Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Television (or movies) couldn't get any better than this -- tonight at 10pm on Turner Classic Movies, you've got the chance to see The Best Years of Our Lives, one of the most intelligent, moving and relevant movies ever made. Released in 1946 and produced by Samuel Goldwyn, TBYoOL is a look at the lives of three servicemen on their return to civilian life after serving in World World II. They're all from distinctly different backgrounds -- one returns to a job as a prosperous bank officer, one is from the wrong side of the tracks, and one can never return to his old life because he lost his hands in the war. As these three men, actors Fredric March, Dana Andrews and real-life soldier and double-amputee Harold Russell give the performances of their careers.
The girls they left behind are no less impressive. Myrna Loy plays March's sophisticated wife, wondering how she's going to get back into the sexual groove again with her spouse, Teresa Wright is their daughter who falls for the unhappily-married Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo is Andrews' good-time-gal spouse who's bored with her now-civilian hubby, and Cathy O'Donnell is Harold Russell's high school sweetheart fiancee. Other indelible impressions are made by composer Hoagy Carmichael, whose easy-going presence as Russell's tavern owner friend Butch is both wise and utterly cool, actor Roman Bohnen who is heartbreaking as Andrews' alcoholic father, and Glady George as Bohnen's wife. There isn't a phony moment in anyone's acting, only one after another of memorable, searing, romantic or touching scenes that rightfully brought this movie the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1947, as well as wins for Fredric March, Harold Russell, director William Wyler, Best Screenplay, Film Editing, and one for Hugo Friedhofer's magnificent musical score.
If you haven't ever seen it, this is a must-watch or record. If you have, then you know you will want to watch it again. This is one movie whose powerful dramatic punch never misses, whose message is as timely as ever. The Best Years of Our Lives dares also to ask important questions, to defy conventional solutions to human problems, and to force its characters to aspire for the best in themselves and their fellow man. We could sure use some of that spirit these days.