Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

The Best Years of Our Lives


Recommended Posts

Here is a thread to comment on "The Best Years of Our Lives," which shows tonight. Interesting trivia fact: of all the movies that won an Academy Award for Best Picture, this is Jonathan Rosenbaum's favorite.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know who Jonathan Rosenbaum is, but he has excellent taste.

 

The Best Years of Our Lives is one of my favorite FSM's (frequently shown movies) from TCM's library. I watch it just about every time it's shown and it is a great film to show for The Essentials. It has great performances and a compelling story that belies it's long running time--it seems to fly by for me. It's so good, at least to me, that I find myself wondering how everyone's life turns out after the ending. A weak sequel could have probably been filmed in the 1950's, but it probably would have ruined a good thing.

 

If anyone hasn't seen it, be sure to watch/DVR/tape it tonight. It's a keeper.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I absolutely love this film too. All the performances are pitch-perfect to me. I love the contrast between Theresa Wright and Virginia Mayo. And the performances of Harold Russell and Cathy O'Donnell are very touching.

 

What do you think of the photography (Greg Toland)?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup, I watch it almost every time too. What a tearjerker. Interesting comment by RO at the end that Bette Davis said it was one of the greatest movies ever made.

 

I love all the complex relationships and especially how they are intertwined. I love the subtleties, like Theresa Wright's young charactor driving herself to work illustrating that even young girls drove their own car. Nothing to us, but a big leap for women's independence in those days. And her charactor was what...21? Pretty mature girl compared to all the 21 y/o girls I know these days. Interesting that she could open up to her parents on such a touchy subject.

 

I love Mayo's line delivery, it's almost forced "happy" sounding, making her seem all that more shallow. All the performances were great and boy do they incite empathy at every turn. Watching this film, you can just feel for every charactor, especially the loss of dignity. It's my favorite role for Dana Andrews.

 

And I used to own one of those "prefabricated homes" made of recycled airplane steel the scrap man talks about near the end of the film. A 1949 Lustron Home made in Columbus Ohio geared towards returning vets. (the beginning of the suburbs) They're also referenced in Tucker because Lustron took over the steel plant he wanted to use for the cars.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=sezne wrote:}{quote}

> gee what about the remake?

 

Hmmmmmm... the remake. Let's see, the boozing eventually catches up with Al, and he loses his job at the bank. This causes problems with his marriage, and the Stephenson's seemingly perfect upper-middle class lifestyle completely falls apart. Homer becomes an accomplished writer and lecturer, after writing an award winning account of his service in the navy and of his disability. Fred becomes wealthy in the pre-fabricated home business, receives the purple heart for his bravery in combat and eventually runs for political office in his community. Life becomes complicated however when Fred discovers that Peggy is having an affair with a much younger man in his employment, creating quite a local scandal. Further complications arise when Fred learns Marie was pregnant at the time of their divorce. Now haggard and destitute, Marie says the teenage child is his. Of course he isn't quite sure.

 

The characters all come together at Butch's funeral service. The whole town was quite shocked when the mild mannered, easy going pianist and bar owner committed suicide, quietly suffering from depression and addicted to morphine.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The one thing that bothers me about the movie is the repetitive talk about Harold Russell being able to light cigarettes despite his hooks. The film seemed very pro-smoking in general even for a '40s film. I guess smoking and military service always went hand-in-hand.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I watch this one every time it's on too... and there is a reason.... I always see the movie from a different perspective..... this time it was from Homer and Wilma's - last time it was Al's, who I never really paid a lot of attention to. Before that it was Fred..... then Milly....

 

It seems like a new fresh movie every single time I see it.

 

Favorite moments ( I know I have left out a million of them) -

 

One I just caught for the first time.... Al is mixing himself a bromo seltzer after the banquet speech. Peggy has just come home from her terrible evening with Fred and his wife. Al pours the bromo back and forth, from one glass to another, and then tries to drink it out of the empty glass.

 

The way Wilma leaves the door open for Homer when she leaves his room.

 

Milly's displeasure at the number of Al's drinks. Also her great pleasure at Al's banquet speech, in contrast with the rest of the group's subtle embarrassment.

 

Virginia Mayo's sing song, fake happy voice (great description, btw) and the subtle irony in having her say the title line of the movie, "I've given you the best years of my life....and for what?" What did she give up?

 

Gladys George and Roman Bohnen.

 

Pat Flaherty as the man in the airplane junkyard.

 

The music.

 

The way that Peggy (Theresa Wright) is absolutely correct when she explains about Fred's marriage, how she understands him, and why she is going to break them up.

 

The way Peggy listens to her parents , and realizes they are right when they tell her she shouldn't break up Fred's marriage (even though they aren't really right).

 

Butch and Homer's duet. Hoagy Carmichael was a genius. Though Homer remains the focus of the scene, listen to Hoagy's improvisations around the main theme of "Chopsticks" - all meant to give Russell the star part in the song.

 

The way Al keeps looking at Fred in the phone booth by way of deep focus all the way through the duet. He isn't sure he did the right thing, making Fred break it off with Peggy. Wyler was a genius - he gave us four different viewpoints, all happening at the same time in one deep focus shot.

 

The fact that Woody Merrill is a worse wolf than Fred Derry.

 

Fred's poetic self loathing.

 

The way Virginia Mayo plays with the scarf Fred brought her.

 

The scene when Al arrives home. geez. it makes me cry every time.

 

Homer's brutally honest, plain spoken description of what going to bed is like when you have no hands.

 

Dana Andrews face through the entire movie. Haunting.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on May 30, 2010 3:16 PM

Link to post
Share on other sites

My favorite scene will be the beautiful ending, when during the wedding ceremony, both Fred and Peggy watch each other from across the livingroom, leading to what we all know is the ultimate moment that they must come together!! Truly, one of the finest endings in movie history, one that makes perfect sense, in that the two characters represent the future and the generation to come that will eventually keep America going strong. It was an amazing ending, because we the audience are left with our imagination to hope and pray that both Fred and Peggy will make it work. But, we all know in our hearts they will! . . . They have to make it!! This wasn't the usual sugarcoated Hollywood ending. It was one that spoke to us and still does in a pensive way that leaves us understanding the sacrifices and struggles that have to be made.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I adore this film and how well and efficiently it seems to treat every issue, including people who come home to a huge pay cut and or who come home alcoholics, but of course the three major types of "girl I left behind me" situations: the couple who met and married in a whirwind of excitement, the childhood sweetheart fiancee, and the long time married couple whose kids grew up while he was gone. It's masterful how he balances those three stories and how you care about them all.

 

Although the whole cast is great, especially the use of Harold Russel, I can't get over how incredible Myrna Loy is. She is so amazing and so believable. Though if I was an actress I'd rather play Virgina Mayo's part. ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great posts, Jackie, Movie Professor, and Lonesome.

 

So many reasons to love this film, but my favorite is the last moment when they look adoringly at each other at the end of the film during the wedding sequence.

Link to post
Share on other sites

ok, since you brought up subtleties, here's one i've always noticed: in the scene where teresa wright says the parents "never had any trouble", there is a shift in her speech cadence right there, which makes it more like her brother's--that is, as if she's younger--whereas she always came off as more mature--but now that she is being naive to older peoples' problems, she seems less mature

Link to post
Share on other sites

Has to be Hollywood's best 'coming home' type movie ever. It's surprising that it was released in 1946 considering it embodies the same kind of nostalgia we've attributed to that time period from then on. I wonder if a lot of the post-war changes had started to happen prior to 1945.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I too love this film as it speaks to veterans of all wars not just WWII. As in No Down Payment we see that Delayed Stress Syndrome did not begin with Viet Nam; it just wasn?t recognized as a definable problem before then. That photo of the sailor kissing the girl in the white dress and post-war prosperity is not the whole story. This movie fills in the blanks.

 

The beautiful and majestic theme tells us tells us even before we hear a word of dialogue that this is an important movie. We like these three men and their families at first then see the cracks in the seemingly idyllic lifestyles. Each one has pluses and minuses that help and hinder their readjustment.

 

Homer?s problem is obvious; getting people to look past his handicap when he can?t yet do it himself. Al?s drinking shows a man trying to drown memories of what he?s witnessed while at the same time fighting the bank he works for on behalf of soldiers he knows can make recovery work. Fred seems to be the most normal of the trio even though I agree with some critics that Dana Andrews was way too old to play him. I think from pre-war working as a soda jerk he wouldn?t have been more than 25 and probably younger. Statistics show his situation was one faced by many who went into ?quickie? wartime marriages; in 1946 there were more marriages than at any time in history as well as more divorces.

 

Homer?s inability to deal with his injuries on the inside as well as he has outside, Al?s drinking, and Fred?s dealing with a floundering future weren?t just 1946; this was Korea and Viet Nam as well. I think the Nam veterans had it worst as they got spat on rather than thanked but from this movie but now I know this older generation had it tough as well.

 

I have to single out Roman Bohnen?s reading of Fred?s citation as one of the most moving scenes in movie history. The increasingly dramatic theme leading into Fred?s tour of the junked planes and the reaction of Gladys George?s Hortense is heartbreaking beyond words. Also, I don?t see how anybody could keep tears from their eyes when Homer puts the ring on Wilma?s had with his hooks at their wedding. You know they will not turn out like Fred and Marie.

 

I know some religious leaders had a problem with Peggy?s open pursuit of married Fred for a time but by then we strongly suspect-with reason-that Marie has been unfaithful. She leaves him not the other way around. By biding her time Peggy wins out with honor.

 

I was glad to hear that one of the film?s Oscars went to the composer whose mane I don?t want to insult by misspelling. The first time I saw it hearing that theme above the opening credits told me this was something special. I was right. Everyone from Sam Goldwyn to the actors to William Wyler have something to be proud of.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Skimpole for starting this thread. I recognized every scene/nuance commented on and like the fact this film touches so many. This forum is the only place I can discuss film with other classic film fans. In most conversations, cinefiles try to impress you with obscure facts rather than simply comment on what "moved" them about a picture.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=TikiSoo wrote:}{quote}

> Thanks Skimpole for starting this thread. I recognized every scene/nuance commented on and like the fact this film touches so many. This forum is the only place I can discuss film with other classic film fans. In most conversations, cinefiles try to impress you with obscure facts rather than simply comment on what "moved" them about a picture.

 

Well said TikiSoo...it is also why I like this forum. I too watch this film EVERY time it comes on TV and I have to point out that one subplot that really stuck out to me was Dana Andrews character has to suck it up and go back to working at the drug store. I know it may seem minor compared to many other parts of the film, but I am sure there are many servicemen coming home from serving and experiencing this as well even today. Even many college students are coming back home to take less than stellar jobs....the whole subplot is very humbling.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Another good thread on this rare and beautiful masterpiece. This fine film is one of the most telling looks at America in a certain era. It says so much, so well. We've seen depictions of the Viet Nam era, the depression and other periods of our nation's history. But not like this. The characters, the actors, the excellent writing, and Wyler's usual steadfast guidance shape this into an unforgettable package. When we say American classic, this is what we're talking about.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The composer's name was Hugo Friedhofer.He labored for many many years in Hollywood adding his innumerbable musical contributions to many, perhaps undeservung films, which were probably saved from oblivion on the basis of his scores alone. His other great film score is for BISHOP'S WIFE with David NIven, Cary Grant, and Loretta Young. As far I know, he was alive at least twenty years ago. Best,BruceG.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The year before BEST YEARS, Harold Russell appeared in a War Department three-reeler (25 minutes) called "Diary of a Sergeant". It was a documentary with first-person narration (not spoken by Russell) about his rehabilitation after losing his lower arms. The film can be seen at:

 

http://www.archive.org/details/DiaryofaSergeant

 

 

As for Hugo Friedhofer, in addition to being a fine composer he was a superb orchestrator. He worked for Erich Korngold and Max Steiner at Warner Bros. until 1943, after which he worked for Fox and Edward Small and then went under contract to Columbia Pictures (1946) as a composer. Several loan-outs to Goldwyn followed.

 

Here's a cue from THE BISHOP'S WIFE (from our CD of a few years ago):

 

http://chelsearialtostudios.com/projects/bishop.mp3

 

 

bishcov.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ray Fiola -

 

Thank you, thank you for that link! I am going to take a good hard look at that film every time I start feeling sorry for myself.

 

I know that Homer originally had a different disability in the script, but this short film really points out how much of BYOOL was written or worked out with Russell in mind... I find it fascinating - this obvious collaboration between the writers, the director and Russell. How long did it take, from the time Wyler saw Russell and chose him for the role, to come up with a final shooting script, I wonder?

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=RayFaiola wrote:}{quote}

> As for Hugo Friedhofer, in addition to being a fine composer he was a superb orchestrator. He worked for Erich Korngold and Max Steiner at Warner Bros. until 1943, after which he worked for Fox and Edward Small and then went under contract to Columbia Pictures (1946) as a composer. Several loan-outs to Goldwyn followed.

 

Friedhofer's career followed an odd trajectory. Working as an orchestrator in the late 1930s he got the occasional composing job, often for 'additional music," always uncredited, he landed the assignment to score (and receive sole screen credit for) Samuel Golywyn's THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO" (1938), a major film starring Gary Cooper. The film was a considerable flop; whether this contributed to Friedhofer's inability to sustain a composing career one can never say for sure (though, knowing the ways of Hollywood, it probably did him no good), and he was again relegated to the back rooms, cranking out orchestrations for established composers like Korngold and Steiner.

 

It wasn't until he landed THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, and won the Oscar for it, that he was finally off to the races, becoming a sought-after composer for the rest of the 1940s,and into the '50s, '60s and early '70s.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Best Years of Our Lives is a classic. This movie, showing the struggles of returning veterans and their families. The acting in The Best Years is perfect -- fear, alienation, and the awkwardness of trying to resume family relationships. Although I have seen The Best Years many times, and I never tire of looking at it, I do have a questions that bothers me every time I view the film. The Stevenson son disappears. If my memory serves me, and I am not saying it does every time, the last scene he is in is when he rushes past Dana Andrews saying he will be late for school. Did I miss a scene where it says 'school' is in Ten Buck Two? Can anyone elaborate on this for me? I know it is not the most important of issues but it does bother me. Where did the kid go? He simply disappears!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...