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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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Article 3

The Best Years of Our Lives

Three veterans solve the problem of fitting into a peacetime U.S.

LIFE Magazine  December 16, 1946 page 71-73

Homer places the ring on Wilma's finger

Handless war veteran Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) marries his prewar fiancee (Cathy O'Donnell) after deeply doubting that she wants him.

The Best Years of Our Lives is the first big, good movie of the postwar era really to sink its teeth into current U.S. problems. To describe the readjustment of three widely different war veterans, it discovers them as they are returning together to the same home town and watches them pick up again the threads of normal life. One veteran is older, a sergeant who comes back to a happy family and his former good job in a bank, yet still finds peace uncomfortable. Another is a captain, a soda jerker turned bombardier who knows no trade and is saddled with a trollop war bride. The third is a sailor who has lost both hands and must cope with an oversolicitous family as well as his own neuroses.

Producer Samuel Goldwyn, Director William Wyler and Writer Robert E. Sherwood have succeeded brilliantly in their examination of their uneasy veterans. Best Years has, of course, certain flaws: there is hokum stirred up with its drama; its 172 minutes are considerably overlong; its finale is miraculously happy. But it is an honest, adult and absorbing film. The acting correspondingly excellent, notably that of Fredric March as the good-humored banker, and Teresa Wright (see cover) as his sweet and headstrong daughter. And though no actor, ex-Sgt. Harold Russell, selected of obvious necessity to play the handless ex-sailor, shows up all the more honest when playing himself: a good scout who stubbornly refuses to let his bad break get him down (see pp. 74-75).


Milly puts Al to bed

MILLY AND AL (Myrna Loy and Fredric March) are a happy, prosperous couple who celebrate his return by going out on the town. Al ends up at home dead drunk.

Fred makes a pass at Peggy

PEGGY AND FRED (Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews) meet on the same night. She's Al's daughter. Fred comes home with Al, makes and inebriated pass at Peggy.

© 1946 Life Magazine

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