Sunday, September 02, 2018

From Here to Eternity

Based on the novel by James Jones, From Here to Eternity is the story of three U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Pearl Harbor months before the attack as they deal with tribulations of their environment as well as the women in their lives. Directed by Fred Zinneman and screenplay by Daniel Taradash, the film is a look into the lives of soldiers as they deal with some of the cruelty of their work as a couple of men find themselves wanting a life outside of war. Starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine, Philip Ober, Jack Warden, Mickey Shaughnessy, Claude Akins, George Reeves, and Frank Sinatra. From Here to Eternity is a ravishing yet compelling film from Fred Zinneman.

Set months before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the film revolves around a tough but fair sergeant who watches over a company that includes a new transfer and a fellow soldier who find themselves at odds with non-commissioned officers. It’s a film that play into the lives of three different men who are part of the same company as they deal with hazing and all sorts of things while two of them would find love during their time. Daniel Taradash’s screenplay does have a straightforward narrative that follows the lives of these three men as they deal with their duties at the Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Leading the company is First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) who is the second in command to a rifle company that is mainly run by Captain Dana “Dynamite” Holmes (Philip Ober).

New to the company is Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) who was a bugler but is transferred hoping to do something else though Captain Holmes is aware that Private Prewitt is a boxer and hopes he can box for the company so he would get a promotion. For Private Prewitt, he isn’t interested in boxing due to actions that he committed as he’s consumed with guilt where Captain Holmes want to get other non-commissioned officers to make things tough for him to get him to box. Private Prewitt does get sympathy from another rebel of sorts in Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) who is urging Private Prewitt to stay out of trouble but knows that Prewitt is being pushed. During the days where they would get day-leaves from service where Maggio is a member of an exclusive club, Prewitt meets a paid dancer in Lorene (Donna Reed whom he falls for and would have a relationship with. For Warden, he would engage into an affair with Captain Holmes’ wife Karen (Deborah Kerr) as she is known for a having a seedy reputation as Warden discovers that it’s actually much more complicated.

Fred Zinneman’s direction is largely straightforward in terms of the compositions yet it does play into this moment in time just before war is to happen in America. Shot on location in Honolulu and other parts of Hawaii, the film does play into a world of military service where it is set in this lovely and vibrant island but it’s not exactly what it seems. While Zinneman would use some wide shots to establish bits of the location as well as a few places the characters go to. Much of his direction is more based on medium shots and close-ups to play into the drama and the interaction between characters. Particularly a scene between Warden and Karen during a night out as it would lead to one of the most iconic moments in film as it play into this emerging romance and passion these two have for each other despite the complications that both of them have to carry in their secret affair. Zinneman’s direction also play into soldiers and the tension they have with their non-commissioned superiors such as Maggio towards the brutal Staff Sgt. James R. Judson (Ernest Borgnine) who runs the stockade.

Even as Prewitt is being pushed to try and submit to Captain Holmes’ wishes to box for his company with others making him do things as Zinneman doesn’t shy away from the awful treatment Prewitt is given. The third act isn’t just about the mistreatment of Prewitt and Maggio but also Warden realizing it’s gone far enough though he would try to persuade the former to just give in and save face while knowing that Prewitt is stubborn. It also play into the decisions Warden and Prewitt have about their possible life outside of duty as it relates to their respective relationships with Karen and Lorene. Even as the two women have ideas of what they should do but also what they want for themselves as there is this conflict that Zinneman would convey into a world that is full of love and safety or the world of duty. Overall, Zinneman crafts a captivating and evocative film about three soldiers dealing with their world just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Cinematographer Burnett Guffey, with additional work from Floyd Crosby, does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the beauty of the daytime exteriors of Hawaii as well as the usage of low-key lights for the exterior scenes at night. Editor William A. Lyon does excellent work with the editing as it is feature some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the drama as well as these intense moments of confrontation between the protagonists and the non-commissioned officers. Art director Cary Odell and set decorator Frank Tuttle do fantastic work with the look of the nightclub that Maggio is a member of as well as the bars at the city and the interior of the barracks.

Costume designer Jean Louis does amazing work with the design of the dresses and gowns that Lorene and Karen wear as well as the casual clothes they would wear at home. The sound work of John P. Livadary is terrific for its sound in capturing the sound of soldiers marching as well as air sirens and bugles being heard from afar. The film’s music by George Duning is wonderful for its serene and sweeping orchestral score that play into some of the romantic elements of the film while providing some more rhythmic pieces for some of the suspense and scenes at the military station.

The casting by Maxwell Arnow is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Claude Akins as Warden’s friend Sgt. “Baldy” Dohm, Robert J. Wilke as Sgt. Henderson, George Reeves as Warden’s assistant Sgt. Maylon Stark, Jack Warden as Corporal Buckley who is trying to help Prewitt in not get anymore hazing, Harry Bellaver as Private 1st Class Mazzioli, Mickey Shaughnessy as Sgt. Leva who always carries a guitar, John Dennis as the brutish Sgt. Galovitch who tries to push Prewitt, and Ernest Borgnine in a terrific performance as the brutal Staff Sgt. James R. “Fatso” Judson who has issues with Maggio where he also runs the stockade as he is this sadistic figure that likes to push people around including Maggio in the worst way. Philip Ober is fantastic as Captain Dana “Dynamite” Holmes as an officer that wants to haze Prewitt so harshly so that Prewitt would give in and box for him as he’s a man that wants glory but is also flawed for being neglectful in his home life in favor of other activities.

Frank Sinatra is excellent as Private Angelo Maggio as a soldier who is in training for combat while doing other duties such as clean-ups and such as he’s also a man that likes to have fun but doesn’t like being pushed around as it is Sinatra in great form. Donna Reed is brilliant as Lorene as a woman at an exclusive club who is paid to dance with other men as she embarks on a relationship with Prewitt while admitting to having her own ideas of what she wants to do with her life as it’s a performance that is filled with layers and complexities on a role that could’ve been one-dimensional as Reed just manages to hit every note that is needed for that character. Deborah Kerr is amazing as Karen Holmes as the neglected wife of Captain Holmes as a woman that is aware of what others said about her as she has her reasons while is eager to leave her husband for something much better though she has a hard time understanding Warden’s reluctance in the idea of being an officer.

Montgomery Clift is incredible as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt as a new transfer who endures a brutal hazing from non-commissioned officers so he can give and become Captain Holmes’ top boxer as he displays someone who is stubborn in refusing to give in while having valid reasons for not wanting to fight as it’s a riveting and complex performance from Clift. Finally, there’s Burt Lancaster in a phenomenal performance as 1st Sgt. Milton Warden as a man who runs the infantry company for Captain Holmes as he is tough but fair as he doesn’t like what others are doing to Prewitt and Maggio while he also copes with his love for Karen whom he wants to help but struggles with his devotion to his work as a soldier as it’s an iconic performance from Lancaster.

From Here to Eternity is a tremendous film from Fred Zinneman. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a compelling premise, gorgeous visuals, and a sublime music score, the film is definitely a riveting war drama that play into men dealing with the conflict of duty and love just before World War II was to come onto their turf. It’s also an unconventional war drama in some respects as it play into what men will not do to answer to those that want to break their spirit. In the end, From Here to Eternity is a spectacular film from Fred Zinneman.

Fred Zinneman Films: (Redes) - (That Mothers Might Live) - (Stuffie) - (Forbidden Passage) - (Kid Glove Killer) - (Eyes in the Night) - (The Seventh Cross) - (My Brother Talks to Horses) - (The Search) - (Act of Violence) - (The Men (1950 film)) - (Benjy) - (Teresa) – High Noon - (Oklahoma!) - (A Hatful of Rain) - (The Nun’s Story) - (The Sundowners) - (Behold a Pale Horse) - (A Man For All Seasons) - (The Day of the Jackal) - (Julia) - (Five Days One Summer)

© thevoid99 2018


Alex Withrow said...

Great review. This is one of those Best Picture winners I avoided when I was younger, because I thought it was going to be some boring, lavish romance. Damn, was I wrong. This film is remarkable. And there's never a bad time to watch Clift on screen.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-I've only seen a few films starring Clift and man, he was great in everything I've seen from him so far. The whole film is incredible as I thought it was going to be something romantic but it ended up being so much more. Plus, Frank Sinatra definitely proved that he had chops as I just wanted to spend time with that character as he was a joy to watch.

J.D. said...

For some reason it took me forever to finally watch this film. Maybe I just wasn't ready to watch it but I finally caught up to a few years ago and loved it. Now, I try and watch it once a year. An amazing epic with a heart.

thevoid99 said...

@J.D. Lafrance-Yeah, I was one of those that wasn't keen on seeing it because a lot of people had said great things about it. Having now seen it in full, wow... there's a reason it's called a classic.