Best Years of Our Lives

Best Years of Our Lives

4.6 18
Director: William Wyler

Cast: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews


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The postwar classic The Best Years of Our Lives, based on a novel in verse by MacKinlay Kantor about the difficult readjustments of returning World War II veterans, tells the intertwined homecoming stories of ex-sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), former bombadier Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), and sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell). Having rubbed shouldersSee more details below


The postwar classic The Best Years of Our Lives, based on a novel in verse by MacKinlay Kantor about the difficult readjustments of returning World War II veterans, tells the intertwined homecoming stories of ex-sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), former bombadier Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), and sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell). Having rubbed shoulders with blue-collar Joes for the first time in his life, Al finds it difficult to return to a banker's high-finance mindset, and he shocks his co-workers with a plan to provide no-collateral loans to veterans. Meanwhile, Al's children (Teresa Wright and Michael Hall) have virtually grown up in his absence. Fred discovers that his wartime heroics don't count for much in the postwar marketplace, and he finds himself unwillingly returning to his prewar job as a soda jerk. His wife (Virginia Mayo), expecting a thrilling marriage to a glamorous flyboy, is bored and embittered by her husband's inability to advance himself, and she begins living irresponsibly, like a showgirl. Homer has lost both of his hands in combat and has been fitted with hooks; although his family and his fiancée (Cathy O'Donnell) adjust to his wartime handicap, he finds it more difficult. Profoundly relevant in 1946, the film still offers a surprisingly intricate and ambivalent exploration of American daily life; and it features landmark deep-focus cinematography from Gregg Toland, who also shot Citizen Kane. The film won Oscars for, among others, Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for March, and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee whose hands had been blown off in a training accident.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Regina Raiford
The winner of seven major Academy Awards, this powerful classic explores the cynicism and despair underlying the nation's prevailing optimism and prosperity following World War II. Inspired by a Life magazine article, The Best Years of Our Lives interweaves the tales of three returning servicemen (Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell), each of whom has been drastically altered by his war experience and has difficulty adjusting to small-town civilian life. All three actors give legendary performances: March won the Oscar for Best Actor, and Russell, a real-life veteran who lost both his hands in a military accident, won a special Oscar for bringing "hope and courage" to other veterans. Stunning deep-focus cinematography by Gregg Tolland (Citizen Kane) and director William Wyler's subtle direction heighten the poignancy and depth of this unsurpassed social drama. A panoramic view of postwar American family life, The Best Years of Our Lives remains as relevant today as it was in 1946.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
When Samuel Goldwyn decided to make The Best Years of Our Lives, Hollywood was running away from World War II-related scripts as though the subject itself had the plague -- movies about men in uniform had been box-office poison since early 1945. The assumption was that returning veterans would be even less willing than those who'd stayed on the home front to shell out money to be reminded of their service. Goldwyn, director William Wyler, and screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood (working from MacKinlay Kantor's blank verse novel Glory for Me), and a cast from heaven (some of them, like Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo, giving the greatest performances of their careers) proved the industry wrong, and they opened up a whole new subject area by focusing on the men giving up their uniforms, the women and children around them, and even the men who hadn't served. They ended up with a 170-minute movie whose every shot was dramatically and psychically spellbinding, embracing the relief, anxiety, pain, joy, and doubts that Americans could now express. The setting of the movie in a small city somewhere in the middle of the country gave it a Norman Rockwell veneer, while the script melded that background with some healthy cynicism and emotional honesty borne out of the movie world's new awareness of modern psychology. Thus, the film had its feet in both pre-war and post-war consciousness, appealing to two generations of filmgoers (or even three, as the World War I-era audience was still around and had hardly been served well in its own time). It not only set new standards for maturity in mainstream moviemaking, showing that you could please crowds even as you showed a few unpleasant truths about who and what we were, but also did a lot to ease audiences into the Hollywood era that produced such serious, topical dramas as Gentleman's Agreement, Crossfire, City Across the River, Home of the Brave, The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me), The Wild One, On the Waterfront, and Goldwyn's own Edge of Doom.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Sales rank:

Special Features

Introduction by Virginia Mayo; Interview with Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fredric March Al Stephenson
Myrna Loy Millie Stephenson
Dana Andrews Fred Derry
Harold Russell Homer Parrish
Virginia Mayo Marie Derry
Teresa Wright Peggy Stephenson
Dorothy Adams Mrs. Cameron
Don Beddoe Mr. Cameron
Walter S. Baldwin Mr. Parrish
Cathy O'Donnell Wilma Cameron
Roman Bohnen Pat Derry
Hoagy Carmichael Butch Engle
Howland Chamberlain Thorpe
Steve Cochran Cliff
Ray Collins Mr. Milton
Victor Cutler Woody Merrill
Gladys George Hortense Derry
Minna Gombell Mrs. Parrish
Michael Hall Rob Stephenson
Charles Halton Prew
Erskine Sanford Bullard
Pat Flaherty Construction Foreman
Ray Teal Mr. Mollett
Dean White Novak
Bert Conway ATC Sergeant
Clancy Cooper Taxi Driver
Blake Edwards Corporal
Teddy Infuhr Dexter
Robert Karnes Tech. Sergeant
Norman Phillips Merkle
Ralph Sanford Mr. Gibbons

Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
Perry Ferguson Art Director
Hugo W. Friedhofer Score Composer
Samuel Goldwyn Producer
Julia Heron Set Decoration/Design
George Jenkins Art Director
Dan Mandell Editor
Irene Sharaff Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert E. Sherwood Screenwriter
Gregg Toland Cinematographer

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