Montgomery Clift threw himself into the character of Prewitt, learning to play the bugle (even though he knew he'd be dubbed) and taking boxing lessons. Fred Zinnemann said, "Clift forced the other actors to be much better than they really were. That's the only way I can put it. He got performances from the other actors, he got reactions from the other actors that were totally genuine."
Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and author James Jones were very close during the filming, frequently embarking on monumental drinking binges. Clift coached Sinatra on how to play Maggio during their more sober moments, for which Sinatra was eternally grateful.
In the scene where Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift play drunk sitting on the street, Clift actually was drunk, but Lancaster was not.
The MPAA banned photos of the famous Burt Lancaster-Deborah Kerr passionate kiss on the beach for being too erotic. Many prints had shortened versions of the scene because projectionists would cut out frames to keep as souvenirs.
Tied with Gone with the Wind (1939) for the most Oscars won by a single film up to that point in time - eight. By coincidence, both films feature George Reeves in small roles.
The scene in which Maggio meets Prew and Lorene in the bar after he walks off guard duty, was actually Frank Sinatra's screen test for the part of Maggio. To impress director Fred Zinnemann, he did an ad-lib using olives as dice and pretending to shoot craps. The entire sequence was kept as is and used in the picture.
Harry Cohn resisted the idea of casting Montgomery Clift as Prewitt as "he was no soldier, no boxer and probably a homosexual". Fred Zinnemann refused to make the film without him.
An urban myth regarding the casting of Frank Sinatra was that the Mafia made Columbia Pictures an offer they couldn't refuse. This, of course, was fictionalized in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather (1972) and its subsequent film adaptation. The real reason for Sinatra's casting was mainly his then-wife Ava Gardner, who was shooting a film for Columbia head Harry Cohn and suggested to him that he use Sinatra. Although initially reluctant, Cohn eventually saw this as being a good idea, as Sinatra's stock was so low at the time that he would sign for a very low salary. Sinatra had been lobbying hard for the role, even suggesting he would do it for nothing, but he was eventually hired for the token amount of $8,000.
Frank Sinatra had personal problems of his own. The collapse of his marriage to Ava Gardner weighed heavily on him; it got so bad he announced to Montgomery Clift one night that he was going to kill himself.
The now classic scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the rushing water on the beach was not written to take place there. The idea to film with the waves hitting them was a last minute inspiration from director Fred Zinnemann.
Burt Lancaster was so nervous about acting alongside Montgomery Clift that he was physically shaking in their first scene together.
The censors demanded that Deborah Kerr's swimsuit should feature a skirt in its design so as to not be too sexually provocative.
The James Jones novel was a best seller when it was released. Ernest Borgnine always bragged to his friends that if they ever made a film of the book, he'd play a part. Shortly after saying this, he was actually called to audition for the film, where he played Fatso Judson.
In the book, Karen Holmes reveals that the reason why she can't have children was because her adulterous husband infected her with gonorrhea which led to her having to have a hysterectomy. Naturally, this was far too racy for 1953 film censors, so had to be toned down.
The title phrase comes originally from Rudyard Kipling's 1892 poem "Gentlemen-Rankers", about soldiers of the British Empire who had "lost [their] way" and were "damned from here to eternity".
Censorship at the time meant that Donna Reed's character was never referenced as a prostitute, but as a nightclub hostess.
Frank Sinatra credited Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift with helping him find his feet dramatically for the film. Prior to this, most of Sinatra's film engagements had been comedic roles or in musicals, but by working alongside such heavyweight actors, Sinatra was able to hone his craft in new directions. Indeed, he and Lancaster remained friends for the rest of their lives. Sadly, the relationship with Clift was not so long-lasting. Three years after From Here to Eternity (1953), Clift was involved in a life-altering car crash that required facial reconstruction and left him addicted to pain medication. This, coupled with his alcoholism, made him a very different person from the actor who played Prewitt. At a party thrown by Sinatra, Clift made a drunken pass at one of the singer's entourage that ended up with him being thrown out of the party and denied access to Sinatra and his inner circle.
A false rumor has been circulating for years that George Reeves, who played Sgt. Maylon Stark, had his role drastically edited after preview audiences recognized him as TV's Adventures of Superman (1952). According to director Fred Zinnemann, screenwriter Daniel Taradash and assistant director Earl Bellamy, the rumor is false. Every scene written for Reeves' character was filmed, and each of those scenes is still present in its entirety in the film as released.
Joan Crawford was originally meant to play Karen Holmes, but when she insisted on shooting the film with her own cameraman, the studio balked. They decided to take a chance and cast Deborah Kerr, who then was struggling with her ladylike stereotype, to play the adulterous military wife who has an affair with Burt Lancaster. The casting worked and Ms. Kerr's career, thereafter, enjoyed a new, sexier versatility.
In the bar scene where Maggio asks Prewitt for a cigarette he says "gimme a nail." A nail was a nail for his coffin. This was a common expression popular at the time that referred to the health hazards from smoking.
Montgomery Clift didn't manage to move like a boxer despite extensive boxing lessons, so he had to be doubled by a real boxer for the long shots in the boxing match. The fight had to be carefully edited so the close-ups and other shots matched satisfactorily. Nonetheless, the use of the double is obvious if you pay attention to the details.
A nationwide search of army surplus stores yielded pre-Pearl Harbor-style Springfield rifles, canvas leggings, campaign hats and flat steel helmets. The extras--who were all real soldiers--were all drilled to learn how to use all this outdated equipment.
James Jones, who wrote the novel on which this film was based, was not happy with the film, considering it to be too sanitized.
Donna Reed remembered Montgomery Clift's concentration as being "positively violent."
Burt Lancaster's anxiety manifested itself in a pattern of difficult behavior, nitpicking over his lines, the camera angles, and his appearance. During breaks in filming he would go off by himself to jog or do push-ups. He argued so much with the normally even-tempered Fred Zinnemann, he finally provoked the director into telling him to go "screw" himself.
Fred Zinnemann was not keen on the casting of Donna Reed as Lorene and had Julie Harris in mind for the role. However, as he had bucked Columbia head Harry Cohn over casting Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Deborah Kerr, he felt he had no right to insist on putting another actress in the part. Much to his surprise, Reed surpassed all his expectations.
At the New Congress Club, Prewitt sits in a distinctive wicker chair with a wide oval back; this same chair shows up eleven years later as Morticia's favorite seat on The Addams Family (1964).
Dubbed "Cohn's Folly" because many thought the novel was too long and too adult to be filmed. Harry Cohn paid $82,000 for the rights.
At the time of the original novel's release, it was dubbed "From Here to Obscenity" because of its frank content and profane language. The book was banned in libraries across the US for years.
The US Army had a censorship stipulation that there should be no depictions of military sloppiness, hypocrisy, homosexuality or brutality. Naturally, they were less than thrilled by James Jones' novel and weren't particularly enamored by the film version, either.
As scripted, Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster's classic clinch on the beach was to be filmed standing up. It was Lancaster's idea to do it horizontally in the surf. The scene was filmed at Halona Cove on the eastern side of Oahu, near Koko Head Crater and Sandy Beach, and the location became a major tourist attraction for years after.
Montgomery Clift told friends he thought Burt Lancaster was a terrible actor and "a big bag of wind" (an attitude perhaps fuelled by his resentment over having to take second billing).
At the first meeting at the beach, Warden makes a comment about Karen "... acting like Lady Nancy Astor's horse...". This is a variant of "Mrs Astor's Pet Horse" and refers to someone who is either overly dressed-up or made-up, or full of self-importance ("Dictionary of American Regional English").
Fred Zinnemann insisted on filming in black and white, as he felt that "color would have made it look trivial". He also eschewed the use of any of the popular new widescreen ratios.
Montgomery Clift had real difficulty letting the character of Prewitt go after filming was completed and would often turn up drunk in Hollywood drinking establishments with his bugle and Hawaiian shirts.
The US Army was initially reluctant to lend their co-operation to the production. Producer Buddy Adler had been a Lieutenant Colonel in the Signal Corps during WWII and was able to bring his influence to bear.
Burt Lancaster was nervous when he started the film. Most of his previous pictures had been fairly lightweight productions, and this was one of his first "serious" roles along with Come Back, Little Sheba (1952). He was especially intimidated by Montgomery Clift's skill and intensity.
Frank Sinatra had to campaign especially hard to get this part as his career had hit a low point by this time.
James Jones sold an extra two million copies of his book off the back of this film's success.
To keep from overrunning Harry Cohn's 120-minute dictate, Fred Zinnemann was forced to forego some scenes he particularly prized. One was a scene near the end where Prewitt mistakenly believes Pearl Harbor is being attacked by Germans.
Although Deborah Kerr was Oscar-nominated in the Best Actress category and Donna Reed was Oscar-nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category, the running times for each of their performances is practically the same.
Fred Zinnemann was initially reluctant to make the film, as he had an inherent distrust of Columbia head Harry Cohn. He also felt that in the climate of McCarthyism (see Joseph McCarthy), to voice anything that cast any doubt over such institutions as the Army, the Navy or the FBI was just asking for trouble.
Many felt that Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift canceled each other out at the Academy Awards with their Best Actor nominations, leaving the way clear for William Holden to step in and win the Oscar for his performance in Stalag 17 (1953).
The patch on the left uniform shoulder of the soldiers in the film was the Hawaiian Department insignia of the U.S. Army.
Montgomery Clift's intensity extended to an obsessive drive to have every detail down right. He spent long hours of practice on military drills. He copied Jamie Jones' mannerisms and speech patterns. He insisted on playing his bugle loudly and repeatedly, even though he was dubbed, so that he would accurately appear to be playing it on screen. Fred Zinnemann's wife Renee, said, "He worked so hard at all of this that he was almost worn out by the time they started shooting."
Joan Fontaine was offered the role of Karen Holmes, but had to decline due to family problems. She now regrets it and blames the failure of her late career to turning down the offer.
Of all the battles Fred Zinnemann had to fight with the Columbia front office, the one he was proudest of winning was against "the boys in New York"--the sales department. The marketing people thought the film would gross at least an extra million if it were shot in color, but Zinnemann was able to persuade Harry Cohn that black and white was more suitable for the film's stark, gritty themes and that color would have softened and trivialized it.
Montgomery Clift, who normally didn't care about awards, was sure he would receive an Oscar® for his portrayal as Prewitt and became depressed when he lost to William Holden in Stalag 17 (1953).
Both Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift shaved their chests for their numerous shirtless scenes.
Gloria Grahame--who had made a career playing prostitutes--was initially earmarked for the role that ultimately won Donna Reed an Oscar.
Fred Zinnemann later said that one of his biggest challenges on the picture was getting the best performance from both Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra in the same take.
While posing for cheesecake bathing suit publicity shots, Deborah Kerr quipped, "I feel naked without my tiara."
To land the part of Maggio, Frank Sinatra had to audition for the role. Columbia head Harry Cohn refused to pay for his screen test, insisting that Sinatra foot the bill for it himself. Sinatra agreed and flew over to Hawaii from Africa where he was with his then-wife Ava Gardner on the set of Mogambo (1953).
Fred Zinnemann hated filming the scene where Capt. Holmes is forced to resign from the army, as he felt it seemed like a recruiting drive for the army.
Fred Zinnemann was very proud of his achievement with this film and regarded it as one of his finest works.
Deborah Kerr's portrayal of an adulterous wife was a wild choice for the actress, better known for playing prim and proper roles. She had instructed her agent to lobby for the part, but when Columbia head Harry Cohn took the call, he slammed down the phone, thinking it a ridiculous suggestion. He told Fred Zinnemann and writer Daniel Taradash about the call when they took a meeting, little realizing that Zinnemann and Taradash found the casting of Kerr an intriguing proposition.
The Defense Department at one point asked that the title be changed so as to disassociate it from the scandalous book. Naturally, Columbia refused.
Columbia head Harry Cohn wanted Aldo Ray to play the part of Prewitt. He was adamantly against the idea of Montgomery Clift and was particularly indignant that Fred Zinnemann should give him an ultimatum over casting.
When the film was released, the demand was so great that the Capitol theatre in New York City remained open twenty four seven; it was closed briefly in the early morning so that the janitors could sweep the floor.
Columbia bought the rights to James Jones' bestseller for only $82,000, a relatively low figure mainly because no other studio was prepared to go near such adult material (the book has some homosexual scenes, none of which made it to the film version). Also, as the book ran to over 800 pages, it was generally considered unfilmable.
The film went on to gross $18 million, the tenth highest grossing film of the 1950s.
The film cast includes four Oscar winners: Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine; and three Oscar nominees: Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr and Jack Warden.
The song "Re-enlistment Blues" in the movie is sung by finger-picking guitar legend Merle Travis who is playing his specially modified Martin guitar. It had a modified neck installed by his friend Paul Bigsby to be more like the Gibson electric guitars he played. The head-stock has been mistaken for a Fender guitar, but is a custom design. The guitar now belongs to Merle's son Tom Bresh. The lyrics in the song are from the source novel by James Jones.
Frank Sinatra's salary for the film was a measly $8000, so low was his stock at the time.
In one scene where Montgomery Clift had to play drunk, he was far too intoxicated to pull it off.
Eli Wallach accepted the role of Angelo Maggio, but then turned it down because he had agreed to appear in Elia Kazan's Broadway production of "Camino Real" and had a scheduling problem.
Shot on a schedule of just 42 days. The actual scene where the Japanese fighters fly over the army base, strafing it with machine gun fire, was shot in only half a day.
Montgomery Clift and Deborah Kerr only share one scene in the entire film and it features no dialogue between the two. Clift's character Prewitt has just arrived at the military base and is being shown around by Warden when Karen pulls up in a car and walks into the base behind them.
Fred Zinnemann lobbied for and was allowed to include a sequence featuring a group of soldiers improvising a song "Re-Enlistment Blues", which Zinnemann hoped would be as popular and recognizable a movie song as Tex Ritter's "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" had been for High Noon (1952). Despite the catchy tune, the song didn't become a top forty hit.
Harry Cohn was so convinced that Deborah Kerr could not be "sexy" enough to play the lead in this film that he almost did not cast her.
Maggio's comments about Gimbels basement refer to the famous New York City department store that was on 34th Street at Herald Square.
Future screenwriter Alvin Sargent has a bit part in the film. He was paid $400 for a week's work in Hawaii. Sargent would later go on to win an Oscar for Julia (1977), also directed by Fred Zinnemann.
Tyrone Power turned down the Burt Lancaster role because he was committed to a play at the time. Columbia tried to change his mind by offering his wife Linda Christian the role of Lorene, but the actor didn't change his mind.
Shelley Winters turned down the role of Alma, as she had just given birth to her daughter Vittoria Gassman.
Fred Zinnemann was chosen to direct the project largely at the suggestion of screenwriter Daniel Taradash, who had been impressed with Zinnemann's handling of the previous war-themed movies The Search (1948), The Men (1950) and Teresa (1951).
The regimental insignia the soldiers wore on their campaign hats in the film were fictitious, belonging to no actual military organization. The real insignia worn by author James Jones's 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds," on which the book and film are based, was a vertical rectangle with a left-facing profile of a wolfhound, beneath which was the Latin motto "Nec Aspera Terrent," loosely translated as "Frightened By No Difficulties" or "Hardships Do Not Deter Us."
When Sgt. Warden recommends "company punishment" to Capt. Holmes, he is talking about "non-judicial" punishment. Many minor offences were handled this way, instead of by Special Courts-Martial, at the discretion of the Company Commander, to avoid the time-consuming courts-martial process (and, in the case of Company Commanders that cared about their men, to avoid having a court-martial on a first-time-minor-offender's Service Record). As this was progressive and good for the Military, this was codified as Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), enacted in 1951. There are no lawyers involved, but the accused maintains the right to examine any evidence against him and to present evidence in his favor, and the commander makes the final judgment. Also, the maximum punishment cannot be more than the minimum punishment called for if the case was tried by court-martial. By contrast, Maggio was tried by court-martial, which is roughly equivalent to a civilian trial by jury, complete with defense counsel, prosecutors and a jury; however, the "jury" usually consists of no more than three military personnel, none of whom can be of lower rank than the accused.
If Columbia head Harry Cohn had gotten his way, the film would have starred Aldo Ray as Prewitt, Robert Mitchum or Edmond O'Brien as Warden, Rita Hayworth as Karen, Julie Harris as Lorene and Eli Wallach as Maggio.
Broke box-office records during its run at the Capitol Theatre in New York City, where the film had its US premiere.
In May 2008, the two leads ranked #5 on Moviefone's "The Top 25 Sexiest Movie Couples".
James Jones himself was one of the numerous writers who had attempted to adapt the book for the screen.
Ronald Reagan and Walter Matthau were among the actors considered for the role of Sgt. Warden.
Distilling 950 pages of the novel into a two hour film was a formidable challenge for screenwriter Daniel Taradash. The novel is also quite sexually explicit for its time and full of swear words. (James Jones apparently swore like a trooper in real life and was very fond of frequenting brothels.)
This is one of only nine films to receive more than one Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In this instance, Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster were so nominated. The other eight films were Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) for which Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone were all nominated, Giant (1956) for which Rock Hudson and James Dean were nominated, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) for which Maximilian Schell and Spencer Tracy were nominated, Becket (1964) for which Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton were nominated, Sleuth (1972) for which Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine were nominated, Network (1976) for which Peter Finch and William Holden were nominated, The Dresser (1983) for which Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney and Amadeus (1984) for which F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were nominated. Of the actors in question, only Schell, Finch (posthumously) and Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the relevant performances.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Future director Joseph Sargent had a role as solider. He also met Mary Carver, his wife at that time, on the set of the film.
Fred Zinnemann's naturalistic style with real people and locations, as exemplified by his work on The Search (1948), won him the directing gig, although he had reservations about working with Harry Cohn.
Was remade into a TV movie in 1979 as a pilot for a series. The stars were William Devane as Warden, Natalie Wood as Karen, Steve Railsback as Prewitt and Roy Thinnes as Holmes. The pilot follows the 1953 version very closely except for two scenes. One was the beach scene where Wood has a nude scene (shown only in overseas theaters) and Holmes is not forced to resign as Thinnes became a regular on the show.
Gladys George was offered the role of Karen Holmes until Fred Zinnemann decided that he wanted to cast actors against type.
Donna Reed's Best Supporting Actress Oscar winning performance was the only nominee in the category in a Best Picture nominee that year.
Early in the film, Montgomery Clift's character complains to one of his fellow soldiers that he doesn't understand Warden, the character portrayed by Burt Lancaster. The irony here is that Clift is directing the line to actor Jack Warden.
Was Oscar nominated in all the major categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor (two nominations), Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay, and won in all except the lead acting categories.
In 1966, a pilot of a TV series was shot, with Roger Davis cast as Robert E. Lee Prewitt, but it was not picked up.
The beach was used many years later for the love scene with Henry and Lucy in 50 First Dates (2004).
The only film to be nominated for the Best Actor (2 nominations) and Best Actress Oscars that year.
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Sound Recording.
The only film to be nominated for the Best Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress Oscars that year, it won both awards.
When Captain Holmes is leaving the Commanding General's office, he renders a salute, as required by regulations. The contempt the General has for Holmes is evident in the fact that he doesn't return the salute, also required by regulations.
The premiere of From Here to Eternity (1953) was in August of 1953, eleven months after the first season of Adventures of Superman (1952).