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Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The movie was made after Samuel Goldwyn's wife Frances read a Time article (7 August 1944) about how military servicemen were having a hard time settling back into civilian life after their military life, and after the hard experiences of the Second World War. The movie was based on a story written by a former war correspondent, MacKinlay Kantor (being published as a book named 'Glory for Me'); this was then converted into a screenplay by Robert Sherwood; the movie was directed by William Wyler.
The cast included Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Hoagy Carmichael, and Harold Russell (a disabled US Army instructor). Harold had lost both his hands in a training accident. The movie got a lot of praise from critics, with its portrayal of the human emotions of people struggling to settle back into their lives and adjust to the new conditions. It tries to depict the pain, the problems, and the sheer struggle of trying to adjust to a normal life where you have to get a job, deal with family and beloved after many years; none of this is simple. This can be seen even now, when there are numerous stories of veterans from the the First Gulf war, and from the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan having to struggle to fit back into normal life.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The movie takes these 3 former soldiers - Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), and Al Stephenson (Frederic March); they meet while coming back in a bomber and become friends. Fred was in the Air Force, Homer was in the Navy and had lost both his arms in a sinking, and Al was in the Army. Now back, they have to get back right back to where they started, with varying living conditions. Al fits back into the bank and becomes a Vice President since the bank looks upto Al to service the loan needs of returning servicemen. Homer was a football quarterback, with a girlfriend. However, now that he is disabled, his pride does not let him return to his girlfriend Wilma since he does not want to burden her with a crippled husband (even though she seems to have adjusted). Fred used to work as a drugstore soda operator, and coming back to this job does not excite his wife Marie (who he had met when in training and who is dismayed that her husband will work as a soda fountain jerk). They move apart, and Al's daughter Peggy falls for Fred. Al does not really appreciate this, and this causes the friendship between Fred and Al to falter.
Eventually, things start to settle. Homer marries Wilma, and Fred and Marie have a divorce after Fred catches Marie with another man (and Fred can now get married to Peggy).
Academy Awards

The film received seven Academy Awards. Harold Russell was ex-military and not a professional actor and considered unlikely to win an Oscar; hence he was given an honorary award "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance". However, he was named Best Supporting Actor to a tumultuous reception, making him the only actor to receive two Academy Awards for the same performance.

* Won: Best Picture - Samuel Goldwyn Productions (Samuel Goldwyn, producer)
* Won: Best Leading Actor - Fredric March
* Won: Best Supporting Actor - Harold Russell
* Won: Best Director - William Wyler
* Won: Best Editing - Daniel Mandell
* Won: Best Original Music Score - Hugo Friedhofer
* Won: Best Adapted Screenplay - Robert E. Sherwood
* Won: Academy Honorary Award - Harold Russell
* Nomination: Best Sound Mixing - Gordon Sawyer

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