From Here to Eternity (1953)
Directed by Fred Zinneman
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine
It’s 1941 and Private Prewitt (Clift) just transferred into an infantry unit. Soon he’s being hazed for his refusal to become part of the unit’s boxing team. Private Angelo Maggio (Sinatra) is the first of several soldiers to come to his defense. Now the two are at odds with the bullies of the unit. Meanwhile, the wife (Kerr) of a philandering Captain (Philip Ober) from the same unit is seeking comfort in the arms of his second in command (Lancaster). The men of this unit each face their own challenges, but the biggest challenge is yet to come.
Upon the release of this film Variety magazine said “The James Jones bestseller, From Here to Eternity, has become an outstanding motion picture in this smash screen adaptation. It is an important film from any angle.” I would have to agree with their immediate assessment. The cast includes a vast array of talent including some of the biggest leading actors and actresses. Burt Lancaster (Judgment at Nuremberg), Frank Sinatra (Suddenly), Montgomery Clift (Red River), and Ernest Borgnine (Marty) all do a great job with challenging roles. The women are led by Deborah Kerr (The King and I) and Donna Reed (It’s a Wonderful Life), both beautiful and talented actresses who do wonderful work in this one.
The talent in this film had an awesome screenplay to work with. The characters all have moments where we learn a great deal about them. This knowledge makes this an easy movie to sink into. The characters all feel equally important thanks to a number of stories written into one larger experience. It’s also an amazing story about the men and women involved with the military in Hawaii and the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. This is more interesting since the film was released only 12 years after that attack.
The camera work and special effects in this movie are really great. The movie feels nicely edited and has good transitions from one story to the next. This isn’t intended to have separate episodes, so it’s nice that the transitions don’t take you to an entirely new place, just to a new point of view. Director Fred Zinnemann (High Noon) did a wonderful job with the production of this movie. Thanks to these aspects this film seems to be ahead of its time in many ways.
From a critical standpoint this movie did all the right things. When the Oscars were over, From Here to Eternity had won eight of the thirteen awards it had been nominated for. This included Best supporting Actor (Sinatra) and Actress (Reed), Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Recording, Best Director, and Best Picture. Lancaster, Clift, and Kerr were all nominated for their roles as well.
I’m not going to have much criticism for such a well-made movie. I loved it from beginning to end. If you’re a fan of any of the actors you need to see this one. If you haven’t seen it in a while take the time and enjoy a movie masterpiece. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.