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From Here to Eternity Movie Review

sergeant fred zinnemann lancaster

1953 – Fred Zinnemann –

What other film better illustrates brilliant casting than this one, based on James Jones' blockbuster novel, tracing the interactions of assorted people at Pearl Harbor during the six months preceding the Japanese attack? Frank Sinatra's career revived when he convinced studio-head Harry Cohn that he could play the nonsinging part of Angelo Maggio, taking scale salary. After he won an Oscar for his work, this film was thought of as his official comeback vehicle. Sinatra is engaging and convincing, but the performers cast against type are less animated, more subtle and just as powerful: Deborah Kerr (rather than Joan Crawford, who quit the film when she saw her wardrobe) plays the lonely captain's wife. Her beautifully delivered speech to Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster) about the night she went into labor while her husband was off romancing a hat check girl distills her bitter, hungry character just as accurately as the memorable beach scene. Beautiful Donna Reed, as the classy prostitute who loves Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), has a scene in which she initially rejects him because she longs for a life back home in Oregon that is proper (“because when you're proper, you're safe”). There is not an indifferent performance in the movie: Ernest Borgnine as Fatso Judson, the loudmouth, knife-carrying bully; Lancaster as the sergeant who prides himself on not being an officer; and Philip Ober as his captain insulated by his rank from the costs of his own weakness and stupidity. Ober's weasely, B-movie acting is perfect for this officer whose stripes are the only distinguishing thing about him.

But most amazing of all is Montgomery Clift, whose every expression tells of his absolute honesty. His performance as Prewitt is one of the wonders of his career. Clift can evoke an emotional response from the audience with a passing observation (such as his pride on being picked to play “Taps” at Arlington Cemetery on Armistice Day before FDR) or with an emotional scene (his many reactions to watching the death of Maggio).

Usually director Fred Zinnemann lets the camera record the good work by the actors, but when the subject requires a more style-centered approach, he delivers. The editing and camera placement during the morning attack contain some unforgettable images: the ground shot of a running soldier overtaken by the parallel lines of airplane gunfire, the sky shot of a plane sweeping the barracks as men scatter below like ants, Lancaster on the roof facing the onslaught, teeth gritted, guns blazing.

Cast: Burt Lancaster (Milton Warden), Montgomery Clift (Robert E. Lee Prewitt), Deborah Kerr (Karen Holmes), Donna Reed (Lorene), Frank Sinatra (Angelo Maggio), Philip Ober (Captain Dana Holmes), Mickey Shaughnessy (Sergeant Leva), Harry Bellaver (Mazzioli), Ernest Borgnine (Sergeant Fatso Judson), George Reeves (Malin Stark), John Dennis (Sergeant Ike Galovitch), Merle Travis (Sal Anderson), Tim Ryan (Sergeant Pete Karelsen), Claude Akins (Dhom), Jack Warden (Buckley) Screenwriter: Daniel Taradash Cinematographer: Floyd Cros-by, Burnett Guffey Composer: George Duning Producer: Buddy Adler for Columbia Running Time: 118 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1953: Picture, Director (Fred Zinnemann), Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Sound, Black-and-White Cinematography, Editing, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Donna Reed); Nominations: Actor (Montgomery Clift), Actor (Burt Lancaster), Actress (Deborah Kerr), Costume Design, Original Dramatic/Comedy Score; Directors Guild of America Awards, 1953: Director (Fred Zinnemann); Golden Globe Awards, 1954: Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra); Nominations: Director (Fred Zinnemann); National Board of Review Awards, 1953: 10 Best Films of the Year; New York Film Critics Awards, 1953: Film, Actor (Burt Lancaster), Director (Fred Zinnemann).

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