Sunday, January 29, 2012
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
(August 1953, U.S.)
Some time ago, I gave you my own classifications of war films as being divided into either combat films or war dramas. Every once in a while, though, you'd get a film that combines a touch of both. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY is primarily a war drama, but you do get a little taste of combat in the end. The story deals with the troubles of soldiers and the women in their lives stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Even if you've never seen or even heard of this film, you've very likely seen the iconic image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr making out on the beach as a wave breaks over their bodies. Take a look...
I point this out because one of the first elements of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY that captures the eyes is the crisp breathtaking black and white cinematography of the beaches of Hawaii. It's also an intruiging point to know from the beginning that this is a film that takes place in Hawaii in 1941. You don't have to be a genius to how it's all going to turn out in the end. As a viewer, you can't help but take a slightly higher interest in the outcome of the lives of characters that are destined to become a part of world history. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (played by Montgomery Clift) is a good man and a good soldier who only wants to do his American duty and avoid the boxing ring due to a past accident, despite the ongoing pressure he's getting from fellow soldiers to be a part of the Army's boxing team. He's a man that's also struggling to love Lorene (played by Donna Reed), an employee at a gentlemen's club, despite his daily anguish and her desire NOT to end up as a soldier's wife. First Sergeant Milton Warden (played by Lancaster) is a man with very much in common with Prewitt, as he, too, struggles with his own pressures as a soldier and his conflict with being in love with his commanding officer's wife Karen (played by Kerr). Life in the military CAN be a bitch, can't it!
The inevitable attack on Pearl Harbor at the end is brief, but filmed with both on location action and with stock footage of the real attack itself and it's explosive aftermath. It's not a film that ends with heroes, but serves rather to remind us that the rather "petty" issues of these men and women that we've been watching for the past two hours have now become virtually non-existent...for the country is now at war and all must come together to fight our enemies. Many will live and many will die, but we already know that America triumphed!
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY won the Oscar for best picture of 1953.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Karen Holmes: "Come back here, Sergeant. I'll tell you the story; you can take it back to the barracks with you. I'd only been married to Dana two years when I found out he was cheating. And by that time I was pregnant. I thought I had something to hope for. I was almost happy the night the pains began. I remember Dana was going to an officers' conference. I told him to get home early, to bring the doctor with him. And maybe he would have...if his "conference" hadn't been with a hat-check girl! He was drunk when he came in at five AM. I was lying on the floor. I begged him to go for the doctor, but he fell on the couch and passed out. The baby was born about an hour later. Of course it was dead. It was a boy. But they worked over me at the hospital, they fixed me up fine, they even took my appendix out - they threw that in free."