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Once a year it's an absolute must for me, usually memorial day. very white bread and very real from that perspective. clearly speaking from a baby boomer white girl. harold russell as homer parrish is amazing phenomenal a life history from a 1947 POV that is part of the soundtrack of my life ❤️
The balance between the relatively conventional romantic subplots and the radically unvarnished look at the reintroduction of veterans to American society is not always entirely cohesive, but The Best Years of Our Lives deserves credit for standing in stark contrast to the wave of popular nationalism (to some degree) in the aftermath of the Second World War. On a practical note, a few slipups in the editing process are notable in the film's first half hour, and the narrative subplots are not as consistent or fleshed out (March's role in particular feels relatively incomplete relative to those of the other two leads). Still, the popular influence of this film on the perception of the postwar environment cannot be overstated.
If it had centered on the veterans struggles rather than on the unecessary American pride and sentimentalism, it might have been a really great film.
William Wyler's 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives follows the lives of three US servicemen as they return home after the Second World War. It's a simple premise, but one rich in promise, and the film realises this to good effect: there's a palpable vein of anger running through it about how countries treat their veterans that still applies today.
The story opens with three men meeting as they return to America, each to face different domestic situations and different problems. The common factor that unites them is that all their problems are due to long absence or their experiences during the war. Homer Parrish has to adjust to life with prosthetic metal claws after losing his hands; Al Stephenson returns to his family and his job; and Fred Derry returns to the wife he was married to only briefly before joining up. Robert E. Sherwood's screenplay, based on MacKinlay Kantor's novella Glory for Me, draws these characters well and the situations they have to deal with are wholly believable. Homer, despite not wanting people to focus on his disability, tries to push his girlfriend Wilma away because he feels that she would be better off without him. Meanwhile, Al's children have grown up and he has to get to know them all over again, whilst Fred discovers that the domestic bliss he hoped to return to is not all he thought it would be.
The characterisation is so well written that it is easy to empathise with all three men, and the other characters – most obviously the women in their lives – are equally believable. Wyler's tactic of assembling a cast that includes character actors pays off, with Fredric March and Dana Andrews giving excellent performances as Al and Fred. Myrna Loy – who plays Al's wife Milly – was probably the biggest star at the time, and whilst she gives an excellent performance her character's prominence doesn't reflect her billing at the top of the credits. In fact one of the most naturalistic performances in the film comes from Harold Russell who plays Homer: he was a non-professional actor who lost his hands in real life whilst working as an army instructor and is remarkable in his role.
Wyler's direction is exemplary: to create realistic mise-en-scéne, he told the actors to buy their own clothes and he built life-size sets, all of which enhances the realism. Gregg Toland's cinematography helps: as in Citizen Kane and many of the other films he worked on, he uses many deep-focus shots, which (literally) adds depth to the film. The scene in which Fred has a nightmare is realised purely through the combination of camerawork, the soundtrack and lighting, and similarly towards the end of the film close-ups, music and Andrews' facial acting effectively and economically convey the emotions that Fred feels as he recalls the war when he climbs into a cockpit.
The quiet rage about the treatment of veterans is simultaneously underplayed and powerful, whether banker Al is defying his bosses by approving a lone for another veteran without security, or Fred is punching an obnoxious customer who tells Homer that he lost his hands for nothing since America should have fought on the side of the Nazis and the Japanese against the Communists. There is great compassion and understanding of the characters as well, as demonstrated by the genuinely touching scene when Homer tries to make Wilma realise what life with him would be like by showing her how he takes his arms off. It doesn't work: she simply fastens his pyjama top buttons for him and tells him she loves him.
The Best Years of Our Lives is a powerful, elegant film that is possibly William Wyler's best motion picture. It is little surprise that it won the Academy Award for Best Picture and that – unlike some Oscar winners – it remains highly regarded by critics.
In 1947, the Oscar for Best Picture went to "The Best Years of Our Lives". All in all it received 8 Oscar nominations, and won 7 of those. The film was released just one year after the end of World War II, and it follows three veterans as they return from battle and reintegrate into their families and their public lives.
While slightly dated (no one curses, and sex is only alluded to) this is a fantastic film that never once attempts to justify or condemn war, instead it just unfolds all the ramifications that result from one. And it does so amazingly. It is unflinching in showing not only the adoration of those that serve in battle, but the animosity that many have for the elevated adoration soldiers receive. The inner workings of relationships and marriages are spread bare in a manner typically not shown in films of this period.
All three primary characters are continually on the run not only from what they experienced in war, but also from the evolution and growth of their families and friends during their absence. The conflicting duality of both things leads each of them to an agonizing stage of loneliness, despite being surrounded by familiarity. The film also does an exemplary job of demonstrating that compensation and suffering are shared experiences not only of those in the military, but for those that remained behind.
Frederic March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell (a real life double amputee) are all wonderful as the returning veterans, but the film is carried equally by Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Cathie O'Donnell. Despite being almost 3 hours long, there is not a wasted moment of screen time.
A very honest and engrossing movie. From an excellent cast including stand outs Harold Russel, Mryna Loy and Teresa Wright. The movie is a tad too long but its well directed and has many moments that i will remember. With an excellent script which at terms is thought provoking and challenges us to understand how hard it is to settle back into normality after fighting in a war. Russel deserved his best supporting actor Oscar with the right sense of determination and self pity through his performance that becomes very undeserved. He wants to do things for himself but has to accept he needs help. Loy as the wife of one of the main characters, at times she is unsure of how to help her husband and make it easier for him. She keeps positive and very warm throughout. The scene as the three men on the travel home and look over the world is very well done, as is Russel getting ready for bed with his girlfriend and the realisation that she still loves him is very sweet and offered a crying moment. The wedding at the end was sweet which ends the film on a positive. It may take time for the men to readjust to their surrounding but little by little they will be. The world has changed. The society has changed. The scene where Dana Andrews character finds himself around planes that are to turned into new homes is a powerful motif. The leftovers from the war are to be used in a new future. I will never know what men go through after being at war, this film showed the issues from jobs, to love lives and how other people treat them. A very brave and honest film.
This film has a lot of heart and despite its near 3 hours length, it doesn't drag. Not afraid to be tough, it earns its happy endings and sentimentality is generally avoided. Very brave for the time in its many downbeat moments and its casting of a real disabled veteran in a central role.
One of the better movies I've seen, about returning soldiers.
A profound call to appreciate veterans.
William Wyler's postwar drama The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) is a brilliant, contemporary take on how veterans are treated after a war is over. Wyler's direction is smooth and easy to follow with Greg Toland's striking cinematography. The clever framing lets characters all react and exist on screen together despite having numerous people all experiencing The Best Years of Our Lives at once. I think Wyler finds the heart of the story as you sympathize with the plight of soldiers returning home to America as everything feels strange to them now. The idea that veterans are not treated well and not given enough opportunities to survive still rings true today.
I love Teresa Wright here as a modern woman desperate to find love despite the situation. She is empathetic to the plight of veterans and lonesome souls alike. I think Wright is beautiful and kind as a genuinely lovely character of good morals and relatable patience. Myrna Loy is fascinating as a wife awkwardly trying to win back her husband's affections once he's returned home. On the other hand, Virginia Mayo is fun as a girl that knows what she wants and does not want to struggle to survive. Then, there's the delightful and endearing Cathy O'Donnell as a girl trying to communicate with her distant fiance that she still loves him. All the ladies of The Best Years of Our Lives kill it with relatable and complex performances.
Fredric March is interesting, daring, and hilarious as Al Stephenson, a banker returning home from war who cannot feel comfortable in his privileged position after the war. Harold Russell is engaging and sympathetic as the independent disabled veteran Homer Parrish. I think Dana Andrews is riveting as the poor pilot Fred Derry, who has a hard time finding work or love after WWII has ended. All three men represent a wide array of veterans with respectful acting and intriguing realism.
In all, The Best Years of Our Lives is a phenomenal drama that boasts timeless themes and incredible filmmaking. The well rounded cast make the film all the more contemporary in feel. I loved it!
Exceptional story of men returning home after serving in world war II.