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From Here to Eternity (1953)

Sep 20, 1999 (Updated Nov 19, 1999)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:cast, cinematography, Hawaiian band

Cons:melodrama, characters

"From Here to Eternity" racked up 12 Academy Award nominations, and won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann, who had been nominated the year before for "High Noon"), Best Screenplay (Daniel Taradash) and Best B/W Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). Winning the only Oscars of their careers were Best Supporting Actor Frank Sinatra, and Best Supporting Actress Donna Reed. Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster were nominated for Best Actor, while Deborah Kerr picked up a nomination for Best Actress.

Today, the film is best known for the beach scene
with Lancaster and Kerr, considered to be one of
the most romantic in screen history, and
Sinatra's performance, which rejuvenated his
career.

The setting is Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, shortly
before the surprise Japanese attack began direct
U.S. involvement in World War II. Clift is a
soldier and bugler who transfers to a new
regiment. A former middleweight boxer, he is
pressured by contemptible Captain Holmes (Philip
Ober) to box for the regiment. Clift refuses, and
is harassed by Holmes and the regiment's boxers.
Clift's sole friend is Maggio (Sinatra). Clift
gets a girlfriend (Reed), who is a 'hostess' at a
private club (in the novel, the club is a
whorehouse, while Reed's character is a
prostitute).

Holmes' right hand man is Lancaster, a Sergeant
who has eyes for Holmes' unhappy wife (Deborah
Kerr). Their affair is illegal under Army rules
and could land him in prison. The much-lauded
beach scene is not representative of the
Lancaster/Kerr romance, which is furtive and
bitter.

The critical and commercial success of "From Here
to Eternity" is understandable. It is a good
film, and it has strong appeal for both men (war
theme) and women (romance theme). It appeals to
American patriotism, especially in the scene
where heroic soldiers led by Lancaster shoot down
a Japanese bomber.

Essentially the film is a soap opera, with the
dual troubled romances of Clift/Reed and
Lancaster/Kerr. To increase sympathy for our
romantic leads, Holmes' character is selfish,
cruel and philandering, while Sinatra's tormentor
Fatso (Ernest Borgnine) is a sadistic bully. How
much one appreciates the film is proportional to
one's sympathy for Clift and Lancaster, both of
whom are stubborn with self-destructive streaks.
Some of the dramatic scenes are manipulative and
heavy-handed, especially the various death
scenes, Clift's fistfight, and the come-uppance
of Holmes and the regiment's boxers.

"From Here to Eternity" reminds me of "The Young
Lions", a film from 1957. Clift plays a very
similar character, a soldier forced to fight
other soldiers, who gets the girl, goes AWOL, and
forces the premature retirement of his Captain.
In "The Young Lions", Dean Martin's character
merges the roles of Sinatra (Clift's friend) and
Lancaster (in refusing to get a promotion). Since
"The Young Lions" is the later film, one could
say that it ripped off "From Here to Eternity".
But "The Young Lions" is really an improvement,
as it is an even better film,
perhaps due to the presence of Marlon Brando. (66/100)


Recommend this product? Yes


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An all-star cast brought what was considered an unfilmable novel to the screen with skill and grace with this story of the loves, hopes, and dreams of...
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