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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Classic Film Review: From Here to Eternity (1953)

From Here to Eternity stars Montgomery Clift as Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a soldier who has taken a demotion to move to a new unit in Hawaii. His new colleagues, headed by Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober), want him to resume his boxing career to help them to glory but Prewitt steadfastly refuses and is subjected to vicious treatment because of it. He finds an ally in Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), a hot-headed soldier who has also made himself an enemy in the form of Sergeant Judson (Ernest Borgnine). Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) has his own problems as he embarks on an affair with Captain Holmes' wife, Karen (Deborah Kerr). And, though none of them know it, the attack on Pearl Harbour is inching ever closer...

This is one of those classics that I really ought to have seen already but, while it lived up to its reputation, I don't think it's going down on my list of favourites - that may just be because of the after taste of the ending, I'm not sure. Certainly, Montgomery Clift gives an excellent performance as Prewitt, reaffirming my belief that he was one of the best actors of his generation. Similarly, Frank Sinatra's lobbying for the role of Maggio paid off, easily his best acting performance as far as I'm concerned. Where I struggled, I suppose, was with Burt Lancaster who, really, doesn't inspire much in me. Deborah Kerr, whilst effective in the second half of the film, was a struggle for me too. It wasn't because she was playing against type, perhaps just than I was far more interested in the Prewitt/Maggio aspects of the story and oould've dispensed with the Warden/Karen strand, famous kiss in the surf or not.

There are a few scenes that linger with me from this one. Prewitt's confession scene to Alma (Donna Reed), when he explains why he won't box any more, is particularly riveting, as are his scenes following the drama with Maggio and Judson. The stand-out, though, has to be his morning wake-up call to the troops that brought tears to my eyes. Sinatra almost steals every scene he's in but the drunken wandering stands out as one of his best moments, adding a little humour to a dire situation. The aerial battle scenes are also excellent and a fitting end to the film where Lancaster finally looks comfortable.

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