While wasting my life away on the couch on what looked from my window to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I wished I drank less whiskey the night before. Though, the day’s hangover meant I had nothing but time to take 1953’s Best Picture winner, From Here to Eternity, out for a test drive while my liver worked overtime. A black-and-white movie was a risky move for my sorry state, but it was one that inevitably paid off. Why? Because with a cast like Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, and Burt Lancaster, what can go wrong, really?
Private Prewitt (Clift) gets an army transfer to Hawaii after trying to escape a life of boxing with his former company. He’s abused and tortured by his superiors for not wanting to fight, because as we see later in the film, the dude can kick some serious ass. He has only one friend who will stand up for him, Sinatra’s Maggio, who turns out to be a little firecracker himself. Meanwhile, Sergeant Warden (Lancaster) bangs his captain’s wife on a beach during their secret love affair, cementing one of the most classic love scenes in movie history.
Sure, the love scene is mostly classic and iconic, but the rest of the film holds its own too. The narrative nicely frog-hops between the various B-plots, giving the more-than-credible cast his and her own time to shine (Deborah Kerr nabbed the role of the Captain’s lustful wife Karen Holmes). Oftentimes, older movies struggle with pacing (at least to a modern audience member like myself), but the way each mini-story unraveled propelled the story forward even further, making it a great success in terms of story-telling and acting, while also capturing the zeitgeist of the time.
Oh, right. And then Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
Twelve years passed from the time Pearl Harbor was attacked to the time when this film was made. I wonder if that was considered “too soon” for the 1953 audience. I remember when World Trade Center and United 93 came out just five years after 9-11 and thinking that the studios were batshit crazy for making and releasing those films so soon. Granted, 12 years is longer than five, but I wonder how widely accepted From Here to Eternity was at first. Obviously, it went on to win Best Picture, so I guess any naysayers got over it once they discovered how much merit the film has.
Last, but not least, I would also like to say that From Here to Eternity is a far superior film than Michael Bay’s 2001 shitshow entitled Pearl Harbor. But now that almost everyone in the world despises Mr. Bay, maybe this can go without saying. Which is always something people say right after they’ve already said the thing that didn’t really need mentioning.
The 50’s was a great era. Looking forward to the rest of the winners from that time period. That said, my next rendezvous is with Marlon Brando and “On the Waterfront.” Ahoy!