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Plot: In Hawaii in 1941, a private is cruelly punished for not boxing on his unit's team, while his captain's wife and second-in-command are falling in love. Runtime: 118 mins Release Date: 28 Aug 1953
One of the big blockbuster best sellers of the post World War II years is James Jones's From Here to Eternity, a tale of the peacetime army in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor. The book was definitely going to be made into a film and it was only a question of casting to make it a success.Director Fred Zinneman had a good intuitive sense about casting here, even against type. The two principal female parts were done against type. Deborah Kerr who made a career of playing respectable women played a captain's wife who's drinking and playing around. Not that husband Philip Ober is letting <more>
grass grow under his feet either, but Kerr's latest sexual exploit involves her with the First Sergeant of her husband's company, Burt Lancaster. Donna Reed, who up to that point was best known for being Mary Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life, plays a prostitute here. A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, jilted by a rich boyfriend stateside, she's in Hawaii to make money and then go home and buy some respectability. She's not looking for romance with any soldiers, but you can't plan these things.Especially Montgomery Clift if he comes in your life. It's been argued that this is Clift's greatest role and a case can sure be made for it. His character of Robert E. Lee Pruitt is like so many who still join the army today, from small town America who have no future there and find a home in the Armed Services. What makes Clift unique is that strong sense of individualism he can't control in an organization that does not encourage individuality.Clift and Lancaster are a great study in contrasts and that's what drives From Here to Eternity. Lancaster as Sergeant Milt Warden is the ultimate professional soldier, held in the highest regard by his men. Lancaster is someone who knows how to work the system, you see it in the way he manipulates his captain. Of course he's got to be a manipulator there since he's having an affair with Deborah Kerr. He tries to protect Clift from himself and ultimately fails.Clift has transferred into an infantry company and he was at one time a boxer. But he blinded someone in a fight and quit boxing. Philip Ober who prides himself on having several champions in various weight classes worked to get Clift in his company. Clift upsets his plans by refusing to box so he has the various sergeants give him "the treatment." Clift's best friend in the company is a tough street wise soldier from the big city named Angelo Maggio, played by Frank Sinatra. Sinatra read the book and knew this part was for him. He did everything he had to do to get that part, including working for scale. At the time Sinatra was considered a has been as singer and actor. Sinatra was right on the money in terms of picking a role. His faith in himself and Columbia Pictures and Fred Zinneman's faith in him netted him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, one of eight awards won by From Here to Eternity.By the way Sinatra credited both Lancaster and Clift in helping him through this film as a dramatic actor. Lancaster and Sinatra didn't inhabit the same Hollywood orbit, but they remained friends for life. The same could not be said for Clift. Allegedly, some five or six years after From Here to Eternity and after Monty Clift's automobile accident while shooting Raintree County, Clift at some party at Sinatra's made a drunken pass at one of Sinatra's retainers. That got him kicked out of Sinatra's circle permanently.In fact From Here to Eternity was also the Best Picture of 1953, with Zinneman getting his second Best Director Oscar in a row after the one he took home in 1952 for High Noon. Donna Reed won for Best Supporting Acress. Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift were both nominated for Best Actor, but split the vote allowing William Holden to win for Stalag 17. Another great acting job itself. And Kerr was up for Best Actress, but lost to Audrey Hepburn for Roman Holiday.From Here to Eternity is a film loaded with good actors in small roles who got their first notice in this film. Ernest Borgnine, Robert J. Wilkie, Claude Akins, Jack Warden, Mickey Shaughnessy, all play various soldiers and each one is memorable. Especially Borgnine as the vicious sadistic sergeant of the stockade.TV's Superman was in From Here to Eternity also. George Reeves who was looking to escape the typecasting from Superman has a part as another sergeant who warns Lancaster about Deborah Kerr. He gave a fine performance, but most of it wound up on the cutting room floor. That would have unforeseen tragic consequences.This is not any kind of glamorous army. These people are all too real and not very noble. The original novel was toned down quite a bit for the screen. But when the attack on Pearl Harbor comes, the men rise to the occasion, do their jobs in a more than competent manner and led by Burt Lancaster in that company. It's these men who won that war in the Pacific and the one in Europe as well and From Here to Eternity despite the less than noble portrayals of them as individuals is a great tribute to them as a team.
Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" is so inferior in every aspect of filmmaking to "From Here to Eternity" that the two films shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence together. "From Here to Eternity" boasts an absolutely legendary cast that delivers one of the finest composite performances of all time. Just try comparing Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift to Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett - not even close to a fair fight. Throw in Frank Sinatra in an Oscar winning supporting role and you've got a classic that truly stands the test of time. The <more>
tight script portrays real, fleshed-out relationships that are equal parts passionate and tragic. And both Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed are luminous. For some reason this film gets ignored or forgotten when the greatest films of all time are mentioned; all you need to do is watch it again after "Pearl Harbor" and you'll realize what a mistake that is. "From Here to Eternity" easily stands with the greatest films in history.
Montgomery Clift shines From Here to Eternity (by nawknek)
"From Here to Eternity" contains the best performance delivered by an actor of any gender on celluloid. Montgomery Clift is assertive, funny, tough, sensitive and charismatic in the pivotal role of Robert E. Lee Prewitt, the rebellious loner with the streak of nobility. It is easy to see why James Dean idolized him after seeing his portrayal in the film. It is also a shame modern actors don't mention his name more often when listing their influences. As often noted, he preceded Brando by two years he first appeared in Red River, released in 1948; Brando bowed in The Men in 1950 <more>
and created the arch-type of the 1950's rebel. But due to his intelligence, Clift also informed his characters with a sense of purpose. He didn't simply rebel. For instance, in Eternity, he apologises after an angry outbreak at his girlfriend. Instead of appearing weak, he impressed me all the more for doing so. It makes him appear more mature than the typical rebel. In another instance, when he feels his friend Maggio is being unfairly attacked, he "stares down" the attacker proving he looks out for his friend, another attractive quality. When the non-coms dole out extra punishment to him to force him to box, he refuses to file a complaint but likewise refuses to comply to their demands. Such moments distinguish Clift from other, more typically macho Hollywood leading men of the era and contributed greatly to Eternity's long initial run at the box office and its status as a classic piece of Hollywood cinema. It is time someone set the record straight and restored Montgomery Clift's name to its rightful place in the pantheon of Hollywood's great leading men. For proof, look no further than From Here to Eternity.
Fred Zinnemann's epic about the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, featuring excellent performances from young Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed, a knockout role for Sinatra, and that roll in the surf for Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr.From Here to Eternity is a potboiler which wears its heart on its sleeve. Would it have been the same with Joan Crawford instead of Kerr? Hard to say. I think the heart of the film is Clift, who gives perhaps his career best as ex-boxer Prewitt, the sensitive bugle player fighting his demons. Lancaster is a close second, a hard-boiled officer with no time for love.One <more>
Involving Military Soap Opera Elevated by Sturdy Performances from an Offbeat Cast (by EUyeshima)
In hindsight, this 1953 classic doesn't seem as much a military drama as it does a highly charged soap opera, which shouldn't come as a surprise given that master filmmaker Fred Zinnemann "the Nun's Story" was at the helm. The veteran director upended the western genre just a year earlier with the Gary Cooper classic "High Noon", and he places the same incendiary focus of character over action here, that is, until the inevitable climax which uses the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as a catharsis for the characters' dilemmas now dwarfed by the coming <more>
world war.Based on James Jones' epic novel, screenwriter Daniel Taradash manages to reduce the complexity of the book's themes without trivializing them, and then-offbeat casting enhances the movie immeasurably. Set on a U.S. Army base in Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack, the focus is on two men, both dedicated to the military with no aspirations to become the officers they have grown to detest. One is Private Robert E. Prewitt, a talented boxer and bugler who refuses to fight on his regiment's team since blinding a sparring partner. The other is First Sergeant Milton Warden, a take-charge, professional soldier who earns the trust of his men even as he kowtows to his weak-willed commanding officer.Life in the barracks is fraught with adversarial personalities, chief among them Private Angelo Maggio, Prewitt's loudmouthed best friend, and Staff Sergeant "Fatso" Judson, the sadistic stockade warden. Both Prewitt and Warden meet women who seek to change their lives. Prewitt finds cynical nightclub "hostess" Lorene at a brothel masquerading as a social club, while Warden embarks on a passionate affair with his commanding officer's wayward wife Karen. Burt Lancaster is well cast as Warden, and he brings surprising nuance to his character's clandestine encounters with Karen. However, it's Montgomery Clift - despite looking too slight to be genuinely believable as a boxer - who transcends his loner role by playing off his innately sensitive nature to portray a man who will never sacrifice his honor despite how dire the consequences. Well within his comfort zone, Frank Sinatra's turn as Maggio is small but impactful.Still two years away from "Marty", Ernest Borgnine makes Judson's malevolence palpable in just a few scenes. Deborah Kerr submerges her Scottish accent and previous lady-like demeanor to reveal the embittered, sexually assertive side of Karen without sacrificing any of the character's vulnerability. The legendary, much-parodied beach scene with Lancaster still sizzles after all these years. Similarly, Donna Reed foregoes her good-girl image epitomized by her memorable turn as Mary Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life" to play the sultry, delusional Lorene. The 2003 DVD comes with a small set of extras - a three-minute making-of retrospective short, a nine-minute collection of on-set footage and interviews from a documentary entitled "Fred Zinnemann: As I See It", and the original theatrical trailer. The best extra is the commentary track from Tim Zinnemann the director's son and screenwriter Alvin Sargent "Spider-Man 2" , who had a small role in the movie.
"From Here to Eternity" is sometimes classified as a war film but the attack on Pearl Harbor only occupies the last few minutes; for most of its length it is like, say, "Reflections in a Golden Eye" or "An Officer and a Gentleman" a film about life in the Armed Forces during peacetime. It charts the complex relationships between six main characters, Captain Dana Holmes and his beautiful wife Karen, Sergeant Milton Warden, Private Robert Prewitt, his girlfriend Alma, and Prewitt's closest friend, Private Angelo Maggio. There are a number of interconnected <more>
sub-plots. Perhaps the most important concerns Prewitt's relations with his commanding officer, Captain Holmes. Holmes is a boxing fanatic, who believes that his promotion prospects will be improved if he can put together a successful team to compete in the Army boxing championships. He has therefore had Prewitt, whom he knows to be a talented middleweight boxer, drafted into his unit. Prewitt, however, refuses to join the boxing team, having given up the sport after an accident in which a sparring partner was blinded, so Holmes attempts to force him to do so by beginning a campaign of persecution against him. In another sub-plot Karen, whose marriage to a hard-drinking, unfaithful husband has become no more than a sham, becomes embroiled in an adulterous affair with Sergeant Warden. The scene on the beach between Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster was considered scandalously daring by the standards of the early fifties . The other plot lines concern Maggio's battles against authority, especially a brutal sergeant named Fatso Judson, and the growing romance between Prewitt and Alma. Contrary to what some reviewers have stated, Alma is not a prostitute; she may have been one in James Jones's novel, but in the film she became a nightclub hostess to appease the Hays Office . In many ways the film gives a negative picture of military life, although less so than the original book. A strict system of discipline may be necessary to make the Army an effective fighting force, but it also has the unwanted side-effect of allowing bullies like Holmes and Judson to abuse their authority. Holmes attempts to force Prewitt to join the boxing squad by imposing a series of unjust punishments and onerous duties on him; most of the NCOs are happy to go along with him, and even those like Warden who disagree with Holmes's actions see no alternative but to comply. This was the Big Picture of 1953; it won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, against a very strong field which also included "Roman Holiday", "Julius Caesar" and "Shane", and Best Director for Fred Zinnemann. Five of the cast were nominated and two of them, Donna Reed Alma and Frank Sinatra Maggio won. This was the film that made Sinatra a big star as an actor as well as a singer. He plays Maggio as likable and easygoing, in contrast to his more intense friend Prewitt, but also a man with reserves of both moral and physical courage; he is not afraid to stand up to Judson, who is much larger than he is. Ernest Borgnine is very good as the thuggish Judson . I must say that I agree with the Academy's decision to award "Best Actress" to Audrey Hepburn ahead of Kerr; Kerr is good here, but Audrey is absolutely brilliant in "Roman Holiday", as she normally was. American audiences might have been surprised to see Kerr, normally one of the cinema's good girls, playing an adulterous wife, although British ones might have remembered her as the mercenary Sally in "Love on the Dole". She does, however, make Karen a fairly sympathetic character; she is not, contrary to what the film critic of "Variety" thought, a nymphomaniac, even though it is made clear that Warden is not her first extra-marital lover. She is driven not by sexual lust but by a need for love that cannot be satisfied by her husband, who cruelly neglects and mistreats her. I have never seen "Stalag 17", so cannot say if William Holden deserved "Best Actor" ahead of Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster or, for that matter, Brando in "Julius Caesar" . Both, however, are excellent, especially that intelligent, sensitive actor Clift as Prewitt, a young man with firmly-held principles, who will not allow himself to be dissuaded from doing what he believes to be right. Despite his mistreatment by Holmes, he never considers leaving the Army, an institution which has previously treated him well and has become like a family to him. The depiction of military life is not entirely negative; the Army may allow unpleasant sadists a chance to vent their spleen, but it also provides young men with a sense of belonging and self-respect . Lancaster's Warden is another man for whom the Army has become his whole life. Although he outwardly seems a strong character, he is inwardly weak. He is compromised by his affair with Karen a crime under military law , and lacks the strength to stand up to Holmes. He loves the Army life but despises its officer class; when he gets the chance to become an officer himself he fails to take it, even though he knows that such a promotion offers him the best chance of a life together with Karen. Some Big Pictures from the past have not aged well, but "From Here to Eternity" is not among them. What makes it such an outstanding film is the strength of its acting and characterisation and the power of a good story well told. It is the sort of film they don't make any more, and the cinema is the poorer for it. One of the best films of the fifties. 9/10.
James Jones' epic novel was bought for the movies for a mere $82,000, which is nothing, even for those years. This lengthy novel, of almost 900 pages presented a problem for Columbia Pictures because how could a book this size be condensed into a two hour movie? The task of the adaptation fell into Daniel Taradash, an excellent screen writer with a good track record.The end result, as seen through Fred Zinnemann's brilliant direction, showed aspects of the book, but because of the censorship reigning in Hollywood in those years, could have never been shown to the vast audience this <more>
film attracted. One of the novel aspects deals with the homosexuality in the Honolulu of the times. It's clear that some of the enlisted men had liaisons with the gay men that treated them to things their meager income didn't allowed them to have. Maggio, is one of the ones instrumental for involving Prewitt into visiting his closeted friends.The film deals with two other thorny aspects: adultery and prostitution. Milt Warden, the right hand man of Capt. Holmes, has an eye for his wife Karen, who rumor had it, loved to played around, just as her husband does during his "business in town". In the novel, Karen has an eight year child, who is conveniently disposed of. Their love affair consumed both Milt and Karen. At the same time, a manly Milt, is seen in an intimate moment when he is trying to console Prewitt, who has been ostracized by his refusal to become one of the boxers in the base. Milt caresses Prewitt's hair in what might have been an overture to have something more than a friendship with the gay Prewitt.The prostitution issue comes when Maggio takes Prewitt drinking and introduces him to the Congress Club, a brothel. Prewitt's relationship with Alma, the girl from Oregon, is toned down because of the fear of trouble with the Hays Code people. It was a hypocritical way to do things, but who knows what would have come out had the film been done today."From Here to Eternity" still keeps its crisp black and white cinematography that Burnett Guffey gave the film. It's inconceivable to think of it in Technicolor! The score by George Duning serves the action well with its haunting melody. Fred Zinnemann vision paid big time because his vision for the project had the right approach even when it masks the original text.Montgomery Clift, one of the most handsome actors working in films at the time, is about the best thing in the film. It appears Mr. Clift was a catalyst for the film, in that he made everyone else excel in the performances they gave. As Robert E. Lee Prewitt, this actor is a pure joy to watch because his transformation into the character. Frank Sinatra has been celebrated for his role as Maggio, yet, he only has a couple of scenes where he shows an intensity and a range he hadn't projected before.Burt Lancaster as the all American, and supposedly macho Sgt. Warden, does a fine job. Deborah Kerr work as Karen Holmes showed an actress who understood what made her character tick. It's hard to imagine that Joan Crawford was supposed to have played her and she would have thrown the film out of balance. Donna Reed, as the kind Alma, gave a fine performance. Philip Ober, Mickey Shaugnessy, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Warden, Tim Ryan, and an uncredited George Reeves are seen among the supporting players."From Here to Eternity" is a must see film for all serious fans.
It's often said that the simplest stories are the best. This isn't true. The simple stories are easy to get right, but a complex ensemble piece with multiple protagonists and numerous subplots can be just as effective, although it's a lot harder to pull off successfully. From Here to Eternity stands in the tradition of The Best Years of Our Lives, Seven Samurai and The Godfather, of pictures with interwoven plots that have become classics thanks to strong screen writing, intelligent direction and powerful acting performances.Part of the reason From Here to Eternity works is <more>
because it is very quick in establishing its characters and plot lines. It opens with a series of interlinking scenes, introducing us to Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Philip Ober, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, giving us clues about Clift's past and hinting at the future relationship between Lancaster and Kerr, all in the space of five minutes. Director Fred Zinnemann, with a confidence that is lacking in his earliest features, shoots these scenes with subtle technique to give them maximum storytelling effect. For example, he gives Clift's character a superb introduction, walking at a right angle to the marching column until he is brought right into close-up. Once the dialogue begins he uses sudden changes of angle to highlight certain lines, for example the close-up of Lancaster telling Kerr "I'd be happy to help", at which point the audience know exactly what is going to happen between those two characters. Donna Reed is of course introduced a little later, but to compensate she is given a very distinctive first shot, framed on her own immediately after some busy crowd shots.But Zinnemann's direction isn't all pure functionalism. He makes sparing use of attention-grabbing stylisation when the moment demands it, such as the dolly-out through the rain-soaked window during Lancaster and Kerr's first kiss. And this stylisation even helps keep the narrative together, for example cutting from the roaring sea at the end of the famous beach scene to the smoke rising from Clift's cigarette. Throughout the various parallel plots there is a tone of melancholy and regret, and Zinnemann keeps this commonality with his consistency of style.Of course, you get the same problem or at least the same feature in From Here to Eternity as you do in They Died with Their Boots on or Titanic, in that the audience, knowing their history, know what is going to happen at the end. The strength of the non-combat story lines is such that we forget when and where we are, and as such it is important that we are eased into the finale of the Pearl Harbour attack so it does not seem such a surreal break in tone. This is done with characteristic subtlety, with two objects placed noticeably yet not obtrusively into the frame to jog our memories. The first is a calendar showing December 6th on the wall beside Burt Lancaster, and the other a signpost reading "Pearl Harbour" after his final meeting with Kerr.One of the biggest challenges for the makers of an ensemble piece is that you need a larger than normal pool of leading players, and yet you must ensure none of them will overshadow the others. This is another thing they got right in From Here to Eternity. Clift, Kerr and Lancaster are all competent performers without big egos, and they all give steady performances, even if they are far from career-bests. As to Sinatra, what's amazing is not the quality of his performance it was always evident he could act but that he was even allowed to play a dramatic, non-musical role. It just goes to show the increased flexibility of cinema in the 1950s, as well as the rising status of the musical genre. To give it some perspective, can you imagine Fred Astaire or Bing Crosby having done the same thing in the 30s? From Here to Eternity won 1953's Best Picture Oscar, and like all successful pictures was followed by a host of imitators. 1955's Battle Cry for example is another many-stranded story about soldiers at the start of World War Two, and even features a rather tepid knock-off of the famous beach scene. However, while Battle Cry has some nice moments, structurally it is an absolute mess, an example of how easy it is to do a botch job on a complex storyline. That's why From Here to Eternity is such a rarity, being an ensemble piece that really works.
My own estimation is that this is a pretty poor movie cinematically, with the exception of the then-shocking juicy exuberance of the beach scene.But it is crackling good storytelling and that overcomes the wooden direction and uninspired acting.I'm a believer in the power of structure in stories. Here we have the rule of three in two dimensions.We have the three stories that unfold in the first part:-The story of base strumpet Karen Holmes and her illicit affair with her husband's inferior-The story of a retired fighter and bugler who would rather fight the system, and who also falls <more>
for a whore, though the movie waters her down to a `dance hostess'-The story of the Italian impulsive who gets trapped in system in a way mirroring the fighter and is thereby killed.These three stories intermingle in controlled ways: the sergeant plays a key role in two, the fighter in two. In both cases their role in one story contradicts or opposes their role in the other: the reluctant fighter in one thread is passive, in the other is a killer. The sergeant in one thread is the colonel's patsy, in the other he cuckolds the colonel.There are two women, both promiscuous, but for opposite reasons: one because she cannot have a proper family and the other because she desires one.Wheels turn with carefully machined interlacing, and we follow each one. That's the first part. All during this, we know that an external force will break the machine. It comes and is treated as a story segment in its own right. But it is just heavy punctuation. Both affairs have ended. The Italian has been killed and his killer killed and his killer in turn killed. End of act two.What makes this novel in my mind is the very odd and short act three. The two endearing sluts are on a boat together, and Alma herself tells a story. I believe in a law of film stories that I discover in hundreds of films: the story IN the film - even a simple, short story as we have here - is precisely as abstracted from the story OF the film as the film is from the reality of the viewers in the audience. That's what we have here, and it really highlights and cements the memory of what we have seen before.But don't see this for any cinematic values: the direction, camerawork except for that beach scene , acting and production design is ordinary, even tepid. Its the fabric of the story here, and it pulls us like a tractor.Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.