Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Produced by: Buddy Adler
Written by: James Jones (novel); Daniel Taradash
Starring: Burt Lancaster; Montgomery Clift; Deborah Kerr; Donna Reed; Frank Sinatra; Ernest Borgnine
Music by: George Duning
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Release date(s): August 5, 1953
Running time: 118 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $2.4 million
Gross revenue: $30.5 million
I came to From Here to Eternity following the adulation it inherits. It was the best picture of the year in 1953. It was nominated for 13 academy awards, won 8, including two acting awards for Frank Sinatra (his debut in silver screen) and Donna Reed. It is a major adaptation of a major best-seller of the time. It is Burt Lancaster’s first major role as lead. It contains one of cinema’s most iconic, erotic scene, the kiss in the surf between Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. So on and so forth.
And I was avoiding seeing it for a long time, especially when Wikipedia told me that the film is about a few armymen in Hawaii just before the days leading to Pearl Harbour. (I mean I have seen dozens and dozens of WWII movies. Enough. The last one was Inglorious Basterds, but that’s a different story!)
And now that I have seen it, all I can say is that unlike so many other films from the 1950s, From Here to Eternity looks little dated. Yeah, the photography is great. So is the presence of ultra-masculine Lancaster (But I like him when he is little older — in The Leopard, Local Hero, Field of Dreams), and that of Montgomery Clift (oh, he's so handsome).
Yet for me the film took ages to build up, and once it did, once the characters were really ready to yield the results of their actions, Pearl Harbour happens, and its The End. I mean, it’s really maddening when you invest so much time on those character and suddenly realise that their stories were never meant to be told.
Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is transferred to a new army unit in Hawaii, where his captain wants him to play for the company’s boxing team, but he won’t, because he had killed someone while boxing, and he feels guilty. The captain does all his might to break Prewitt’s resolve, and like a classic movie hero Prewitt endures through everything, with minimal support from his only friend Maggio (Sinatra), Alma, a hooker who turned lover, and his sergeant Warden (Lancaster). Meanwhile, Warden starts an affair with the captain’s wife, Kerr. The stage is set for the drama. The action moves like slow-burning coal, it shimmers and shimmers. Oh, there’s some trouble involving Maggio. The action shimmer some more, as the army boys drink and complain and fall in love and just while away time.
After we have spent an hour-and-a-half, we come to some real dramatic action. Prewitt has his vengeance (there’s a nice scene where Sinatra’s character dies, the scene for which he was given the Oscar), and the captain is court-marshalled. And then, the war broke out and everything is lost. (Should I mention what happened to Prewitt, and to Alma, and Karen, or Warden? Pointless.)
And we were tired, we switched off the TV set and went to sleep.