Literature / From Here to Eternity

Well, what am I? I'm a private no-class dogface. The way most civilians look at that, that's two steps up from nothin'.
Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt
http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Burt_Lancaster_From_Here_Eternity_8413.jpg
Soldiers enjoy some typical R&R During the War.

A 1952 novel by James Jones, From Here to Eternity was based on his experiences serving in World War II. It was adapted into a film in 1953, a miniseries in 1979, a TV Show in 1980 and a short lived musical version in 2013. The film version, directed by Fred Zinnemann and staring an All-Star Cast including Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, and Deborah Kerr, remains the most iconic of these productions. It won eight Oscars in its year, including Best Picture.

The 1953 film is also famous for a certain scene involving Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, and a beach. It's an iconic bit, and new viewers may be surprised to discover that it's only three seconds long.

In 1941, a few short months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt is transferred to the nearby Schofield Barracks in Honolulu. His CO at Company G, Captain Holmes, learns that Prewitt was a Boxer and tries to recruit him for the Unit’s Boxing Club. When Prewitt refuses, Holmes decides to make the new recruit’s life a living hell.

Other characters in the story include Prewitt’s buddy and only supporter on base, Angelo Maggio; Holmes’s wife Karen and her lover, Sgt. Warden; Prewitt's girlfriend, "nightclub hostess" Alma; and Staff Sgt. Fatso Judson, the brutish stockade guard who becomes Magglio's tormentor.

See also The Thin Red Line which features similar characters based on James Jones' real life experiences, including Private Witt, appropriately enough for a subsequent novel.

The Film and Book contains examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Despite being a sergeant, Warden is actually this. Ironically he doesn't want to become an officer (as he fears he'll turn out like Holmes).
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the book, Judson's cruel treatment in the stockade is merely him being part of a corrupt system. The US Army insisted the film stress that it was an isolated incident.
  • Awful Wedded Life: The Holmes household has both partners cheating, the husband not even trying to hide it from his wife any more.
  • Beach Kiss: The Trope Codifier.
  • Big Damn Kiss: The beach scene in the 1953 film won an Oscar by itself.
  • Blatant Lies: Alma tells Karen that Prewitt died a hero while piloting a plane when he really just got shot for ignoring the commands of a patrol, though it's unclear if she knew the truth of if she was on the receiving end of Blatant Lies to make her feel better. Karen recognizes his name but wisely says nothing.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Justified by the period's special effects, but the soldier who gets shot by the Japanese attack just rolls over and dies without any visible injuries.
  • Bowdlerization:
    • Due to the Hays Code, the brothel of the novel becomes a Gentleman's Club and the whores become 'hostesses'.
    • Maggio's death in the book was entirely the fault of Judson's abuse in the stockade. The film implies that he was mainly finished off by falling from a truck after he escaped.
  • Camp Follower: Alma.
  • Drinking on Duty: Maggio deserts his guard post clearly drunk out of his mind.
  • Due to the Dead: Prewitt plays a lament for Maggio on the bugle after his death.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Staff Sgt. James R. "Fatso" Judson.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Appears to be the case with Karen - as the sexy captain's wife. But she's actually deeply depressed and hates her life.
  • Evil Is Petty: Prewitt is cruelly hazed all because he won't compete in a boxing tournament, even after he freely gives the reason why he won't (that he accidentally blinded a friend while fighting). Yes; most of the movie's conflict comes from Prewitt saying no to a tournament.
  • Fat Bastard: Judson who's even nicknamed 'Fatso' by everyone.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Captain Holmes cheats on his wife, which makes it all right for her to cheat on him. His behavior previously resulted in her losing a child and nearly dying herself. In Karen's defence, she admittedly suggests a divorce so she can be with the new guy.
  • Good-Looking Privates: It's Burt Lancaster, after all.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Prewitt and Maggio. It's clear that they're best friends and utterly devoted to each other.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lorene (real name Alma) in all but name in the film. Fully so in the book.
  • Hypocrite: When Karen demands a divorce, her husband angrily asks if she's met someone else - despite blatantly sleeping with other women throughout their marriage.
  • Idiot Ball: The ordinarily shrewd Prewitt gets killed after he tries to sneak back to his company after the attack on Pearl Harbor — with a bleeding side injury, no less — and fails to halt after they order him to several times, leading to them being forced to shoot him. The soldier who examines him with Warden afterwards even notes that he could have just halted, given Prewitt's earlier justification to Alma that they wouldn't have punished them since they needed all the help they could get. Warden gives a rather half-assed justification for Prewitt just being stubborn, "but a good soldier," but even that sounds hollow.
  • Literary Allusion Title: From “Gentleman Rankers” by Rudyard Kipling.
  • Longing Look: Sgt. Warden aims a few at Karen.
  • Male Gaze: Every man in the bar watches the waitress' Sexy Walk. So does the camera.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: That Scene on the Beach.
  • Martial Pacifist: Prewitt, as far as boxing goes.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Sgt. Warden is somewhat upset to find that Karen has had numerous other lovers, although it's strongly hinted that he'd just prefer not to be a 'notch on the bedpost' - as he's been harboring a crush on her for a while.
  • N-Word Privileges: "Only my friends call me 'wop'!"
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Judson is racist, sexist, abusive, and can't play the piano well.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!: Justified in that America wasn't under attack yet.
  • Sergeant Rock: Warden to G-Company.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Prewitt's story: he's hazed mercilessly for a boxing tournament that ends up getting cancelled after the attack at Pearl Harbor. His heroic leaving of his lover in order to rejoin the company and defend the nation is quickly made worthless by him almost immediately getting shot by a patrol after failing to halt.
  • Shirtless Scene: Warden gets one on the beach with Karen, Prewitt gets one while he's digging a whole and Maggio gets one while he's getting dressed.
  • Sorry Ociffer: Spoofed. Warden pretends to chew Prewitt out for being drunk, while falling-down drunk himself.
  • Suddenly Sober: For two guys who couldn't walk straight several minutes before, Warden and Prewitt are remarkably coordinated when Maggio drops in.
  • Taps: In the film version, Prewitt (a bugle player) plays this when his best friend is killed.
  • War Was Beginning: Some shots are carefully framed to show calendars, to let the audience know that the Japanese are going to pay a visit.
  • Woman in Black: Prewitt is first attracted to Lorene when he sees her in a sexy black dress. For the famous beach scene, Karen is also wearing black.
  • You Shall Not Pass: The company is blocked off from artillery because the guard says that he can't let them in without orders... As Pearl Harbor is happening fifty feet away. Averted in that they get in anyway.

Alternative Title(s): From Here To Eternity

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