Play It Again – From Here to Eternity

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By Jess Lomas
February 5, 2013

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

Best known for the iconic kissing-in-the-waves scene, there’s a lot more to love about From Here to Eternity than Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster frolicking in the sand. Set on an American military base in Hawaii months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it concerns Private Robert Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), a fine bugler and an even better boxer, newly transferred to the company. Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) sets about trying to convince Prewitt to join the company’s boxing team, making his life misery until he relents to fight.

Looking on is First Sergeant Milton Warden (Lancaster) who has grown tired of his Captain’s antics and fallen for his wife Karen (Kerr). Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) is the comic relief as Prewitt’s reckless friend who can’t hold his drink, and has an ongoing spar with Sergeant Judson (Ernest Borgnine), the chief enforcer at the stockade. Finally, there’s Prewitt’s love interest Lorene (Donna Reed), a gentleman’s club employee longing to return to her home town to lead an honest life.

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This 1953 drama was based on the novel of the same name by James Jones, inspired by his own experiences serving in World War II. Daniel Taradash adapted the novel for the screen, and, together with director Fred Zinnemann, created an engrossing account of army life. The film perfectly encapsulates male camaraderie, the hierarchical exploitation of soldiers, and the solace found by many a lost man in this regimented way of living.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor scene is, in itself, reason enough to watch this movie. So caught up are we in the politics of the company and the romances blossoming that the Japanese planes startle us as much as they do the soldiers. It’s no surprise that the feature cleaned up at the Academy Awards, winning eight Oscars from its thirteen nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. With a stand out performance from Lancaster, From Here to Eternity is a powerful and emotional time capsule of America on the brink of change.

4.5/5

From Here to Eternity is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.

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