Although not one of the better known movies today (2014), "The Best Years of Our Lives" won seven Academy Awards in 1946, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Fredric March), Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell), Best Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Sherwood), and Best Original Score (Hugo Friedhofer). It still sits on the IMDb Top 250, just as it should.
I could use all the movie clichés to describe this heartwarming and
bittersweet film, but only the most vivid ones will do. The direction
and the camera in the opening scenes, in the plane and in the taxi are
held not too close, but just far away enough to get the scene, as if we
are reading a book, or eavesdropping, which is the way it should be, so
smart not to take close-ups of such gut-wrenching emotional interplay.
I can never forget how Homer arrives home, and how he is greeted, so
bravely and so American in spirit. Even thinking about it makes my eyes
This is a film about bravery, about how to deal with tragedy smartly and with courage. It has humor, it has love, and as I said all the clichés that go with it. And it is timeless, for no matter what war or period of time, people will react the same, wanting to help but not knowing how, wanting to give but not knowing what to give.
A masterpiece of direction and cinema, it should be seen by young and old as a lesson both in great filmmaking and about life.
I watched the film last night and it was an absolutely fantastic film.
This was the film that knocked "It's a Wonderful Life" out of the
awards, and you would have thought before you watched this film it
Should be a great movie. And do you know what, it was. 10/10 for
another classic. It won its self 7 academy awards plus an honorary
award and memorial award at the Oscars too. A record breaker at that
time. Brilliant cast, brilliant sound, brilliant editing, brilliant
shots, brilliant plot, brilliant movie.
Voted 37th best American film of all time by the AFI. Since then it has risen a lot higher. Voted 11th best film in the category of cheer films.
All in all, I very much enjoyed this film. It tells of an aspect of the
WWII era that is very seldom mentioned in any Hollywood film of that
time period-that is how the returning veterans readjusted to the
The three main characters are not wartime buddies. They meet on their way home to the same small town. Each has a unique, but realistic situation. Fredrick March, as usual, is outstanding in his role as a typical suburban dad. The other actors give excellent performances as well.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the issue of disability is also brought up in this movie-another rarity for an old movie. (Heck, a rarity even for a modern one!) This calls to mind the true costs of war, which are brought up both in their physical and psychological aspects. But, this is NOT an anti-war film. It is a realistic portrayal of the proud members of America's "greatest generation." All in all, I highly recommend this movie, particularly for younger people how may benefit from an appreciation of what the older generation did for us all. With some sense of guilt I only rated this movie with an 8, only because some people, hoping for an action packed wartime drama, might be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie does an exceptional job of creating an emotional response,
one of compassion for what the veterans and other characters are going
through. But it takes a certain amount of effort and imagination from
the viewer to understand the larger context of what people at that time
The soldiers didn't know whether they would ever see their home and family again, and wives didn't know if they would see their husbands again. So when the vets returned, it was not just the emotion of a long time away that they felt.
The vets of World War II saved the world for freedom, literally. Their sacrifices and the sacrifices they witnessed around them were what preserved the communities they returned to. This they must have felt, yet those who had stayed behind didn't. We see no gratitude from the civilians.
To understand what these WWII vets went through, you need to learn about the history of the war. The audience in 1946 would have lived through that history, through newspapers and newsreels. For the rest of us, there are lots of documentaries covering the war from many angles. It takes time to really dig into the subject, but once you do, The Best Years of Our Lives has much deeper meaning.
This is an important movie, one you should see, yet it is not pretentious. It strives for a naturalistic, slice of life approach, though, as some have noted, with a strong romantic twist. But it is more than a romance; it is about the inner turmoil of adjustment, as well as the outer, social and economic challenges. This movie could have been very dark and depressing without the romantic element, which provides a positive resolution to the story.
The various plot elements are plausible, such as the right-winger at the lunch counter. Journalist Eric Sevareid wrote about observing meetings of Americans in the Midwest before the war who could only be described as Nazi sympathizers. And the fact that veterans did not get much credit for what they had done when applying for jobs seems accurate; just look at what happened to the heroes who were in the photo of raising the flat at Iwo Jima. We know now there eventually was an economic boom, but right after the war, some figured we would return to a Depression economy. A lot of people were out of work.
While the movie stands on its own, it helps to have a sense of the historical period. The Ken Burns oral history, The War, is a good place to start. The BBC also made a multi-part documentary series.
Near the end, The Dana Andrews character mentions as a job qualification that he learned to operate the Norden bombsight. I was a little surprised to hear it mentioned in 1946, since it was supposedly secret, even many years later, though not a well kept secret. The Norden bombsight was an extremely complex analog computer that for the last few minutes actually flew the plane to the target. So Andrews did have an extremely complex and important job.
The Andrews character was a "soda jerk," who worked behind the counter at a soda fountain, traditionally found at a drug store because of the technical and chemistry background needed to produce carbonated water and keep ice cream frozen in the early days. We see an old fashioned soda fountain, apparently a standard Liquid Carbonic Company model. They were still around in the Sixties, but have largely vanished.
The online "Drugstore Museum" has some info on soda fountains. The American Heritage magazine ran a fascinating article by Joseph L. Morrison on their history in the Aug. 1962 issue, available online.
While Harold Russell's performance was not so polished, it carried great power that lifted this film above the ordinary. He didn't have to act. I liked the quote in Russell's IMDb bio, from his letter supporting President Truman for firing Gen. MacArthur:
"The issue is whether the ultimate civil authority of the United States can tolerate actions in contempt of constitutional lines of authority. Any lessening of civil power over military power must inevitably lead away from democracy."
It's a movie you sit your 10-12 year down and tell them to watch.
They'll know why and how to respect veterans for the rest of their
lives. Powerful performances by Harold Russell, Fredric March, Dana
Andrews and the lovely Myrna Loy.
Although dated as far as where society is today as opposed to 1946, many of our veterans still suffer the same personal issues today when they return from war and the sudden shock of being back in society with people who don't understand the veterans.
War is something that takes up a veterans whole life 24/7 for the time they are involved and the lives of their friends. It's an understanding between service people who served together.
William Wyler the Director of such classics as Wuthering Heights, Mrs.
Miniver, Little Foxes, Jezebel, The Letter returned from the Military
Service in WWII and created a film classic, a Masterpiece. Produced by
the Independent Studio of Samuel Goldwyn this film is brilliantly acted
by a cast of true artists Myrna Loy, Frederic March, Dana Andrews among
many others. One cannot praise the ensemble cast enough, and kudos to
sexy Virignia Mayo, and two standouts: Teresa Wright and Harold
Russell. I am a Veteran myself but of a later war but found the
similarities of the treatment given returning WWII Veterans and those
of Vietnam and Desert Storm very powerful. Great black and white
photography and a beautiful musical score add to the picture. Starting
with its evocative title The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the
finest films I have ever seen. March, Wright and Russell won Oscars, as
well as Mr. Goldwyn, Mr Wyler and the Picture. Deservedly so! Ms. Loy
top billed has a small but very pivotal role and is magnificent.
A Great Movie
PS The Reunion scene between March and Ms.Loy is one of the finest scenes in any movie ever!
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