"The Best Years of Our Lives"

Here's the place to talk about DVDs (or VHS) films and movies you have seen on television and recommend or don't recommend. Discuss actors and scores, too.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
Tarantella
Posts: 1089
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:09 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

"The Best Years of Our Lives"

Post by Tarantella » Fri May 02, 2014 10:49 pm

The sublime "The Best Years of Our Lives" is about demobilization post WW2 and a return to home, made in 1946, and is one of the crowning achievements in American cinema and a real comment about the 'value' placed on ex-servicemen by their own country. There are three key scenes:

1. The Homecoming: Al returns home to his apartment and the scene is washed in magnificent key lighting with Friedhofer's paraphrase, played on the cello, of "Among my Souvenirs" - a song which will feature a bit later in the film. The beautiful framing - both children on either side of the shot, in foreground, as Al approaches his surprised wife. This is magnificent, understated film making:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob4Hy-AAOUA

2. Al Stephenson at a bankers' dinner some nights after his return. He has been chided by the boss earlier in the day because he provided a loan to a returned soldier who offered no "collateral". Here is his speech at the dinner for the Cornbelt Loan and Trust Company. March's performance is superb and the scene is loaded with irony:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igXHsHZhoYU

3. The citation of Captain Derry (Dana Andrews) read by his father, played with subtlety and understated distress. I'm afraid I couldn't find the scene on U-Tube but have included the theme music to the film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIqBdbL0MT4

A very grown-up film which speaks volumes about the heroism to be found in small-town life.

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 25690
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: "The Best Years of Our Lives"

Post by jbuck919 » Sat May 03, 2014 2:26 pm

A great, great movie which I have seen many times. (It doesn't hurt that Theresa Wright was a dead ringer for my mother as a young woman, which is why I've also watched "Shadow of a Doubt" countless times.) It's the maturity of the interlocking themes and the absolute conviction with which they are presented that is most astonishing. For a movie of that time to state plainly that a young girl intends to break up the marriage of an older man, for her parents to respond that their happy relationship has been at the expense of each wishing many times that the other was dead and meaning it.... Well, not the realism we expect from Hollywood, even today, when overstatement rather than dramatic frankness rules. This movie is completely out of its time in terms of its production values. It is a rare movie that gives us a fitting glimpse of the Greatest Generation.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Tarantella
Posts: 1089
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:09 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: "The Best Years of Our Lives"

Post by Tarantella » Sat May 03, 2014 5:27 pm

John, your comments gave me great pleasure. Quality.

Anyone interested can see the "Citation Scene" by fast-forwarding my whole-movie link below to 155 minutes and you'll see the superb Roman Bohnan and Gladys George in this scene. I really don't know how these two actors achieved what they did! Friedhofer's music adds to the poignancy without being in the slightest mawkish or sentimental. If you watch it don't miss the unforgettable opening title music!

http://putlocker.bz/watch-the-best-year ... ocker.html

I have already stated that "The Best Years of Our Lives" a very grown up movie and you're absolutely right; it does touch upon ideas and themes which were and are, to a degree, still uncommon today in popular film. These 'grown up' ideas in this film are contained in the writing (Sherwood after Kantor) and rendered magnificently on the screen through Wyler and his phenomenal cinematographer Gregg Toland. The film is so rich one could spend a great many words and hours in a discussion.

The scene to which you refer when Peggy tells her parents she is going to break up Fred Derry's marriage can be related to by any couple who has ever been in a VERY long-term relationship. That scene is just superb and the look on both parents' faces when they confess they've "had to fall in love all over again" in the span of their relationship.....we all know about such things. And there's the strongest hint, in the bar on Al's first night home when he's dancing to "Among My Souvenirs", that he's had trysts during his wartime experiences.

But, the apotheosis in this film is the scene at the piano in "Butch's Bar". Hoagy Carmichael is playing a tune while Homer sits at the other end of the piano, wearing his prosthetic hands. The scene remains in an intimate, static two-shot while "Butch" plays the tune in an untypically slow tempo as he tries to advise and comfort the troubled and nervous Homer. The big hands of Carmichael remind the viewer of Homer's dilemma and loss, but the crowning moment is contained in the last fragments of the tune where, with measured and understated dialogue, Butch tells him not to worry because if there's another war "we'll all be blown to bits on the first day". Frightening, apposite, daring, wonderful.

A masterpiece.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest