The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Approved   |    |  Drama, Romance, War


The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Poster

Three World War II veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.

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  • Myrna Loy and Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  • Myrna Loy and Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  • "Best Years of Our Lives, The (1946)" Myrna Loy & Teresa Wright
  • Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  • Dana Andrews and Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  • Dana Andrews & Teresa Wright

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23 September 2004 | bill_mcclain
Forgotten now that it was mildly controversial in its day
My parents were of that generation, and the movie was cathartic for returning veterans and their families and friends; it's small wonder that it eclipsed <i>It's A Wonderful Life</i>, which arguably is a better picture. But at the time, the movie had some shocking elements to it. In fact, my mother (roughly the character Peggy's age then) saw it against her parents' wishes.

Back in 1946, it was a jaw-dropper to have a character in a movie utter the word "divorce" or to aver an intent to break up a marriage -- such ideas just weren't voiced in films then. To modern audiences, they come across as melodramatic, but I'm told they elcited genuine gasps from audiences then.

Even more astonishing was William Wyler's decision to cast real-life amputee Harold Russell in the key role of a returning Navy veteran. Until <i>The Battle of Britain</i>, in which an actual, disfigured RAF veteran made a cameo appearance, directors didn't make those sorts of courageous gestures. The intimate yet innocent scene in which Homer Parrish (Russell) demonstrates his helplessness to his fiancé Wilma Cameron (Cathy O'Donnell) is beautiful, heartbreaking and uplifting; later, during the wedding scene, Russell stumbled over a line in saying the vows, and Wyler left the humanizing mistake in, God bless him for it.

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Drama | Romance | War

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