Written by: Daniel Taradash
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra
Major world-changing events typically receive the focus of the fateful days because of their significance. Anything minor that occurs directly before or after rarely receives the spotlight and ultimately gets overshadowed. Showing the minor points leading towards its major event allowed From Here to Eternity to maintain its lasting legacy but exasperates the emotional beats to have even more strength through its narrative.
Arriving at the U.S. base in Oahu, Hawaii, Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) hopes to get a brand new start in a new place. Unfortunately, the sins of his past follow him with Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) forcing him to partake in the company boxing league. Refusal to partake comes with dire consequences as First Sergeant Milton Warden begins an affair with the captain’s wife.
The intertwining stories built within the fantastic From Here to Eternity have elements of being a soap opera imbued into this very fabric but the way it manages to coherently express every angle of its emotional heft reminds us why it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Following the events of Pearl Harbor, everyone who was there came covered in glory for the valor displayed even in death, but this film has no qualms in displaying some of the sick operators put in charge of these bases. While duty for one’s country might have taken men like Dana Holmes into the service, the power to control others certainly kept him there. It’s ultimately the best place to have a power trip where everyone below you must be obedient or dire consequences would surely follow. This gets done to quite the extreme in this feature film but nonetheless demonstrates the heinous practices done by these leaders.
Conflicts driving this feature occur with Prewitt being forced to participate in boxing, but it centers on the idea of these men looking for a connection with others. Sure, they could form bonds of camaraderie with their fellow soldiers but something outside of their daily norm becomes a virtual necessity. This pushes the men to get off base whenever they can and fraternize in the local clubs. It’s not necessarily romance but being merely in the presence of another person unaffiliated with drills and the rigor of being a soldier. Prewitt finds this with Lorene (Donna Reed) and Milton with Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr). Wandering hearts looking for some sort of connection and the way they collide in this feature creates a heart-swooning experience for all. Each of these relationships comes with a level of stakes of what could occur if things could go wrong but the way they become worth rooting for only makes the big event happening, later on, more difficult to emotionally process.
From Here to Eternity just has a jovial time in playing with the emotions because of the situations it places its characters. From the complete harshness of their circumstances and the consequences involved with it, each of these highlighted men go through an arc and being a soldier becomes integral to the particular actions taken by each of these men in their journeys. From the high moments where the beautiful potential of love populates the air to the dark instances showing the true depravity one man could inflict upon another, this film truly has it all.
With great performances by the entire cast to sing praises for, the standout, by far, proved to be Donna Reed. The majestic grace she exudes through the character of Lorene not only won her an Academy Award but remains one of the highlights of her illustrious career. A mysterious shroud at times, but always dazzling in her appearance and demeanor, Reed taps into something so special with this character. She steals the spotlight each time she appears on screen and continues to dazzle. This character has her own tragedy behind her eyes but it becomes difficult to crack, even for Prewitt. The level of captivation she manages to eschew should have been illegal then where she can outshine Burt Lancaster in a film where he’s at his physical apex. An all-around stacked cast of talent all put together to tell this story of tragedy and love.
Melodrama galore but done in the best way, From Here to Eternity shows the dark side of military operations right before one of the most horrific acts of war. A clash of duty to honor when serving some horrid individuals charged with protecting this nation. The story of love and heartbreak sucks you right into rooting for these characters where the cataclysmic event arrives almost as a surprise. A wonderful testament to the power of filmmaking in the way this entire piece comes together as a symphonic union of messy relationships and lonely people. A rightful Best Picture winner and one that grows in my appreciation with each subsequent viewing.