The Best Years of Our Lives is loaded with star power and a message
thatís still important to understand today. Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews,
Virginia Mayo, and Gladys George all give stellar performances as families who were
separated for almost five years during World War II and now have to get used to each
other and normal lives.
The story follows three returning soldiers from
the same small town. Al Stephenson (Fredric March) was a banker who fought his way
across the Pacific. His daughter and son have now both grown up, and he finds he can
barely find anything to talk to them about. When he returns to the bank, his new view on
life makes it hard for him to work within a system that was once second nature to him.
The second of the returning soldiers, CPT Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) had
lived in the slums and had run the soda fountain at the local drugstore before he left to
become a bombardier in Europe. He had gotten married before he went overseas, and he
returns to find his wife wanting a lavish lifestyle that he canít afford. While he was
gone, the drug store was bought out by a national chain, and one of the janitors had been
promoted to assistant manager.
The third veteran in this drama is Homer
Parrish (Harold Russell), a sailor who lost his hands in a fire aboard his ship. He
comes home to a family that has never been exposed to anyone with a handicap. His
girlfriend lived next door to him and wants to continue the relationship, but he canít
find the ability to let her.
This is a long movieólonger than some people
may be willing to sit through. Still, itís one that we all need to watch. Itís one of
the few films that deals with what veterans have to deal with when they come home.
Director William Wyler does a masterful job of showing the distance these men developed
not only with their families but with the rest of society, too. He shows the problems
they have with work, with the men who didnít fight in the war, and with themselvesóand he
shows the closeness they feel toward each other, even though they didnít serve in the
I could go on for hours about how good this movie isóabout
the scenes that are dead on target emotionally or about the quality of the actorís
performances. In scene after scene you feel like youíre watching a black and white
version of real life. Every line has a meaning, and each camera angle is framed to near
perfection. And itís no surprise that the movie went on to win the 1946 Oscars for Best
Picture, Director, Actor, and Supporting Actor, to name a few.
movie is just as good today as it was in 1946, right after the war itself. I recommend
this movie to everyoneóbut especially to anyone who has a family member or friend whoís
away from home serving our country. No matter how hard they try, none of them can come
back to the world they left.