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Film: The Best Years of Our Lives

After that, I had it easy... That's what I said. They took care of me fine. They trained me to use these things. I can dial telephones, I can drive a car, I can even put nickels in the jukebox. I'm all right, but... well, you see, I've got a girl.
-Homer Parrish

These are the best years of our lives, and we're wasting them!
-Marie Derry

The Best Years Of Our Lives was a 1946 film directed by William Wyler and starring Frederic March and Harold Russell. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year.

Just after the end of World War II, servicemen Fred Derry, Homer Parrish, and Al Stephenson return home to Boone City to their loved ones. Their adjustment to post-war life is met with varying levels of success. Al, a banker, finds it difficult to reconnect with his family and even more difficult to be as stern as he was before. Homer, who lost both hands in a fire, can't stand the pity that he detects from others, including his fiancee. Meanwhile, Fred is infuriated that the only real job he can hold is a soda jerk, and discovers the woman he married before heading off to war wasn't worth it. Somehow, they are going to have to go on with their lives...

This movie is interesting (and this is probably the reason it was so well received) for being one of the first movies that showed war as it was, instead of romanticizing it like movies and books were prone to.

This work features examples of:

  • Betty and Veronica: Fred between Peggy (Betty) and Marie (Veronica).
  • Bittersweet Ending: the three war veterans are slowly returning to normal lives, with Homer marrying Wilma, and Fred getting divorced from his unloving wife freeing him to court Peggy. But all three acknowledge they still have tough roads ahead of them.
  • Cast the Expert: Harold Russell, a man who had lost both hands in World War II, was cast as a man who had lost both hands in World War II. He did such a good job he won an Oscar (plus a second honorary Oscar), despite never having acted before.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Harold Russell, a drill sergeant during the war, lost his hands in a training accident involving a defective bomb.
  • Eye Take: Millie rolls her eyes as she listens in on Al's conversation with his boss.
  • Girl Next Door: Literally with Homer's girlfriend Wilma. Peggy could also count.
  • Hook Hand: Homer Parrish — played by real-life double amputee Harold Russell.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Homer writing a check at the bank. For a person with two working hands it's a simple task. For Homer to do it, it's an act so amazing it shames Al into giving another veteran a loan without sufficient collateral.
  • Reality Subtext: The man Fred punches out at the drugstore is based on a man Wyler had an argument with when he came home from the war.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Peggy intends to break up Fred's marriage to Marie.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Though they all have traits of this, one of the original plans before they found the man who played Homer was to have a full-on Shell Shock victim who constantly had panic attacks.
    • Al can no longer relate to his wife or his children who grew up without him, and is turning into an alcoholic;
    • Fred dismisses the war medals he's earned, and finds himself climbing into the remains of a bomber plane that are getting taken apart now that the war's over;
    • Homer is ashamed of his artificial hooks and can't keep himself around his family or his girl-next-door sweetheart.
  • Throw It In: Harold Russell, a real life veteran who never acted before, flubbed his lines during his character's wedding scene. William Wyler left it in, considering it natural.
  • War Is Hell: We don't see any battles on the screen. All we see is the damage each war veteran brings back with him.
  • World War II: Or, at least, the psychological effects of it.
  • Written-In Infirmity: Homer was supposed to be merely shell-shocked, but when real-life amputee Harold Russell was cast, his disability was written in.

Beauty and the BeastFilms of the 1940sThe Big Sleep
SpellboundAcademy AwardHenry V
CasablancaNational Film RegistrySunset Boulevard
Midnight CowboyAFI's 100 Years... 100 MoviesDouble Indemnity
La Belle NoiseuseRoger Ebert Great Movies ListBicycle Thieves

alternative title(s): The Best Years Of Our Lives
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