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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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Al looks over Mr. Novak's loan application

Al is no stranger to job dissatisfaction either.  He returns to the bank and is promoted to the post of vice-president in charge of small loans where his boss expects him to administer new GI loans to ex-servicemen according to the principles of sound banking, not his personal assessment of the human collateral of the men (like Dean White, at left) applying for them.

Milly and Al have breakfast

On the home front, Al and Milly (at right, enjoying a late breakfast) rediscover romance after four years of separation. Unlike Fred and Homer, once he gets over his initial awkwardness, Al readjusts to his home life without too much difficulty.  He finds his job at the bank increasingly dissatisfying however, and turns to alcohol more often than not to drown his troubles.

Below, Al and Milly have a drink before heading off to the Union Club to attend a party the bank is giving in honor of Al.  Besides being worried about Al's drinking, Milly is also concerned about their daughter Peggy and her growing involvement with Fred, a married man.

Milly worries about Al and Peggy

Though the male characters are the primary focus of BEST YEARS, all of their female counterparts turn in excellent performances, the subtle strength of which balances the intensity of the male roles while at the same time preventing the overall mood of the film from becoming too melodramatic. Although not recognized with Oscar nominations, Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright's contributions are especially noteworthy.

Video Clips:

Click here "Al's speech at the Union Club" (three .QT files courtesy Cary).

March Speech Part 1 | March Speech Part 2 | March Speech Part 3
(1:05 min. 3.42MB)      (1:04 min. 3.38MB)      (1:07 min. 3.53MB)

(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)

"The Children's Hour"

Milly's worries about Peggy are confirmed when Peggy admits she's in love with Fred.  After a double date with Fred and his wife, Peggy returns home and tells her parents she intends to "break that marriage up!" Sensitive to the ups and downs of married life, Al is not anxious to see his daughter become a homewrecker and steps in to put a stop to the relationship.

Finale

For all the Oscar-winning performances by the male stars of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, the finale scene belongs to Teresa Wright who, with the help of Hugo Friedhofer's score, wordlessly expresses all of Peggy Stephenson's churning emotions with her ever-searching eyes.

Click here "Finale" (clip) by Hugo Friedhofer (a .MP3 file courtesy Fifth Continent Music Corporation).

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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