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The Best Years of Our Lives

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The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby ken123 » April 25th, 2007, 3:18 pm

Is now playing on TCM. It is one of my all time favorite films, with a great cast headed by Myrna Loy, Frederic March,and Dana Andrews. Outstanding support by Cathy O' Donnell, Harold Russell, and Roman Bohnen. :wink:


Postby jdb1 » April 25th, 2007, 3:26 pm

Can we have a calm and level-headed debate about this film, Ken?

I just can't warm to it, and I've rarely been able to sit through the whole thing. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not. After all, I was a military wife for a number of years - I know what the departure and reunion thing is like. Nevertheless, I this movie just doesn't speak to me.

I think part of the problem for me is that the film stars two of my least favorite actors, March and Andrews. I can't work up much sympathy for them, 'cause I don't fee much involvement with the characters they portray. I'm not overly thrilled with films like Since You Went Away or Mrs. Miniver, but I like them better than this one. It's not the subject matter I'm cold toward, it's the movie itself.

How do the rest of you feel about it? Is Best Years a holy icon for you, or do you have reservations?

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Postby ken123 » April 25th, 2007, 4:02 pm

Dear Judy,
I'm sorry that you don't care for The Best Years,,,but I have never cottoned to Mrs. Miniver or Since..., so we do agree more than we don't We just have different attitudes toward this film. We both do LOVE Ina,and that's very good ! :wink:

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Postby bobhopefan1940 » April 25th, 2007, 8:34 pm

Someone recommended this film to me last time it aired on TCM, and I have to say I have been waiting for it to be re-aired so I could record it. I found it most endearing, and the whole way the soldiers are treated upon their return home is moving. But I can understand someone not liking it due to the actors, I am the same way if I do not connect with the cast.
"How strange when an illusion dies. It's as though you've lost a child." --Judy Garland
"To help a friend in need is easy, but to give him your time is not always opportune." --Charlie Chaplin
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Postby feaito » April 25th, 2007, 8:44 pm

In my opinion "The Best Years of Our Lives" is one of the most sincere, poignant, engrossing & heartbreaking films ever to come out of Hollywood.

"Mrs. Miniver" is also a superior film of the finest quality but it did not struck me as truthful and timeless as TBYOL; it's my fave Greer Garson film after "Random Harvest".

BTW, William Wyler is my favorite all-time director. The "master". He was responsible for one of my top five films: "Dodsworth".


Postby jdb1 » April 26th, 2007, 8:54 am

There's no question that the subject matter is significant and sensitively handled. I'd just like it better it there were more warmer actors in the lead - say, Bogart, Tracy or Gable in the March part, and maybe someone like Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy or Van Heflin in the Andrews part (I'm not a big fan of any of those three either, but I think I'd have liked any one of them better in this role).

But we can't really help who we like and don't like, can we? It just is what it is, as our current government is fond of saying.

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Postby mongoII » April 27th, 2007, 4:33 pm

A sterling film. One of the very best. Here is a glowing review from the New York Times:

THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; The Best Years of Our Lives
Published: November 22, 1946

It is seldom that there comes a motion picture which can be wholly and enthusiastically endorsed not only as superlative entertainment but as food for quiet and humanizing thought. Yet such a one opened at the Astor last evening. It is "The Best Years of Our Lives." Having to do with a subject of large moment—the veteran home from war—and cut, as it were, from the heart-wood of contemporary American life, this film from the Samuel Goldwyn studio does a great deal more, even, than the above. It gives off a warm glow of affection for everyday, down-to-earth folks.

These are some fancy recommendations to be tossing boldly forth about a film which runs close to three hours and covers a lot of humanity in that time. Films of such bulky proportions usually turn out the other way. But this one is plainly a labor not only of understanding but of love from three men who put their hearts into it—and from several others who gave it their best work. William Wyler, who directed, was surely drawing upon the wells of his richest talent and experience with men of the Air Forces during the war. And Robert E. Sherwood, who wrote the screen play from a story by MacKinlay Kantor, called "Glory for Me," was certainly giving genuine reflection to his observations as a public pulse-feeler these past six years. Likewise, Mr. Goldwyn, who produced, must have seen this film to be the fulfillment of a high responsibility. All their efforts are rewarded eminently.

For "The Best Years of Our Lives" catches the drama of veterans returning home from war as no film—or play or novel that we've yet heard of—has managed to do. In telling the stories of three veterans who come back to the same home town—one a midde-aged sergeant, one an air officer and one a sailor who has lost both hands—it fully reflects the delicate tensions, the deep anxieties and the gnawing despairs that surely have been experienced by most such fellows who have been through the same routine. It visions the overflowing humors and the curious pathos of such returns, and it honestly and sensitively images the terrible loneliness of the man who has been hurt—hurt not only physically but in the recesses of his self-esteem.

Not alone in such accurate little touches as the first words of the sergeant's joyful wife when he arrives home unexpectedly, "I look terrible!" or the uncontrollable sob of the sailor's mother when she first sees her son's mechanical "hands" is this picture irresistibly affecting and eloquent of truth. It is in its broader and deeper understanding of the mutual embarrassment between the veteran and his well-intentioned loved ones that the film throws its real dramatic power.

Especially in the readjustments of the sailor who uses prosthetic "hooks" and of the airman who faces deflation from bombardier to soda-jerker is the drama intense. The middle-aged sergeant finds adjustment fairly simple, with a wife, two grown-up kids and a good job, but the younger and more disrupted fellows are the ones who really get it in the teeth. In working out their solutions Mr. Sherwood and Mr. Wyler have achieved some of the most beautiful and inspiring demonstrations of human fortitude that we have had in films.

And by demonstrating frankly and openly the psychological blocks and the physical realities that go with prosthetic devices they have done a noble public service of great need.

It is wholly impossible—and unnecessary—to single out any one of the performers for special mention. Fredric March is magnificent as the sergeant who breaks the ice with his family by taking his wife and daughter on a titanic binge. His humor is sweeping yet subtle, his irony is as keen as a knife and he is altogether genuine. This is the best acting job he has ever done. Dana Andrews is likewise incisive as the Air Forces captain who goes through a gruelling mill, and a newcomer, Harold Russell, is incredibly fine as the sailor who has lost his hands. Mr. Russell, who actually did lose his hands in the service and does use "hooks," has responded to the tactful and restrained direction of Mr. Wyler in a most sensitive style.

As the wife of the sergeant, Myrna Loy is charmingly reticent and Teresa Wright gives a lovely, quiet performance as their daughter who falls in love with the airman. Virginia Mayo is brassy and brutal as the latter's two-timing wife and Cathy O'Donnell, a new, young actress, plays the sailor's fiancée tenderly. Hoagy Carmichael, Roman Bohnen and Ray Collins will have to do with a warm nod. For everyone gives a "best" performance in this best film this year from Hollywood.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, screen play by Robert E. Sherwood, from the novel, "Glory For Me," by MacKinlay Kantor; directed by William Wyler; produced by Samuel Goldwyn and released through RKO. At the Astor.
Milly Stephenson . . . . . Myrna Loy
Al Stephenson . . . . . Frederic March
Fred Derry . . . . . Dana Andrews
Peggy Stephenson . . . . . Teresa Wright
Marie Derry . . . . . Virginia Mayo
Wilma Cameron . . . . . Cathy O'Donnell
Butch Engle . . . . . Hoagy Carmichael
Homer Parrish . . . . . Harold Russell
Hortense Derry . . . . . Gladys George
Pat Derry . . . . . Roman Bohnen
Mr. Milton . . . . . Ray Collins
Cliff . . . . . Steve Cochran
Mrs. Parrish . . . . . Minna Gombell
Mr. Parrish . . . . . Walter Baldwin
Mrs. Cameron . . . . . Dorothy Adams
Mr. Cameron . . . . . Don Beddoe
Bullard . . . . . Erskine Sanford
Luella Parrish . . . . . Marlene Aames
Rob Stephenson . . . . . Michael Hall

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Postby ken123 » April 27th, 2007, 4:40 pm

" The Best Years of Our Lives " is IMHO one of the greatest, most heart warming films of all times. I know that I am repeating my self, from " the other place ", but conservatives in and out of Congress, at the time of the films release, called it " Red propaganda ". :cry:

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » April 27th, 2007, 7:24 pm

What makes "Best Years" different from so many war films in my opinion, is the humor and sense of hope this picture has.

Many films like this are ones of object fatalism (which in some cases are what is needed). In this film though, heartbreak is balanced with humor in a way rarely shown before or since. When Russell sits down with Hoagey and plays Chopsticks you feel the joy exuding from both of them. Meanwhile in the top left hand side of the screen Dana Andrews is making a difficult phone call that's tearing him up inside.

Andrews and Mayo's failing relationship is filled with funny lines (We married for better or worse--and baby, this is the worse!). His nightmares after a hard night of drinking are softened by his breakfast with Teresa Wright. We all wish there was room in that tiny kitchen for us to sit down and have a cup of coffee as well.

The ride back home in the taxi is one of elation to all three men--until they each have to get out of the cocoon like cab and become individuals again. Fredric March's drinking binges are as laughable as they are pathetic. We feel embarassed for Myrna, perhaps along with her male counterpart Hogey, and her younger self Cathy O'Donnell the most level headed person in the film.

These three characters (Hoagey, Myrna, O'Donnell) are also fighting a war to return their loved ones to some sense of normalacy. They don't shout or jump around in this film, their battle is for the heart and mind. O'Donnell's acceptance of not just Russell's handicap, but his indifference towards her is one of the most healing moments in film history.

As Mongo said, this is a long film, however it doesn't really feel taxing or drawn out. We feel that we are just watching the story of three men's lives unfold, perhaps the best years of them.

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Re: The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 20th, 2010, 2:26 pm

I've long heard very good things about this movie. I recorded it off the TV some time ago and last week I put it on only to find that it had cut off well before the end. I was beside myself, I had to get on Amazon straightaway and order the movie, then last night I sat and watched it from beginning to end. What a journey, what an excellent film, one of the best. There's so much in this movie, I don't know where to begin.

Firstly, the returning men, one from each service, one it seems from each class, one married a long time, one married a short time, one having left a fiancee behind. They bond on their return journey. The scene where Homer lights cigarettes, Al and Fred, their looks say it all, as they gaze on Homer, the pity they cannot voice. Even though Homer is upbeat about all he can do, the question in my own mind and I'm sure their's is 'but what about your girl?'

I like Homer, I like the portrayal and I like the fact that it didn't matter that he wasn't a professional actor, he was directed in a sensitive manner and deserved his Oscar. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster with him. I wondered if the cast held him in awe, I'm sure they must have done, how could you not?

I like Fred too, I really like Fred. I think women are meant to like Fred, he's a romantic hero. He's from a poor background, yet rose to the highest rank of the three men, he was a skilled bomber yet it didn't matter hoot when he tried to get a job. Fred has every reason to be angry with life and with his lot when he returns. He's served his country and he's offered crumbs. Peggy is a revelation to him, how tender she is with him, the breakfast sequence is so beautifully done. When she waits outside his wife's flat you just want him to get back into the car with her.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 20th, 2010, 2:36 pm

The romance between Peggy and Fred is beautifully done. The scene between Al and Fred is very powerful, Fred knows Al is right, he has no prospects and he's married and it breaks his heart. The phone call he makes, I cried.

Al, the most complicated I think. It's strange for me to watch, what is a man that age with a profession doing fighting the war? Surely he's too old for conscription, so why did he go to war? His homecoming, in some ways the most uncomfortable. He doesn't know what to do, his children are no longer children, his gifts not the right ones. The love of man and wife, so eloquent but after the first embrace, hard for him to deal with, so drown the moment in booze. Something he does, a remnant of war? We don't know. I think Fredric March well deserved his Oscar for all the twists and emotions his character goes through, so well portrayed making it easier for us to understand him. The scenes at Butch's are funny, Al makes them funny, he's a funny drunk. He's a man of integrity, he's a man with a super wife.

Myrna Loy, she always got overlooked when it came to awards. She's so good here, she supports her husband and daughter, Fred and Homer. She knows what's going on around her, she's Al's rock. She's so good here but no Oscar, in this star studded cast, she got overlooked.

Teresa Wright and Cathy O'Donnell are two good girls, with their morals and sense of right and wrong firmly in the right place. Both love stories are touching, heart rending, desperately needing to be realised. Virginia Mayo, brassy and a little slatternly and memorable. Hoagy Carmicheal, in a classic part.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 20th, 2010, 2:41 pm

It's a tremendous journey, one I didn't want to end. I know Judith has said that she doesn't like the casting of Al and Fred. I couldn't imagine Al being played by Bogie or Gable, they were big stars with formed personas in the public's mind. Al is an everyman, one in every town, married with children and a job, he's done reasonably well for himself, he's well thought of, he's not Bogie or Gable. Dana Andrews, this is only the third film I've seen with him in and he's been marvellous in everyone, he should have been a top notch star, he has something about him.

I hope Homer/ Harold had a very happy life.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 20th, 2010, 2:48 pm

My favorite scenes

The Reunion between Al and Millie.
Fred's dream and Peggy's soothing
The morning after both breakfast's.
Homer's everyday life.
Fred and Peggy's dinner date.
Wilma accompanying Homer to his bedroom.
Homer's wedding.

The whole film is PERFECT
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby movieman1957 » July 20th, 2010, 2:55 pm

Harold Russell died in 2002. By what I remember from obituaries he did have a nice life.

Here is a little bio on him. (Others found as easily.) ... ussell.htm

The scene that gets me every time is when March comes home and Loy realizes that it is him. When she puts the plates down (or whatever it is) I'm gone. It is as romantic a reunion scene as one can find.

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

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Re: The Best Years of Our Lives

Postby knitwit45 » July 20th, 2010, 3:28 pm

Oh Chris, I agree. When she looks up and realizes he's in the hallway...I start blubbing. Just now reading your post, and here I am, all teary eyed.
Seeing him the next morning, first throwing his shoes out the window, and then getting in the shower in his p.j.'s keeps the viewer balanced, don't you think?

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