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   FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) 

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CAST
Burt Lancaster
Montgomery Clift
Deborah Kerr
Frank Sinatra
Donna Reed
Philip Ober
Ernest Borgnine
Jack Warden
John Dennis

DIRECTED BY
Fred Zinnemann

PURCHASE


DVD




Novel





Time: 118 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Military/Romance/WWII

Won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Reed), Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Screenplay, Sound and Best Picture.


About the only things I knew about this movie before I finally sat down to watch it were that Sinatra won an Oscar for his performance and at some point I would find Lancaster and Kerr locked in a passionate embrace on a deserted beach covered by crashing waves. That knowledge did not prepare me for the onslaught of friendship, brutality, love, honor, betrayal and adultery that lay ahead. Adapted from a popular, yet controversial novel of the time, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY is a very adult film, filled with complex characters each carrying their own weight in emotional baggage. It takes place in the early 40s, right before Pearl Harbor at an Army barracks in Hawaii. It follows the lives of three men, all trying to survive the blows life throws their way with a little respect and dignity. It's not a pretty story, but it is an honest one.

What elevates it from being an overblown soap opera are the subtle, powerful performances of the five leading actors – Lancaster, Clift, Kerr, Reed and Sinatra. They are all giving life one more chance to show them mercy, to allow them to be happy. What they find is a brief respite from the pain, a shoulder to cry on for a little while, a touch of hope from a world that's shown them nothing but disappointment. Sergeant Warden (Lancaster) and Karen Holmes (Kerr), his supervisor's wife, find passion and comfort in each others arms. Until she asks him to become someone else, to give up his dreams for hers. She loves him, but not enough to give up her respectability for him. Private Prewitt (Clift) is transferred to their outfit to help the unit win the boxing championship. The only problem is, he refuses to fight. Despite constant harassment by most of the men in his unit, his determination never wavers. The price of getting in the ring is just too high.


"Nobody ever lies about being lonely."

He makes an instant friend of Private Maggio (Sinatra), a lovable loser and falls in love at first sight with Lorene (Reed), an instantly friendly "working girl," who's in Hawaii trying to make a quick buck before returning to the mainland, rich and respectable. Prewitt, a 30-year-man, is not her first choice for a future husband. She wants a man who will forget her past and give her a comfortable, untroubled suburban life, not an Army grunt. Unfortunately, we don't get to choose who we fall for. On top of all the hazing, Prewitt has his hands full, keeping Maggio out of trouble and Lorene out of the arms of others. Warden takes a liking to him and tries to protect him as much as he can, but things get pretty ugly for our boys in uniform. All of their pent up emotions come to a head in a series of violent events that leaves the lives of all torn to pieces. The finale takes place in the hours of that fateful attack on December 7th, changing all of their lives forever.

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY is a full-tilt, all-American epic with energy to burn. You rarely encounter characters so desperately human. They each have moments that will break your heart, but that are played so quietly you don't even realize it's happening until the moment you stop breathing in recognition of their pain. I enjoyed William Holden's performance in STALAG 17, but after seeing Clift in this film, it's clear he was robbed of the Oscar. Even in black and white, his piercing blue eyes grab hold of your soul and refuse to let go. With every new role I see him play, I fall more in love with him. If you're unfamiliar with his work, seek it out. He's an actor that deserves your attention. This film gives Sinatra a chance to really show his acting chops. He doesn't disappoint. For once, he's playing a regular Joe, not some down-and-out entertainer trying to make it big or win the girl. In this role, he proves he's more than just a wonderful singer.

The ladies, Kerr and Reed, are both cast against type. Their facades make them seem lovely and respectable, however, they are anything but. Both are striving for a life they desperately want – a quiet home with a man they can love and respect and who returns the favor – but choose someone who is unable to grant that wish. It is their search for perfection that illuminates the films' main point – that one must be true to oneself regardless of the consequences. Lancaster plays the tough, but decent Sergeant Warden, who takes a liking to Maggio and Prewitt. He's not always able to help them, but they know he's on their side. His performance is the backbone of the film. He basically ends the film right where he started, proud of his place in the army, lonely in love. He's a soldier at heart and proves what a good one he is by bravely commanding his men during the Pearl Harbor attack. Of all the characters, his is the one you know will come out OK on the other side.

Movies don't get more emotionally messy or complex than this. It's a dark tale about life's struggles, big and small. One that makes you glad it's only a movie and not your reality. Though brilliantly shot and directed, I didn't give this film 4 stars because it's one I don't think I'll ever watch again, which is a must for me to give that rating. It's just too draining. However, it is one that everyone should see. You rarely come across a flick this well-crafted, intelligently written and brilliantly acted. Just hold on, cause you're in for quite a ride.



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