Friday, March 28, 2014

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)

What a movie!  Set in 1941 on a military base in Hawaii FROM HERE TO ETERNITY tells the story of a hardheaded and never fully explained soldier named Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) who always seems to do things the hard way.  As the film opens he's losing his Corporal rank as a bugler to transfer to a rifle company as a buck private.  Once there's he's pretty much told by the Captain that he'll be promoted to Sergeant within a year if he would join the regimental boxing team.  Prew refuses and is then given "the treatment".  Meanwhile, the First Sergeant (Burt Lancaster) is getting sick and tired of being the Captain's work bitch and starts making googly eyes at the Captain's broken wife.

Having just finished the novel I was curious to see how they even made it into a mainstream movie back in 1953 since the novel itself is grim and sexually explicit, but they did a great job.  Yeah, a lot of stuff was cut out or changed completely, but the dismal feel is still there.  And the acting!  It's easy to see why this film received five Oscar nominations for Acting and won two...if Ernest Borgnine's role had been bigger he probably would have been nominated also! I don't even know who's performance was my favorite.  Montgomery Clift was great, especially at portraying the internal (almost suicidal?) struggles of Prewitt, Burt Lancaster was just straight up awesome, Donna Reed (who I mostly know from her show and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) was surprisingly adult.  Seeing her here as a jaded hostess at private gentlemen's club was quite an eye-opener!

Beautiful B&W photography, Claude Akins screen debut, Frank Sinatra showing his acting chops, Deborah Kerr being sexy, excellent story, great pace, beautiful Hawaiian scenery.  If the story wasn't so censored, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY would be close to going on my Best Movies list, but as it is I think the majority of modern audiences would find the whole thing too dated.  Highly recommended though for classic movie fans.