THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
It Can Be Hard to Come Home
Release Date: November 21, 1946
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Rating: Code Approved
Runtime: 172 minutes
Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures
Director: William Wyler
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
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The movie opens with Fred (Dana Andrews), Homer (Harold Russell, and Al (Fredric March) catching a ride on a B-17 back to Boone City. Fred, a bombardier, has nightmares about friends going down in flames. Homer, whose ship was sunk, lost his hands and has become very adept at using prosthetics. Al returns from the Army to a promotion at the local bank and two children who have grown up while he was gone. The night he returns home, he takes his reserved wife and daughter “on the town” and gets stumbling drunk.
When Fred has difficulty finding a good job, his wife, who loves to spend money on the high life, seeks a divorce. Homer rejects his family and his fiancée because he wants to be treated as a normal man. Try as they might, Homer is just too self-conscious about his hands. Meanwhile, Al struggles at the bank with being too generous making loans to veterans.
Al’s daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright) falls in love with Fred while he’s still married. Al does his best to squelch the relationship. Fred prepares to leave town, but at the last moment gets a good job with a firm dismantling thousands of warplanes. In a very moving scene that’s also a classic use of deep focus cinematography, Fred strolls past a graveyard of B-17s and says, “We sure could have used these early in the war.” The astounding effort involved in winning the war, on the homefront and overseas, just stopped.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES does a remarkable job capturing the issues returning American veterans faced after World Wart II. The direction by William Wyler (BEN-HUR) is superlative. Harold Russell, a real WW II double amputee, gives a startling, profoundly touching and realistic performance that’s one of the most honest portrayals you may ever see at the movies. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is patriotic and pro-free enterprise with strong Christian elements in a wonderful wedding scene, but it does have some troubling misuse of alcohol and considerable smoking.
The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Fredric March), and Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell). It struck a chord with the many veterans returning home around the world. It was immensely popular in Great Britain as well. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is a true masterpiece.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES does a remarkable job capturing the issues confronting returning American servicemen after World War II. It’s a true masterpiece that’s compassionate, profound and uplifting, with several amazing performances. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is also very patriotic, with strong Christian elements in a wedding scene, but there is some smoking and alcohol abuse.