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The Best Years of Our Lives
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The Best Years of Our Lives More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful movie about returning soldiers

Author: aj989 from United States
31 May 2013

When Robert Osborne introduced "The Best Years of Our Lives" on TCM years ago, he started it off by saying that some consider this to be one of the greatest films ever made. I was suspicious, as I had seen the film years earlier and thought it to be a good, not great film, but after that viewing, I now consider it to be a truly great film.

The film tells the story of four soldiers who return home to Boone City after the end of WWII. Al Stephenson (Fredric March) returns home to his wife (Myrna Loy) and daughter, Peggy (Teresa Wright). Al also has a son, but he disappears almost entirely by the middle of the film. Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) returns home to a wife (Virginia Mayo) who doesn't seem much like the woman he thought he married and alternatively he is drawn romantically to Peggy. Finally there is Homer (Harold Russell) who returns home to his family and girlfriend with the news that due to war injuries he no longer has his hands; instead two hooks are in their place.

The story follows these three men as they attempt to navigate the, not always smooth, transition from wartime to peacetime life as civilians. As evidenced by this film, not every problem was solved by the GI Bill. Memories (and wounds) of the war still linger. The film is not only a fascinating character study of soldiers but also of their loved ones as well. The way the film weaves the stories of these three distinct men together is a storytelling masterstroke. All of their stories fit together, yet are different (they come from different economic backgrounds, for example) and nothing seems forced.

Every member of the cast does a wonderful job from the leads to the actors in smaller roles like Virginia Mayo and Gladys George. March's performance is exquisite as he struggles to return to normalcy, especially at his job. Myrna Loy (has there ever been a classier actress?) is great as March's wife. Loy gives a restrained performance but one that radiates beautifully throughout the entire film. Harold Russell won two Oscars for his work here, one was honorary. Is it a great performance? No. But it sure is moving. The producer Sam Goldwyn and director William Wyler deserve credit for casting an actual amputee in the role. This is especially noteworthy when considering how frequently white actors played Asians and Native Americans in those days. When Goldwyn and Wyler could've cast anyone, they instead turned to Russell and the film is much better and more authentic because of that choice. Dana Andrews just might have given the best performance in the entire film. His part is probably the film's most complicated one. His character struggles perhaps the most both in terms of his personal life and in his job. Andrews successfully navigates this course so brilliantly; an honest, subtle, and charming performance.

Overall, this film is nearly perfect with the exception of the overreaching score. In my estimation, it is Wyler's best film as well as the best movie about soldiers returning home, and yes maybe one of the greatest American films of all time.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Profound and Heartbreaking

Author: LeonLouisRicci from United States
2 March 2013

An emotionally draining Film, it makes its point so poignantly that it's an indelible work of power and strength. The real-life story is forever etched on the heart and provides the viewer with extreme empathy.

It is flawlessly acted and that makes the tragic situations more believable. The Movie is as genuine as a true-life Drama could be in 1946. It may stand as the precursor to most of the post-war Film-Noirs that incorporated it's theme of returning vets trying valiantly to readjust to civilian life. Discharged from the Hell-Holes of the Earth and finding that they were "strangers in a strange land".

Some may say that this profound and heartbreaking story is a bit long (almost 3 hours) and that is a valid statement. There does seem to be just a bit of unintended embellishment. An example might be at the Wedding Ceremony, where the complete Marriage Vows are recited. This may be a nitpick but it is an example of where a few minutes could have been cut without an iota of loss, and there are others.

That aside, this close to perfect Movie is one of the top 100 American Films on just about everyone's list.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A tribute to the victorious dead and the wounded, enervated, and venerated survivors

Author: Koundinya from India
16 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A sailor and two soldiers return to their hometown; back from the war. They are revered by their fellowmen for fighting for their country. Al is promoted in the bank he worked with before the war. Fred returns to his house and realizes his wife had long vacated the house. Whatever happens to the lives of Al and Fred is of lesser importance when compared to the true life and pain of a handless soldier. Homer loses both his hands in the war and his perseverance and strong-soul get him going. His parents and neighbors pity him but he does all his daily chores by himself and demands he be treated the same way he was treated before the war. He gives humorous explanations when inquired about his condition and even tries to choke a man who feels war was a waste of incalculable time, money and countless lives.

He has truly established courage in the minds of his fellow soldiers who have seen the horrors of battle and has given them a reason to live, for they have served the country. Harold has shown us that you don't need two hands when you have an iron heart.


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Scripted, but effective

Author: bandw from Boulder, CO
30 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As long as there are wars, there will be soldiers coming home from them after long absences. And there will be movies like this one that detail what some of those soldier experience. This movie is one of the first, and one of the best, to tackle this sensitive subject. The movie concentrates on three soldiers coming home to a smallish Midwestern city from WWII and it walks a fine line between being too stark (blind and paralyzed) and being overly sunny (parades and public honors). Care is also taken to represent the three main branches of the military: Al is an infantry Sargent, Homer is a Navy seaman, and Fred is an Army Air Corps Captain (the Air Force was not made an official branch of the U.S. Military until 1947). These three had disparate backgrounds before the war: Al was a banker with a wife and two kids; Fred was a soda jerk, recently married; Homer was a middle class guy living with his parents, having a girlfriend next door. The initial scenes are some of the most moving where we see the excitement the guys have in flying over the city in coming back, only to be followed by witnessing the anxiety over what they will find on the home front.

After the initial setup the story follows the three soldiers through their initial reentry into a culture they hardly recognize until they are on a path to integration. It's not a one-way street--families and friends also have their share of anxieties and readjustments. Perhaps Homer has the toughest row to hoe, since he lost both hands during the war. You are forced to see the obstacles Homer faces, both physical and emotional. Homer's situation was brought home to me when he took his prosthetic arms off and laid them to the side and commented that if the door to his bedroom closed, he would be as helpless as a baby when it came to getting out. Homer's situation is presented in detail and with much feeling and it makes you think about the daily ordeals any handicapped person faces.

I found the acting uniformly good, even non-actor Harold Russell as Homer. I particularly liked Myrna Loy as Al's wife Milly. The banter between Milly and Al sometimes offered a bit of comic relief--Loy's personality that made her so successful in the Thin Man movies breaks through on occasion. The scene that had Fred pretending to sell Al's daughter perfume was funny and charming. But, befitting the subject matter, there is not a whole lot of humor to be had here.

The black and white photography is notable. There are some interesting scenes using mirrors. As with many movies from the 40s and 50s the musical score gets a little out of control at times leaving little doubt as to what emotions you should be having.

Of interest is the fact that the movie is a bit of a time capsule. I got a feel for the time period in terms of the dress, the cars, the night life, and so forth. The sex appeal of the women in this film withstands the test of time--indeed, maybe less explicit dress is more enticing. The brief footage in the nightclubs of Gene Krupa in one scene and Tennessee Ernie Ford in another was fun to see. And the scene with Hoagy Carmichael playing the piano while counseling Homer to calm down was a pure delight. I wish there had been more of Carmichael. The scene toward the end showing the graveyard for airplanes was sobering and could be seen as a metaphor for what was happening to the three soldiers--what was recently a vital resource was being processed for salvage.

This movie might be a little too polished, but I admire it for its courage in taking on a serious topic so soon after the war, and doing so with honesty and style. The themes touched on are no less relevant now than they were then.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Classic post-war epic.

Author: zulus88 from UK
10 April 2011

A huge commercial success of Wyler's film upon its release right after the war and a spectacular critical reception (9 Oscars including Best Picture) are surprisingly conflicting (and somewhat symptomatic of the film's value) when one determines his expectations towards a picture that suggests post-war revisionism encapsulated within the spirit of the Classical Hollywood melodrama. The Best Years of Our Lives is a complex film in a sense that it is intricately honest about its political restraints and yet applies the same careful consideration to both the entertaining dramatic facade and underlying it social context.

Running time of over 170 minutes turns The Best Years of Our Lives into a 'domestic epic'- film of subtle pleasures and intervening relationships focused on the mundane but extended into the proportions usually reserved for stories of much more grandiose scale. Yet initially balanced perspectives shift dangerously and for lengthy periods of time character of Homer is pushed into the background. Played by an actual disabled veteran, Homer adds a level of harsh realism that is unexpected for a Hollywood film of that period. All three veterans, levelled only briefly by a shared anxiety of returning to their families are constantly challenged by their different economical positioning, but strangely disproportionated by the narrative's momentum.

Wyler's film reveals itself to be a melodrama, in most natural way evolving from the struggle for readjustment into a love affair and it thrives on sentimentality. This notion dominates the tone of the whole with a pleasurable alas predictable manner, leading to an ending that seems to be entirely satisfied with its shmalzy quality. Film is simply most comfortable in this familiar territory, once the obstacle of the controversy- Al's contradictory intentions at work, Fred's unemployment and Homer's disability become merely a set up.

At one point Homer's sacrifice comes under blunt questioning but the villainous gentleman who dares to display his doubt is brutally dispatched- questionable necessity of war dismissed in favour of the future prosperity; an optimism of blindfolded conformity. This suspension of criticism is film's dominant mode.

Staged and executed with precision, film utilizes, infamously, deep focus to achieve a level of undeniable verity. It is hard to dismiss it as only a technical nuisance and although one should be extremely careful to seek Bazinian inclinations of dominance in this particular form, The Best Years of Our Lives is a thoroughly impressive achievement. Depth of every shot provokes a curiosity that is often rewarded through reoccurring use of reflections and significant details that would otherwise require editing, disturbing film's considerate pace.

Verdict: It's a classic that is as enjoyable a movie now as it might have been in 1946 but even more interesting as a story of a significant compromise. One between the urge for reassessment in a mass medium not quite ready for this kind of impact and a story that could support the interest of a broad audience- disillusionment and patriotism. More a mark of its times than perhaps any other Classical Hollywood venture, The Best Years of Our Lives is an example of a film that lost none of its excellence and purely emotional impact even if it intellectually resonates in a rather underwhelming way.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

the best years is one of the best films

Author: froberts73 from United States
22 February 2011

Reading the reviews you can see a plethora of positivism, and very well deserved for this excellent film.

A few of the problems experienced by the WW2 vets are still fairly familiar, but the important thing about this movie is that it has always been a vital piece of history, a real learning experience.

More importantly is the way it examines the lives of the trio of returning veterans, each with different worries, different problems.

One of the main things is their worrying about reactions from family, friends, and the public. The transition to civilian life is not easy, although it was much easier then than now.

The current variety of wars are, to say the least, not too popular and the public sometimes has the tendency to take their frustrations out on the servicemen.

In those days, there was more embrace.

The movie's cast is top notch - March, Russell, and Andrews who, in those years, seemed to have been in every third 20th Century Fox movie. He was a workhorse who played a variety of roles and played all of them convincingly.

Hoagy Carmichael, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, and cute Cathy O'Donnell were all perfect for their roles. Russell, with zilch acting experience, was remarkable and received a well deserved pair of Oscars - one for his performance, the other for his inspiration.

It was sad to read about his son, currently spending his time in jail. These are not the best years of his life.

Back to the movie. It is one of the best.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Must see

Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
19 October 2010

This film falls into that rare category of must -see. It delineates the troubles and issues of three returning war heroes, who are treated like second-class citizens.

Fredric March is excellent as he returns to his family, wife (well-portrayed by Myrna Loy) and two children . The children question his war experiences, he son mentions how the atomic bomb will one day destroy the world due to mans inhumanity.

Dana Andrews as displaced bomb-dropper, pilot is at once tragic and endearing. His wife (Virginia Mayo) wanted to marry an officer. She leaves him when the only job he finds in Boone City is that of a soda jerk.

Overall this film is very human, sad and realistic. It is a must -see for everyone.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Watch it if you've never seen it before; truly a 4-star look into a real life most of us aren't familiar with

Author: raketex from United States
2 February 2010

Just caught part of this movie again tonight as part of TCM's annual "31 Days of Oscar" special programming in celebration of the Academy Awards.

Although I've seen the whole movie before, this is one of those movies I can't help but watch and be drawn into, whenever it's on.

The acting, the characters, the real-life stories and challenges, the variety in pacing, the underlying music, the sentiment snapshot of that important transitional period in our history, and the kind of "offbeatedness" of some of the glimpses back into that era and time. There's always something to admire and to appreciate once again when it's on.

Check out the many creative scene set-ups and the flow of the camera, especially the scenes involving mirrors and other artistic framing. Also, the deep focus shots, too. Quite a lesson in creative directing and innovative camera technique on its own.

And then -- there is Myrna Loy! Something about that coy, knowing, impetuous smile/smirk and those big expressive eyes,reminiscent of "The Thin Man" series, gets me every time. What a wonderful wife to have!

(p.s.- Teresa Wright always reminds me of a younger Donna Reed, too.)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A favourite fable

Author: bondboy422 from United Kingdom
24 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How does one begin to describe this piece of work. We have the Airforce bomber Fred Derry,infantryman Sergeant Al Stephenson and sailor Homer Parrish returning home to Boon Town.They fly home on a stopping flight into peace time.They bond and in the cab ride home they all talk about meeting at Butch's at sometime.Homer has lost his hands in naval service and is naturally anxious about how his family and especially his child sweetheart will react-Homer meets his family and Velma his girlfriend rushes to him with a look of love and feeling that is difficult to describe -he in return cannot hug her.Fred returns To his parents to see where his new barely known bride is (married quickly before the start of the war)He senses that something is not right when they tell him she moved out.Al returns to his wife and family where he initially meets his son and daughter and then his wife -- there reunion as they see each other is a time stop moment.William Wyler is a genius filmmaker and this film is probably his best.There are scenes that you look forward to seeing again and again.Fred telling his wife all the money has been spent and that will stay in, the reunion with Al Homer and Fred at Butches.Peggy putting Fred to bed , making him breakfast and dropping him back home in the morning ( Agaain a moment of tension as he cannot get into his apartment a second time and turns back towards Peggy as if a romance will start between them and the door is opened and he is all of a sudden let in )These incredibly strong moments happen again and again through this film.It is so difficult to single out the actors individually but one can try. Frederic March is subtle /large and you believe he was in the infantry and had learnt a few dirty tricks, Talk about a fully rounded portrayal! For me he has great moments throughout this film his firmly telling his daughter Peggy off when she says she has fallen in love - his drunk and hungover scenes which are subtle and beautifully graded , of course his speech at works dinner where his integrity and strength are on show , his threat to Fred and for me just one little moment where he opens his eyes to Fred just as the taxicab drives off! Wow.Dana Andrews gives a career best performance -- He has pride and will not take his soda jerk job and then has to.He has a nobility and you seem him start to fall in genuine love -- at one point Al knocks him out of his reverie and Dana Andrews makes you see this -- it is so real.Harold Russell as Homer Parrish is natural and restrained , the love around him is tangible and when he finally lets Velma 'in' the tears well up in the viewer --this might sound schmaltzy but it isn't at any moment.Teresa Wright as Peggy is strong,sensitive and discreet and you could see why she would attract Fred's attention and Cathy O'Donnell's Velma doesn't seem to be acting at all -- her love for Homer is beautiful to behold! William Wyler's direction is faultless and how he draws out the truth from these actors is a near miracle-Gregg Tollands photography has unforgettable effects in the story telling -- for example --Homer and Al are talking and Fred makes a very important phone call -- even though Al and Homer are central -- you cannot take your eyes off Fred making that call and leaving-- GENIUS

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A tender, truthful romantic drama

Author: sme_no_densetsu from Canada
21 August 2009

William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives" is today counted among the best films of all time. At the time of its release it was a smash hit at the box office while later taking home seven Oscars.

The story concerns a trio of WWII veterans returning to their homes in small-town America after the war. Each finds difficultly in picking up where they left off, both in terms of their place in small-town society and their relationships with their loved ones. It is worth noting that the screenplay resulted in one of the film's Oscar wins.

The cast is quite good and two of the individuals (Fredric March & Harold Russell) took home Oscars for their performances. Russell's performance is especially noteworthy since he wasn't even a professional actor. In fact, Russell also landed a second, honorary Oscar for 'bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance' in the film. The other male star, Dana Andrews, wasn't recognized with a nomination but I think that he gave a fine performance as well. As for the women (who also weren't recognized with any nominations), Teresa Wright leads the way while Myrna Loy & Virginia Mayo contributed solid performances as well.

Wyler's direction is impeccable and deservingly earned him an Oscar. The editing by three-time Oscar winner Daniel Mandell also earned an Oscar while Gregg Toland's cinematography is noted for its use of deep focus. Hugo Friedhofer's Oscar-winning score also deserves mention.

It's easy to see that the film is finely crafted but all of this would have been for naught if the story wasn't both authentic and touching. While I'm not exactly a huge fan of this brand of romantic drama I have to admit that the film did not leave me unmoved. Naturally, the 63 years that have passed since the film's release have served to date it somewhat but I believe that its status as a classic is well deserved.

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