"The Best Years Of Our Lives" Is Released

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) is an American drama film about three servicemen trying to piece their lives back together after coming home from World War II.

Samuel Goldwyn was motivated to produce the film after his wife Frances read an August 7, 1944 article in Time magazine about the difficulties experienced by war veterans returning to civilian life. Goldwyn hired former war correspondent MacKinlay Kantor to write the story, which was first published as a novella, Glory for Me, which was written in blank verse. Robert Sherwood then wrote the screenplay. It was directed by William Wyler, with cinematography by Gregg Toland. The film won seven Academy Awards. In addition to its critical success the film was a massive commerical success upon release becoming the highest grossing film in both the USA and UK since the release of Gone with the Wind. It remains the six biggest ticket seller of all time in the UK.

The ensemble cast includes Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Hoagy Carmichael. It also features Harold Russell, a U.S. paratrooper who had lost both his hands in a training accident.

The postwar classic The Best Years of Our Lives, based on a novel in verse by MacKinlay Kantor about the difficult readjustments of returning World War II veterans, tells the intertwined homecoming stories of ex-sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), former bombadier Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), and sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell). Having rubbed shoulders with blue-collar Joes for the first time in his life, Al finds it difficult to return to a banker's high-finance mindset, and he shocks his co-workers with a plan to provide no-collateral loans to veterans. Meanwhile, Al's children (Teresa Wright and Michael Hall) have virtually grown up in his absence. Fred discovers that his wartime heroics don't count for much in the postwar marketplace, and he finds himself unwillingly returning to his prewar job as a soda jerk. His wife (Virginia Mayo), expecting a thrilling marriage to a glamorous flyboy, is bored and embittered by her husband's inability to advance himself, and she begins living irresponsibly, like a showgirl. Homer has lost both of his hands in combat and has been fitted with hooks; although his family and his fiancée (Cathy O'Donnell) adjust to his wartime handicap, he finds it more difficult. Profoundly relevant in 1946, the film still offers a surprisingly intricate and ambivalent exploration of American daily life; and it features landmark deep-focus cinematography from Gregg Toland, who also shot Citizen Kane. The film won Oscars for, among others, Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary William Wyler, Best Actor for March, and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee whose hands had been blown off in a training accident. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide