I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946

Not Rated

Veteran’s Day was just last week, so I thought it appropriate to see a film about three veterans of World War II coming home and adjusting to life in their civilian clothes. Al, a sergeant in the army, Fred, an officer in the air force, and Homer, a sailor, all return home to Boone City (a typical small-town suburb) and share a cab from the airport.

Once home, they soon discover how things have changed. One immediately decides to paint the town red with his wife and daughter and drinks himself into oblivion. One can’t seem to get a job with decent pay and later realizes his wife kept busy while he was away. The other becomes conscious to the awkwardness that people (his family, girlfriend, and townfolk) have toward him because of his new handicap. Although this film is a drama, there are some comedic lines and there’s romance too- a little bit of everything for everybody.

The title of the film is somewhat ironic. You get the impression not long after they’ve arrived home that their years of service were these men’s “best years of their lives”. The hardships they have to face when they come home make for a rude awakening in many ways. However, you could also see that they may feel at times that they gave up the “best years of their lives” by going off to war. People changed while they were away and they’re not the men they once were.

This film was poignant for its time because it gave the audience a look at the effects the war had on the servicemen who returned. Many suffered from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) but no one really knew what that was or how to deal with it. The air force officer seems to be fighting off depression coupled with nightmares, and his maddening wife asks him, “Can’t you get it out of your system? C’mon, snap out of it!” Because of this, I think it was a very appropriate win for its time. The war was just barely over and audiences were really dealing with these issues in present day. There was a noticeable difference in war movies then. Films that came out during the war were very patriotic and supportive, rallying troops to do the right thing and defend their country. Post-war films shed light on the effects.

In one of the beginning scenes, the three men are in the cockpit of a small plane (coming home) and they start smoking! Seriously. It reminded me how much those old signs that are still in the airplane lavatories bug me: “Do not throw cigarettes in trash receptacle.” Obviously, they were relevant back then, but now, really? They told us we can’t smoke on the plane… so, why don’t they update it and say “Do not throw guns, knives, or bombs in here either please.”

One particular bit of dialogue caught me off-guard in the film. The ex-sergeant is presenting his teenage son with some “souvenirs” from the war (a Japanese flag, etc.) The son tells his father, “The Japanese attach a lot of importance to their family relationships.” He responds, “They’re entirely different from us.” I didn’t know how to take that. Did the audience laugh at that line because it was meant to be sarcastic? Or was it meant to be the truth? Perhaps the importance of traditions can vary from culture to culture or even family to family, but I’d like to argue that we Americans place a high value on family relationships too.

A few minutes later, the daughter excuses herself to clean up the kitchen. Apparently the Dad is surprised they don’t have help and she defensively explains, “It’s okay Dad, I took a course in domestic science.” Nice. I didn’t know it was a science. I should start telling people I’m a stay-at-home mom with a PhD.   

There is a wedding at the end of the film (I won’t tell you whose) and the Wedding March is sung. Here are the lyrics in case you didn’t know:
“Here comes the bride, all dressed in white,
Sweetly serene in the soft, flowing light;
Lovely to see, marching to thee,
Sweet love united for eternity.”
And here I thought it was “Here come the bride, all dressed in white. Here comes the groom, skinny as a broom.”

This film was up against “Henry V”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” which would have won my vote (and surprisingly took home NO awards from its five nominations), “The Razor’s Edge”, and “The Yearling” another nominee based off a children’s novel. It won seven of its eight nominations. Frederic March won Best Actor for his role of the alcoholic ex-sergeant in this movie, but I think James Stewart should have won that hands down for his role of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I’m sure Gregory Peck gave him a run for his money too though. First-time actor Harold Russell won Best Supporting Actor for his role of Homer. The real-life double-amputee received another Honorary Oscar “for bringing hope and courage to fellow veterans” making him the only actor in Oscar history to win two awards for the same role. This film also won Best Director: he is the same man who brought us another war film, “Mrs. Miniver”.


Homer starts to shut himself off from receiving his girlfriend’s love for fear she will run the first time she sees how dependent he is. He finally invites her up to his room to see how he gets ready for bed. I was happy to see the stubborn guy realize this woman truly loved him for who he is, not what he looks like. The pity party he was throwing himself (in terms of romance only) was starting to irritate me.


Are you living in the “best years of your life”? No matter what age you are, live life with passion and vitality so you’ll never have to say, “those were the best years of my life”. (Of course, feel free to look back with fondness and appreciation over the good times though.)

Pray for our veterans and remain sensitive when talking about their service. Adjustment is hard and many of them may think we have no idea what was really going on “over there”. If they’re willing to share their stories, listen and learn.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see this movie. I appreciate your analysis of the title.
    Also, nowadays you can major in family and consumer sciences (also called home economics). I know Texas State University has that program.