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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 Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

Frank Sinatra. The comparisons are long and debatable and my preference as the twentieth century's greatest entertainer/singer is still Elvis Presley for his diversity in country, western, rock 'n' roll, ballads, gospel, blues, and although Presley and many others after him enjoyed success based on the influences of Sinatra and those from his generation, Presley still has more gold records than anyone else. Frank Sinatra was a legendary performer who passed away on May 14, 1998. I'm writing this movie review one day after his death to celebrate the most successful film work he ever turned in. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work as the noble soldier Maggio in director Fred Zinnemann's powerful 1953 adult drama, 'From Here to Eternity'. It was this film that revived Sinatra's career and he never looked back after it. This movie is #4 on my all time list, behind (3) 'The Godfather Part II' (1974), (2) 'Platoon' (1986) and 'The Godfather' (1972). Other films that Sinatra enjoyed success in such as 'The Man With the Golden Arm' (1955), 'The Manchurian Candidate' (1962) and 'Von Ryan's Express' (1965), were all a result of his success in 'From Here to Eternity'.

It was based on the novel written by James Jones and was toned down somewhat by screenwriter Daniel Taradash (an Oscar for him) and the film proved that times change but people don't. I often listen to the stories a lot of older folks tell about how morality was at its peak fifty or sixty years ago compared to today but this film proved with its adult oriented theme and ground breaking manner that nothing could be further from the truth. The film contains heavy references to adultery, prostitution, alcohol abuse, violence, military injustice, murder and the outbreak of war.

It begins in 1941 at an army barracks in Hawaii, shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack, and we are introduced in the first scene to an army private (Montgomery Clift) who has transferred over from another unit and meets Sinatra in the first scene as we learn later in the film that the two of them are good friends. Clift meets a base Sergeant (Burt Lancaster) who introduces him to the company commander who we learn has pulled some strings to get Clift on his boxing team. Clift has quit boxing because he once blinded a man and his refusal to fight angers the company commander to the point where he instructs his fellow officers to put the screws on Clift until he agrees to box.

The film moves very leisurely from there and the character's personal lives are displayed in great detail. Lancaster has an affair with his company commander's wife (Deborah Kerr), a woman bitter about her husband's infidelities and drinking and who lost a child through a painful and disruptive birth which prevents her from having any more children. The film's trademark scene is Lancaster and Kerr kissing while they lay in the sand on the beach as a wave washes over them and it is one of the most romantic scenes in movie history. Clift has an affair with a girl who works at a social club (Donna Reed - Best Supporting Actress) and their conflicts are as important to the film's tone as any other. Sinatra locks horns with a stocky piano playing military prison officer (Ernest Borgnine) which has tragic results.

The film earned 13 Oscar nominations and won 8, Best Picture, Director (Zinnemann), Supporting Actor (Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Kerr), Adapted Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Sound, Film Editing and Cinematography. The stark black and white photography by cameraman Burnett Guffey is perhaps its greatest technical achievement. Many scenes are photographed with little camera movement, giving the film's most well acted scenes their own strength but using light and shadows in many other scenes of tragic occurrence to enhance those scenes of memorable emotion. Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift split the vote in the Best Actor category and the award went to William Holden in 'Stalag 17'. Deborah Kerr lost Best Actress to Audrey Hepburn in 'Roman Holiday' and the film also lost in the Costume Design and Original Music Score categories.

Throughout the 60's, many ground breaking adult films in the contribution to great American cinema such as 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' (1966), 'The Graduate' (1967) and 'Bonnie and Clyde' (1967) are direct influences of 'From Here to Eternity' and Frank Sinatra probably gives the film its most memorable performance, to be enjoyed by generations to come from a man who could entertain tremendously at the musical level and was also a top notch actor, without a doubt.

Copyright 1995 Walter Frith

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