From Here to Eternity (1953)

From Here to Eternity is a 1953 drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann and based on the novel of the same name by James Jones. The picture deals with the tribulations of three U.S. Army soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra, stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed portray the women in their lives and the supporting cast includes Ernest Borgnine, Philip Ober, Jack Warden, Mickey Shaughnessy, Claude Akins, and George Reeves

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Montgomery Clift shines From Here to Eternity

19 July 2005 | by nawknek (United States) – See all my reviews

“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)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.

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Montgomery Clift

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.

In the scene where Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift play drunk sitting on the street, Clift actually was drunk, but Lancaster was not.

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Montgomery Clift threw himself into the character of Prewitt, learning to play the bugle (even though he knew he’d be dubbed) and taking boxing lessons. Fred Zinnemann said, “Clift forced the other actors to be much better than they really were. That’s the only way I can put it. He got performances from the other actors, he got reactions from the other actors that were totally genuine.”

Maybe Donna Reed’s Best Movie

31 July 2005 | by PWNYCNY (United States) – See all my reviews

“From Here To Eternity” takes place right before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thus, it’s really not a war movie. Actually its more of a soap opera with Burt Lancaster putting the make on Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra having a fight with Ernest Borgnine and Montgomery Clift having a tryst with Donna Reed, which brings me to the element of the movie that I really liked: Donna Reed’s character. In the movie Donna Reed plays a prostitute who wants to earn enough money to go home, but by the end of the movie circumstances have transformed her from cynical prostitute to fiancé and bereaved victim who has lost her man, and for whom things would never be the same. To me, this is what a good movie is all about – powerful and compelling character development within the context of a story that is credible and makes sense.

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The Bugle of Schofield Barracks

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
28 May 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

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 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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

Director Fred Zinnemann disputes the rumor that Montgomery Clift was too drunk to say the last line in Frank Sinatra‘s death scene. According to Zinnemanm he and Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn disagreed about the last line. When Sinatra’s dead body was put into the jeep for removal, Clift’s Prewitt character says, “See that his head don’t bump.” Cohn wanted Clift’s line cut and it was . . . over Zinneman’s objections.

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A Good Story Well Told

9/10
Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
14 August 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“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.

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There are a number of interconnected 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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Deborah Kerr

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).

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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.

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Masterpiece, a lesson in characterisation and story telling.

10/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
4 March 2008

James Jone’s novel was deemed impossible to put onto the screen {how many times have we heard that one before?}, but nobody told director Fred Zinnerman and the cast of dreams. Troubles with the making of the film were many, the film was thwarted by a censorship requirement that the army not be portrayed as careless and over brutal, and some of the sexual themes from the novel had to be toned down. Zinneman also had to fight a continuous battle with Columbia’s head ego tripper Harry Cohn. He interfered with every script that was shown to him, and casting was also a tough thing to achieve with Cohn trying to call the shots. As it turned out we got one of the best composition of actors in one film to have ever graced the screen.

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From Here To Eternity is a film about the lives and loves of a number of characters at Schofield Barracks-Pearl Harbor, just prior to the infamous attack by the Japanese that changed WW2. Illicit affairs, friendship, nobility, bravery and cruelty come crashing together in one gigantic lavish production that defines the word classic. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Warden, Deborah Kerr, and Donna Reed all give performances that any other actor would be proud to have given. On another day they all could have won awards such was the strength of performance they all gave. Reed & Sinatra won best supporting Oscars, while Fred Zinneman rightly won for best director to cement the film winning outright for best picture. Yet the film’s crowning glory didn’t win an award, for to me, Montogomery Clift gives one of the best performances in motion picture history, it’s layered to perfection and it’s one of those character portrayals that has me involved to the point of exhaustion. One scene in which he plays a bugle lament as tears roll down his face is just stunning, and I know how he feels because I cry along with him to, such is my involvement with his turn as Robert E. Lee Prewitt.

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Laced with memorable scenes {the kiss, the bugle lament, Lancaster blasting away at the Japanese planes with machine gun in hand}, and performances to match, From Here To Eternity is essential cinema to be viewed every year and homaged and praised whenever possible. 10/10 in every single respect.

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