Tuesday, March 19, 2013


This movie has been on my list of all time favorites since I was a kid, but the more I see it over the years the higher it moves on that list. I watched it again tonight with my fifteen-year-old and have to admit I think it's reached the top. The acting is so good, the script too and the shots, the cinematography, the positioning of the camera and the set ups. Everything about it works as not just great story telling and movie making but great art.

Having seen it so often I could focus on backgrounds and framing and the edges of the frame and set design and soundtrack and especially the rhythm of the narrative in each scene. I can't think of a movie made in the last several decades that uses pauses and slow dolly shots to better effect. The scene late in the flick where Dana Andrews' character is in the bombardier's nest in the front of the about-to-be-junked plane as the camera moves in and the music hits a crescendo still rattles me, especially the music that sounds like it could have been used in a scene in ON THE WATER FRONT almost a decade later it was so discordantly modern.

Director William Wyler deserves most of the credit, but watching the actors it feels like it's all them. Frederic March is a marvel, and the always brilliant Myrna Loy is worth watching the whole movie for. The two of them together is like watching a master class in movie acting. But everyone in it is terrific, especially my boyhood crush, Theresa Wright, and the always fun to watch Virginia Mayo as the bad girl. But the amateur first time actor Harold Russell, hired because he actually had hooks for hands as the character called for, is directed and supported by the professionals so well his performance is a revelation of emotional power. And Cathy O'Donnell who plays his girlfriend gives the expression "the girl next door" the romantic resonance it should always have.

And so many more, Hoagy Carmichael not only tickling the keys like the virtuoso he was, but playing the role of Uncle Butch so realistically you forget he's not just a famous songwriter but one of the greatest of all time. Even the small parts of Andrews' character's "pop" and stepmom—played by Roman Bohnen and Gladys George—come across more realistically than the best method actor of Brando's generation and after. Their scenes together choke me up every time I see it.

I could go on, but it's late and you probably already know this film anyway. But if you've never watched it from opening credits to ending credits, take the time some day or night, and you will be richly rewarded.


-K- said...

I agree, it tells three complicated stories and does it a lot of heart, not so common in movies of that era.

I think my favorite scene is Frederic March wrestling with his conscience as he tries to justify giving a loan to a vet who has no collateral, just a desire to grow things.

But I'm forgetting the scene when Harold Russell gives his fiance a preview of what life with him will be like. Haunting but full of compassion, again not an emotion that this era has much time for.

Lally said...

Well said Kevin, in fact exactly what I wish I had said. Your last statement can be read either as referring to the era the movie was made, 1946, or our era now, but the latter hits home to me especially strong.