Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Great Dramas this month on Noir and Chick Flicks - The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946)

I mentioned to Dawn that we would concentrate on dramas during this month here on Noir and Chick Flicks. She agreed and I figured we would focus on some of the classic great dramas of all time. Dramas that focused on family life, married life, dramas dealing with important issues such as race, women's rights, medical dramas, prison dramas, etc. We could go on and on. But since November is a time of being thankful, I wanted to showcase some dramas that are very emotional and tug at the heart and make you think. So I hope everyone will enjoy this month here on Noir & Chick Flicks. And I decided to kick things off with the 1946 classic film The Best Years of Our Lives, which I recently wrote about on my blog, All Good Things.
Harold Russell & Cathy O'Donnell in The Best Years of Our Lives
This is one of my favorite films of all time, sitting right there nestled in my top 10. The story in this film centers on three returning WW Two veterans after the war has ended. Frederic March is Al Stephenson, who returns to his loving wife Milly (a magnificent performance by Myrna Loy), his two children Peggy (a terrific Teresa Wright) and Rob (Michael Hall). Al returns to an influential banking position, but finds it hard to reconcile his loyalties to ex-servicemen with new commercial realities. He has several scenes where he copes by drinking heavily. Dana Andrews is Fred Derry, an ordinary working man who finds it difficult to hold down a job or pick up the threads of his marriage with Virginia Mayo. He ends up falling for Peggy, and Peggy lets her mom know that she doesn't mind busting up the marriage to be with Fred. I was like, heck yeah, go for it Peggy. That's when I fell in love with Teresa Wright at that exact moment. And the last soldier is Homer Parrish (played by real life amputee Harold Russell) who unsure that his fiancée's (Cathy O'Donnell) feelings are still those of love and not those of pity. Each of these three men face a different crisis in their lives and try to cope and come through it emotionally sound. This movie is awesome. I can't find any faults with it. From the top notch cast to the expert direction by William Wyler to the epic music score by Hugo Friedhofer and the gorgeous cinematography by Gregg Toland. The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the best films ever made.
Facts about the film:

In 1946 this became the most successful film at the box office since Gone with the Wind (1939) which was released 7 years earlier.

For his performance as Homer Parrish, Harold Russell became the only actor to win two Academy Awards for the same role.

Myrna Loy receives top billing as she was the most successful female star at the time.

William Wyler, who served as a major in the Army Air Force during World War II, incorporated his own wartime experiences into The Best Years of Our Lives. Just as Fred Derry did in the movie, Wyler flew in B-17s in combat over Germany, although rather than being a bombardier, as Derry was, he filmed footage for documentary films. Additionally, Wyler modeled the reunion of Al and Milly, in which they first see each other at opposite ends of a long hallway, on his own homecoming to his wife, Talli.

This is the first film role for which Cathy O'Donnell, in the role of Wilma Cameron, receives screen credit. Her film debut was in Wonder Man (1945) as an uncredited extra in a nightclub scene.

In 1946 this became the most successful film at the box office since Gone with the Wind (1939) which was released 7 years earlier.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #37 Greatest Movie of All Time.


  1. I'm ordinarily not a fan of dramas, but The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the finest films of all time, and one of my very favorites as well. I saw for the first time only a month or two ago.

    All of the actors gave top-notch performances, particularly Dana Andrews -- and there's not a single flaw in the entire picture. It's such a moving film. I confess, I almost cried.

  2. I love this movie, plain and simple. It is like a time capsule of the period, and features great performances from every actor in it. I would certainly hae ranked it higher than #37. Very nice and informative article about this special film.

  3. I almost cried too Emm. And Becky on my list Best Years is definitely in the top 10, maybe top 5.

  4. Monty, I thought this was a very powerful movie, one you will not soon forget.. One of my favorite scenes, is when Dana is walking around with the retired military planes thinking back to his fighting days. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts on a very moving film.

    November, is going to be a a great month here on N and CF.


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