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From Here To Eternity

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: From Here To Eternity

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Rated: NR
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: August 1953
Genres: Classic, Drama, War

*Also starring: Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Warden, Claude Akins, George Reeves, Philip Ober, Mickey Shaughnessy

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

"From Here to Eternity" racked up 13 Academy Award nominations, and won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann, who had been nominated the year before for "High Noon"), Best Screenplay (Daniel Taradash) and Best B/W Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). Winning the only Oscars of their careers were Best Supporting Actor Frank Sinatra, and Best Supporting Actress Donna Reed. Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster were nominated for Best Actor, while Deborah Kerr picked up a nomination for Best Actress.

Today, the film is best known for the beach scene with Lancaster and Kerr, considered to be one of the most romantic in screen history, and Sinatra's performance, which rejuvenated his career.

The setting is Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, shortly before the surprise Japanese attack began direct U.S. involvement in World War II. Clift is a soldier and bugler who transfers to a new regiment. A former middleweight boxer, he is pressured by contemptible Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) to box for the regiment. Clift refuses, and is harassed by Holmes and the regiment's boxers. Clift's sole friend is Maggio (Sinatra). Clift gets a girlfriend (Reed), who is a 'hostess' at a private club (in the novel, the club is a whorehouse, while Reed's character is a prostitute).

Holmes' right hand man is Lancaster, a Sergeant who has eyes for Holmes' unhappy wife (Deborah Kerr). Their affair is illegal under Army rules and could land him in prison. The much-lauded beach scene is not representative of the Lancaster/Kerr romance, which is furtive and bitter.

The critical and commercial success of "From Here to Eternity" is understandable. It is a good film, and it has strong appeal for both men (war theme) and women (romance theme). It appeals to American patriotism, especially in the scene where heroic soldiers led by Lancaster shoot down a Japanese bomber.

Essentially the film is a soap opera, with the dual troubled romances of Clift/Reed and Lancaster/Kerr. To increase sympathy for our romantic leads, Holmes' character is selfish, cruel and philandering, while Sinatra's tormentor Fatso (Ernest Borgnine) is a sadistic bully. How much one appreciates the film is proportional to one's sympathy for Clift and Lancaster, both of whom are stubborn with self-destructive streaks. Some of the dramatic scenes are manipulative and heavy-handed, especially the various death scenes, Clift's fistfight, and the come-uppance of Holmes and the regiment's boxers.

"From Here to Eternity" reminds me of "The Young Lions", a film from 1957. Clift plays a very similar character, a soldier forced to fight other soldiers, who gets the girl, goes AWOL, and forces the premature retirement of his Captain. In "The Young Lions", Dean Martin's character merges the roles of Sinatra (Clift's friend) and Lancaster (in refusing to get a promotion). Since "The Young Lions" is the later film, one could say that it ripped off "From Here to Eternity". But "The Young Lions" is really an improvement, as it is a much better film, probably due to the presence of Marlon Brando.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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