The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Poster


This was the first time Myrna Loy had worked with William Wyler and she was wary of his reputation as "90-Take Willy". As it turned out, the two got along very well.
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For his performance as Homer Parrish, Harold Russell became the only actor to win two Academy Awards for the same role. The Academy Board of Governors thought he was a long shot to win, so they gave him an honorary award "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance." Later that ceremony he won for Best Supporting Actor.
Director William Wyler was furious when he learned that Samuel Goldwyn had sent Harold Russell for acting lessons; he preferred Russell's untrained, natural acting.
Harold Russell was first discovered by William Wyler when he saw an army training film called Diary of a Sergeant (1945) that Russell had appeared in about the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen.
To avoid awkwardness when he first met his fellow cast members, Harold Russell made a point of reaching out with his hooks and taking their hands, thus putting them at ease with his disability.
William Wyler, who served as a major in the Army Air Force during World War II, incorporated his own wartime experiences into the film. Just as Fred Derry did in the movie, Wyler flew in B-17s in combat over Germany, although rather than being a bombardier, as Derry was, Wyler shot footage for documentary films (his hearing was permanently damaged when an anti-aircraft shell exploded near his plane while on a bombing raid). Additionally, he modeled the reunion of Al and Milly, in which they first see each other at opposite ends of a long hallway, on his own homecoming to his wife, Margaret Tallichet.
In 1946 this became the most successful film at the box office since Gone with the Wind (1939) which was released 7 years earlier.
Harold Russell's character was originally written as a war veteran suffering from combat trauma. This was changed to a physical disability when Russell joined the cast.
Myrna Loy receives top billing as she was the most successful female star at the time.
William Wyler wanted a completely unglamorous look, requiring all costumes to be bought off the rack and worn by the cast before filming, and making sure all sets were built smaller than life-size.
In a scene at Butch's bar, Homer asks Butch if he would play a song for him. "How about 'Lazy River?'" Homer asks. "Remember that?" Hoagy Carmichael, who plays Butch, composed "Lazy River."
The airplane graveyard where Dana Andrews' characters finds his old bomber was a real graveyard for thousands of B-17 and B-25 bombers, along with numerous fighter planes. The crew washed down Andrews' bomber then hit it with dust to make it stick on the forward turret for a grittier look. Though the salvage crew scene was part of the movie, in real life such work crews did dismantle the old planes to make housing for returning veterans.
In order to give the film a documentary-style realism, the director drew each member of the crew - props, grips, mixers, etc. - from the ranks of WWII veterans.
Director William Wyler despised Hugo Friedhofer's Oscar-winning score for this film.
In the film, Fredric March's character Al Stephenson is a banker. Before becoming an actor, March had a career in banking.
Cathy O'Donnell went on to marry William Wyler's brother, Robert Wyler.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #37 Greatest Movie of All Time.
According to his biographer A. Scott Berg, producer Samuel Goldwyn re-released the film in a modified format to play on wide screens. It opened with all the hoopla of a new picture, including a gala premiere in Washington, DC, on February 3, 1954, with Sherman Adams, five Supreme Court justices, two cabinet members and 24 senators in attendance. There was a $250,000 campaign advertising it as "The Most Honored Picture of All Time". The film grossed another $1 million.
Virginia Mayo had read the novel "Glory for Me" and envisioned herself as Marie Derry. When producer Samuel Goldwyn refused to give her the part, she had pictures taken of herself at a local bar. That convinced Goldwyn, who was simultaneously working on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), to give her the part over the objections of director William Wyler.
William Wyler patterned the fictional Boone City after Cincinnati, Ohio.
This is the first film role for which Cathy O'Donnell, in the role of Wilma Cameron, receives screen credit. Her film debut was in Wonder Man (1945) as an uncredited extra in a nightclub scene.
The first film recorded in stereo using the Westrex Recording system. The stereophonic version exists in the form of studio acetate masters but they was never married to the picture. Only a handful of theaters were equipped for multi-channel sound at the time of its original release.
Came sixth in the UK's Ultimate Film, in which films were placed in order of how many seats they sold at cinemas
Writer Robert E. Sherwood had been the head of the Office of War Information during the Second World War, one of the reasons why Samuel Goldwyn approached him to write the script.
This was William Wyler's last film for producer Samuel Goldwyn.
"The Hedda Hopper Show - This Is Hollywood" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 15, 1947 with Dana Andrews and Harold Russell reprising their film roles.
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on May 19, 1947 with Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo and Cathy O'Donnell reprising their film roles.
William Wyler's first post-war movie.
"Screen Director's Playhouse" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 17, 1949 with Dana Andrews reprising his film role.
The novel "Glory for Me" by MacKinlay Kantor, upon which Robert E. Sherwood based his screenplay, is written in blank verse.
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 24, 1947 with Fredric March, Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright reprising their film roles.
Al Stephenson is wearing a shoulder patch for the 25th Infantry Division, which fought in the Philippines.
Was remade in 1975 as a TV movie called Returning Home (1975) with Dabney Coleman, Tom Selleck and James R. Miller as the returning soldiers and Whitney Blake, Joan Goodfellow, Sherry Jackson,and Laurie Walters as the wives and sweethearts. Miller like Harold Russell was chosen to play Homer because Miller lost his hands fighting in Viet Nam.
The character played by Ray Teal (the actor that Harold Russell attacks at the soda fountain) is listed in the credits as "Mr. Mollett". However, the character's name is never mentioned or otherwise alluded to. It may be that Mr. Mollett is named in the book on which the film was based, "Glory for Me," by MacKinlay Kantor.
Ranked #11 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006).
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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One of Francis Ford-Coppolas favourite films
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Harold Russell lived with his family in Wayland, MA,
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As of this posting 08/01/16 Michael Hall who played Rob Stephenson is the only member of the cast still living.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

During the wedding scene at the end, Harold Russell fluffed his lines during his vows. Rather than calling cut and ordering a re-take, William Wyler liked how natural it sounded and this was the take used.

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