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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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Three World War II veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.

Director:

William Wyler

Writers:

Robert E. Sherwood (screen play), MacKinlay Kantor (from a novel by) (as Mackinlay Kantor)
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1,240 ( 3,554)
Top Rated Movies #244 | Won 7 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Myrna Loy ... Milly Stephenson
Fredric March ... Al Stephenson (as Frederic March)
Dana Andrews ... Fred Derry
Teresa Wright ... Peggy Stephenson
Virginia Mayo ... Marie Derry
Cathy O'Donnell ... Wilma Cameron
Hoagy Carmichael ... Butch Engle
Harold Russell ... Homer Parrish
Gladys George ... Hortense Derry
Roman Bohnen ... Pat Derry
Ray Collins ... Mr. Milton
Minna Gombell ... Mrs. Parrish
Walter Baldwin ... Mr. Parrish
Steve Cochran ... Cliff
Dorothy Adams ... Mrs. Cameron
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Storyline

The story concentrates on the social re-adjustment of three World War II servicemen, each from a different station of society. Al Stephenson returns to an influential banking position, but finds it hard to reconcile his loyalties to ex-servicemen with new commercial realities. Fred Derry is an ordinary working man who finds it difficult to hold down a job or pick up the threads of his marriage. Having had both hands burnt off during the war, Homer Parrish is unsure that his fiancée's feelings are still those of love and not those of pity. Each of the veterans faces a crisis upon his arrival, and each crisis is a microcosm of the experiences of many American warriors who found an alien world awaiting them when they came marching home. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

THE SCREEN'S GREATEST LOVE STORY IS THE BEST FILM THIS YEAR FROM HOLLYWOOD! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 May 1947 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

Glory for Me See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,100,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$23,650,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$44,309,982
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director William Wyler was almost deaf from flying in a B-25 during the war. During filming, he sat beneath the camera with a large set of headphones that were connected to an amplifier so that he could hear the actors. See more »

Goofs

An earlier character error comment criticized Fred Derry's wear of the Ike Jacket. The comment said that the belt buckle was not centered. Derry was wearing his Ike Jacket's belt buckle correctly--off to the right side of the wearer. The buckle was not a real belt buckle, but a kind of waist cinch. See more »

Quotes

Homer Parrish: I was afraid you wouldn't be able to stand up for me.
Fred Derry: I'd stand up for you, kid, til I drop.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The character played by Ray Teal (the Axis sympathizer whom Homer Parrish 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. See more »

Alternate Versions

The film was modified to play on a wide screen and reissued on February 3, 1954. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Red Zone Cuba (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo' Bye!)
(1922) (uncredited)
Music by Dan Russo and Ernie Erdman
Played on piano by Hoagy Carmichael
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Highly structured but flawless and really moving drama about returning G.I.s
4 October 2010 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The whole point of this film when it was released still makes perfect sense today, though I'm sure it doesn't have the same impact it did in those first years after World War II ended. Returning servicemen, with all kinds of backgrounds before and during the war, hit a wall coming home: wives who no longer loved them, jobs that had dried up, a culture that was foreign to them and that found them, these men, to be foreign themselves.

It wasn't a crisis to take lightly. These were the guys who were drafted to fight the enemy, and in going overseas they lost some of the best years of their lives, if not their lives. The country knew its debt in the abstract, but it also knew it in sons and husbands who really did come home and who had to face it all. This movie was both a reckoning for the sake of national healing and a brilliant drama that would be beautifully pertinent and therefore successful. And what a success, then and now.

The consummate Hollywood director William Wyler shows in this fast, long movie just what a master he is at working the medium. With Gregg Toland at the camera, Wyler makes a highly fluid movie, visual and dramatic and weirdly highly efficient. With the three main plots interweaving and depending on each other, the drama (and melodrama) build but never beyond plausibility. Wyler knew his audience wouldn't put up with pandering or cheap mistakes. Casting Harold Russell as Homer, knowing the audience would hear about how Russell really was a soldier who lost both hands in the war, was a huge step toward creating both empathy and credibility. It even practices a key theme in the move--to go beyond your bounds to make a difference, to give these guys a break and help them assimilate.

It's interesting how singular this movie is, trying to show the truth in these kinds of situations. The other post-war films about army and navy men fall into two large and dominating categories--war films and film noir. And it is film noir that comes closest to getting at the problem of the G.I. not reintegrating well, making it a whole style, brooding and spilling over with violence. "The Best Years of Our Lives" has a highly controlled and even contrived plot structure, but it aims to be honest and representative.

That it's remarkable formally--the way it is shot and edited and acted, top to bottom--is not surprise, given the heights that Hollywood had reached by then, and given that Wyler is easily the slickest of them all, in the best sense. That the movie makes such beautiful sense and really works as a story, a moving and heartwarming story without undue sappiness, is a whole other kind of achievement. A terrific, rich, full-blooded, uncompromised movie.


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