FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, 1953
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine, Philip Ober, Mickey Shaughnessy, Harry Bellaver
It's 1941. Robert E. Lee Prewitt has requested Army transfer and has ended up at Schofield in Hawaii. His new captain, Dana Holmes, has heard of his boxing prowess and is keen to get him to represent the company. However, 'Prew' is adamant that he doesn't box anymore, so Captain Holmes gets his subordinates to make his life a living hell. Meanwhile Sergeant Warden starts seeing the captain's wife, who has a history of seeking external relief from a troubled marriage. Prew's friend Maggio has a few altercations with the sadistic stockade Sergeant 'Fatso' Judson, and Prew begins falling in love with social club employee Lorene. Unbeknownst to anyone, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor looms in the distance.
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Yes, everyone has seen the famous scene of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embracing each other on the wet sand, ocean waves rushing up around them. It has been parodied in comedy shows endless amounts of times and has been replicated in even more perfume commercials. But what people may not expect is that From Here to Eternity (1953) is more than just a love story. Unlike other romantic dramas of its era, this film deals with multiple story lines, romances, and varying characters, all the while being set in a defining moment in American history. Plus, it has about six or seven stars in it, making it a regular Oceanís Eleven.
From Here to Eternity starts off a couple months before the Pearl Harbor attacks with Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) arriving on base. Itís soon discovered by his superiors, including 1st Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster), that he is a champion boxer and they relentlessly pressure their new recruit into fighting in the baseís boxing ring. Prewitt continually refuses and instead enjoys the company of his new funny friend Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra, in a hilarious, wonderfully delivered role), who spends most of his time drunk. He also starts a relationship with Alma ĎLoreneí Burke (Donna Reed), who works at the local bar.
Meanwhile Warden, feeling sorry for his Captainís wife, Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), whom is ignored and mistreated most of the time, engages in a relationship with her. Their friendship soon evolves into a full blown affair. Insert famous 30 second beach scene here. However, their affair is short lived when Warden refuses to do what Karen asks of him. Meanwhile, Maggio, in his drunken state, starts trouble at the local bar, continuously irritating Sergeant James R. Judson (played perfectly once again by Ernest Borgnine) until Judson throws Maggio into the stockade and resolves to beat the living tar out of him.
Maggio manages to escape and tell Prewitt what happened to him, right before dying. Prewitt, in a fit of rage, stabs Judson. He then runs to Loreneís place to hide but not for long, seeing as Pearl Harbor is now being bombed by Japanese planes. Prewitt, unwilling to let his comrades fight without him, charges out onto the base and gets accidentally shot by one his fellow soldiers. The films ends with Karen and Lorene exchanging sap stories on a departing boat and coming to the realization of who each other are.
The casting is spot on with the actors delivering some of their best and most memorable work. It earned Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed their one and only Oscar wins for Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively. Clift, Lancaster, and Kerr all received nominations. Though this film is probably not technically a war film since it takes place in the months and days leading up to America's participation in the war, it remains a favorite war film. It truly portrays an innocent time when soldiers joined the forces for the glory of it all, without knowing full well what it entailed.
Though this film may remind you of another more recent film called Pearl Harbor, trust me, itís very different. Pearl Harbor focuses more on the after effects of the bombing, where as From Here to Eternity focuses more on characterization, getting its audience attached so we care enough about the characters when the bombings occur. Eternity is much more about delivering a good story as opposed to cramming Hollywood action scenes down our throats.
Based on a best seller book of the same name by James Jones, From Here to Eternity was nominated for an astounding thirteen Oscars, taking home eight, including those mentioned as well as Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Cinematography-Black and White, Editing, and Sound.