391 of 400 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2000
** BLU-RAY UPDATE: The November 2013 Blu-ray issue of this title is a MAJOR UPGRADE from the DVD re-issue from January 2013. (See notes about that DVD below). Dirt, scratches and other debris have been digitally removed and the film now looks and sounds (DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0) gorgeous. The moment the opening credits roll, you know you're about to see the sharpest transfer of "The Best Years of Our Lives" ever released on home video. Keep in mind, however, that there's still some graininess present - which is common with vintage movies given the Blu-ray treatment - and I do not consider this a defect. While original negatives of old films never have the sharpness of movies shot today with high-resolution cameras, I'm not a fan of digital noise reduction - which removes details from each frame. All special features from the January 2013 DVD re-issue are also on this Blu-ray, with subtitles available on everything except the theatrical trailer. The 1995 interviews with Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright were shot on video tape hence are NOT in high resolution - nor is the theatrical trailer, which is still ragged and has not been cleaned. Still, in my view, the November 2013 Blu-ray is now the "gold standard" for this title. Note also that this film is presented in its original 1:37:1 semi-square aspect ratio format. Like "Gone With the Wind," "Casablanca" and other Golden Age classics, "The Best Years of Our Lives" was NEVER shot with wide screen cameras.
** DVD UPDATE: The January 2013 re-issue DVD offers NO improvement in picture or sound quality from previous DVD releases (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo). Beyond cosmetic changes to the box - this edition brings back the 1995 interviews with Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright that were on the 1997 HBO Video DVD release of this film - and improves the look of the English subtitles - which were all left off the MGM DVD release in 2000. The January 2013 DVD release is a "must" ONLY if you want everything previously released - on one disc. Remember, the 1997 HBO Video issue was a "flipper" - part 1 of the movie and special features were on side one, part 2 of the movie was on side two. The 2000 MGM issue had NO English subtitles and NO special features other than an old trailer. The January 2013 issue has the entire movie, subtitles and all the aforementioned special features on one side of the disc, with "no flipping" required.
ORIGINAL CONTENT REVIEW BELOW.
* Just before legendary director William Wyler died, equally legendary director Billy Wilder was interviewed about his feelings about Wyler's films, from "Best Years of Our Lives" to "Roman Holiday" to "Ben Hur" to "Funny Girl."
* Wilder, a tough man who hated schmaltz and sentiment, the director of such classics as "Double Indemnity," "Some Like it Hot," "The Apartment," "The Seven Year Itch" and "Sunset Boulevard," suddenly got emotional, expressing great affection for "The Best Years of Our Lives," noting that it was one of the best films he had ever seen.
* He reacted the way I reacted. He said that it was the only film that he could remember where he and the entire audience were drenched in tears within the first 10 minutes. It was an unforgettable experience for him, and he recognized immediately that "The Best Years of Our Lives" was obviously a deeply personal work for Wyler, where every scene, every frame, every note of music and word of dialogue, rang true with authenticity and emotion. This was Wyler's territory. He knew the material. And many of the scenes that were shot mirrored his own experiences when he returned home from war.
* This is why, after so many viewings, I still can't get over the fact that no matter how many times I say to myself, "I'm not going to be moved by this or that scene," I fail miserably. I just can't help it. To say that this is a great film is an understatement of the highest order. And yet I can only count on one hand the number of friends I know who have seen this film from start to finish. I think the running length has something to do with it. You never see it on commercial television at all and unless you're lucky enough to have cable, you'll miss it entirely. And it's not a film that people are banging down the doors to rent.
* The wonderful thing about "The Best Years of Our Lives" is that it still holds up beautifully, unlike a lot of films that seem awkward or stilted. Fredric March, as the patriarch of the family (in an Oscar winning role), is stupendous. His acting and delivery of lines seems effortless and spontaneous, not the product of a script recited from memory. And to have Myrna Loy as his partner and the wonderful Teresa Wright playing his daughter (the latter an Oscar winner a few years earlier in "Mrs. Miniver"), how can you lose?
* Like all great films, time has no meaning. The story sweeps you along like a great wave -- a ride -- that you never want to end. The famous "long hallway homecoming shot" that appears in the first 10 minutes of the film -- I don't care that it's the scene that most people remember and is usually the ONLY scene that turns up in any highlight reel of greatest films ever made -- it gets me every time.
* And the ending, the last line from the movie, the one uttered by Dana Andrews -- despite the sentimental setting -- is so fabulously understated, negative and cynical - and yet filled with such hope, that you can't help but be -- what I describe as being -- "happily devastated." It's a wonderful ending that purposely leaves you guessing about what will become of the characters played by Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews, but you can't help but feel that their future looks bright in spite of their apparent state of destitution.
* I just wish more people would see this film. There's a treasure chest of great movies from the past that people overlook every day. This is one of them. I pity people who still buy or rent movies based on slick packaging alone.
* I would rather pay $10 to see this film on the big screen or less than $20 to own this film so I can see it on a little screen -- than pay about $4 to rent junk that has a good looking box -- and a few great critical reviews from people you've never heard of.
* Some films are good enough to rent, but only a few films are good enough to buy. "The Best Years of Our Lives" is a film to BUY.
132 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2003
"The Best Years of Our Lives" is a compelling dramatic masterpiece, and certainly one of the best films ever made. It's not as well known today as other pieces from the period, such as "Casablanca" or "Citizen Kane", but it is nevertheless a classic that deserves ranking with those same films.
This film paints a picture of the struggles of World War II servicemen that they faced AFTER the war was over. It was a more personal struggle of men returning home after being away for many years, and after experiencing horrors that their loved ones could never fully understand. They return home as changed people, and come home to changed lives.
The story of such a homecoming experienced by thousands of men after World War II is told from the perspective of three fictional characters: Captain Fred Derry, a bombadier in the Army Air Corps (Dana Andrews), Sergeant Al Stevenson, an Army infantryman (Frederich March), and Seamen Homer Parrish(Harold Russell). They happen to meet on the plane to their hometown, having never met before, and immediately form a bond built upon mutual understanding of the experiences of war and the anxieties of returning home again.
Captain Derry came from a poor background before the war, and married a blond bombshell (Virgnia Mayo) while in the Air Corps. He hopes to return home to a better life, a nice home with his wife, and a better job. This was not to be, as Derry struggles to try and deal with bad job prospects (no one in the civilian world needs a bombadier) and a cheating wife. In a poignant moment in the film, Derry (at his lowest) tells his Father to throw away the citations for his medals, because "they don't mean anything". His Father reads the one for the Distinguished Flying Cross, signed by General Jimmy Doolittle, and a look of pride comes over the old man's face for his son's heroism that makes you want to cry and cheer all at the same time. It also makes the viewer see how criminal it was for such a man to be made to feel worthless.
Sergeant Stevenson comes home to better circumstances, being a banker in the civilian world with a wife, two grown children, and a nice apartment. But he too must confront troubles, as Stevenson must get to know a family that progressed without him, and balance his job with his desire to aid servicemen seeking G.I. Bill loans. He battles with his bank's bosses over the loan issue, and also struggles with alcoholism.
Seamen Parrish's problems are the most obvious. He lost his hands during the war, and now must come home to his family and fiancee with hooks for hands. The actor who potrayed Parrish, Harold Russell, was a real disable veteran, and lends credibility to the role that no one else could have due to real life experience.
This may seem like a depressing film, but it is actually uplifting in its entirety because it does show that hope doesn't die, and that you really can come home again after all. It is also a film of historical importance due to the insights it provides into post-World War II America, and the struggles of veterans in the post-war years. Captain Derry, Sergeant Stevenson, and Seamen Parrish, and their individual struggles to reclaim their lives can provide the student of history an important perspective on the many real life veterans who returned home, and the country of the time they returned home to.
The film has certainly earned accolades over the years. It won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1946. It was named by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 Best Movies ever made, and was also named as one of the most important films of all time by the National Archives for the National Film Registry.
"The Best Years of Our Lives" is not to be missed for both its dramatic poignancy and its insight into an important period of American History. And its a beautiful sight to behold in DVD quality.
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2002
The 4-star rating reflects the quality of the DVD only, not the movie itself (which is a 5-star). The picture quality of this DVD (the 2000 MGM-released version) is poor, much below the average expected from a DVD. The picture quality of the 1997 HBO-released DVD is slightly better. However, the 1997 version sometimes has annoying black lines running vertically in the middle of the screen. This 1997 release is the one that people complain about having to turn the disc over around the middle of the movie. Both the 1997 and 2000 releases are Full Screen format (contrary to what Amazon.com says about the 1997 release). Considering that the 1997 release costs about twice the price of the 2000 release, you would be better off spending your money on the 2000 release.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2000
This outstanding 1946 film looks at WWII from a different perspective. It examines the plight of soldiers returning after the war. It follows three servicemen who meet on a flight back to their hometown. The story is well crafted, depicting men from very different backgrounds, each from a different branch of the service and each with a different challenge to face.
Fred (Dana Andrews) was a bombardier, a dashing captain in the Air Corp. He is coming home to a beautiful wife (Virginia Mayo) and no job prospects. His wife loves to party, but his job as a soda jerk can't keep pace with her penchant for spending. Al (Frederic March), a former banker, was a sergeant in the infantry with a wife of 20 years (Myrna Loy) and two grown children. He comes home to a distant wife and a troubled marriage. He is a banker with a heart, which evokes derisive scrutiny from his boss and the other bankers. Homer (Harold Russell) was a sailor who lost his hands in a fire onboard ship. He is returning to his parents and his long time girlfriend Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell) feeling certain that she will never be able to love him with his disability.
William Wyler (Wuthering Heights, Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur) is one of the most renowned directors in filmmaking history, having won four Oscars in twelve nominations. His direction here is superb. This is a compelling character study with nuance, sensitivity and insight. The scenes of the uneasy moments of reunion were stirring, especially in the case of Homer, who was tormented and insecure about how he would be accepted without his hands. Wyler takes us right into the most intimate thoughts and feelings of these families as they attempt to deal with challenges for which they are not totally prepared. The scene where Wilma sees Homer without his prosthetics for the first time is one of the most touching and poignant ever filmed.
This is a candid look at the issues of the day. The film addresses the burgeoning Communist threat and the sense of betrayal at the actions of our former Soviet allies after the war. It refers frequently to the nuclear threat and the fear of mass destruction. Most importantly, it shows how difficult it was for servicemen to adapt to a world that had become accustomed to getting along without them.
The acting was outstanding across the board. Frederic March was excellent as the banker trying to hold together a troubled marriage. He gave a towering performance and won an Oscar for best actor. Andrews, who wasn't nominated (and should have been), also gave a fabulous performance as the glamorous flyboy who comes home to discover he has no skills and can't get a job. Harold Russell won a best supporting Oscar for his portrayal of the sailor trying to regain his self-respect after the loss of his hands. Russell actually lost his hands in the service in an explosives accident during a training exercise. He is amazingly dexterous using his prosthetics. His portrayal of Homer had such affability, depth and sensitivity that it is difficult to believe this was his acting debut.
This film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won seven including Best Picture, Best Actor for March, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Russell. It is ranked number 37 on AFI's top 100 of the century. I rated it a 10/10. For anyone who enjoys a powerful and emotional character study, this classic is a must-see.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Much has been made recently about "The Greatest Generation," the generation that came of age during the deprivation of the Great Depression and the horrors of World War II. (Having parents who were both born in 1920, and who both served their country during WWII, I believe the title of "The Greatest Generation" is utterly appropriate.) It may have been "Saving Private Ryan" that brought that generation's struggles to the forefront of their children's and grandchildren's minds; but, for my money, the best film about those who fought WWII came out only one year after the war's end. "The Best Years of Our Lives"--directed by William Wyler, that sanest and most humane of directors--is the deeply moving story of an infantry sergeant, an Air Force pilot and a sailor returning to their Midwestern home town from the war, and how the war changed them for better and for worse. Al (Fredric March), the sergeant, is a well-to-do bank executive who finds that his Army experience has greatly changed his perception of the people who come to his bank for a loan. Fred (Dana Andrews) finds life at home stultifying after service in a combat squadron, stuck in his old dead-end job as a soda jerk with a wife who has grown away from him. Most poignant of all is Homer, a young sailor who lost his hands in combat. Homer is played by Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee, who gives Homer's feelings of loss and displacement a you-are-there immediacy that is truly heartrending. Giving performances of equal excellence to the three male leads are Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright as March's wife and daughter; Virginia Mayo as Andrews' faithless wife; and Cathy O'Donnell as the girl Russell left behind. (The look on Loy's face when she first sees her husband home safely makes for one of the most moving scenes in all American cinema.) Literate and character-driven, "The Best Years of Our Lives" never tries to dazzle us; it just brings home the reality of these characters and their predicaments with quietly devastating force. This film won seven Oscars and deserved every last one of them, including Best Picture, Best Director for Wyler, Best Actor for March and Best Supporting Actor for Russell. It is amazing that so measured and insightful a film about the plight of returning GIs could have been filmed so soon after the war; but "The Best Years of Our Lives" is an enduring and fitting monument to America's servicemen and servicewomen, the sacrifices they make for their country, and the debt their country owes them.
228 of 269 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2003
"The Best Years of Our Lives" is an Oscar winning picture that, at the height of the dream factory in Hollywood, stooped to strip away the pretensions of glamor and expose the sad, sobering truth that faced returning soldiers after WWII. Dana Andrews, Frederic March and real life amputee, Harold Russell star. Their journey from war front to home front is poignant, heart-breaking, yet ultimately, life affirming. Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Myrna Loy costar.
TRANSFER: An absolute travesty. Not only is the gray scale poorly rendered, with insufficient black levels and low contrast, but there is so much film grain and age related artifacts present to make this movie look three times its age. Worse still, digital anomalies; aliasing, shimmering, edge enhancement, abound and are thoroughly distracting to say the least. The audio - remixed by CHACE sound is amply presented, however, the documentary on the making of the film - previously available through HBO home video (though there too the transfer of the film was pure junk) is absent from this MGM re-release! What a mess, shame and sham!
BOTTOM LINE: This film will get a better transfer somewhere down the road. On this journey however, the wise DVD consumer would do best to steer clear!
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2000
The story of three American veterans of WW II and their adjustments to civilian life remains as poignant and moving today, as when it was first released. The three veterans (Fredric March, Harold Russell, and Dana Andrews) all from the same town, but different backgrounds, journey home together on a military transport plain. Fredric March's character, Al Stephenson, is a mature married man with a good profession, a beautiful wife (Myrna Loy), and two grown children (Teresa Wright and Michael Hall); Harold Russell is a disabled Navy veteran (he lost both hands in battle) unsure of where he stands in life and with his high school sweetheart (Cathy O' Donnell); and Dana Andrews is the "glamour boy" bombardier who comes home to find that the civilian world, which includes his wife (Virginia Mayo), cares little about his exploits as a caption in the Air Force. The journey each man takes is both engrossing and entertaining. It's hard to believe this movie is almost 3 hours long; it moves along so quickly. With a dream cast of top talent from 1940s Hollywood, director William Wyler gets superb performances from the stars as well as the most minor bit players. The action begins with a night on the town with March, Loy, and Wright celebrating March's return home. During their celebrating, they run into Russell and Andrews at Russell's uncle's (Hogey Carmichael) tavern. Having celebrated a bit too much, Loy and Wright load March and Andrews into their car to take them home. They drop Andrews off at his wife's apartment building, but he doesn't have a key to get in, and in a drunken stupor collapses outside its entrance. Loy and Wright proceed to load Andrews back in the car and take him in for the night. The relationships between all the main characters reach a level of poignancy without being overly sentimental, which is no easy feat, especially with what must have been tough stuff to watch for an overwhelming majority of the audience when originally released. Russell and O' Donnell's scenes are moving and sensitive, as are Loy and March's. Even though Andrews arrives home physically intact, his lot seems to be the worst of the group. Married to a self-centered-woman who doesn't love him, he longs for a relationship with someone like Peggy Stephenson (Wright). Things get complicated when the feelings are mutual, with Wright beginning to have strong feelings for Andrews. There are many wonderful moments in this film. Roman Bohnen as Andrews's father is terrific as a man who has a tough time expressing his genuine love for his disillusioned son. When he reads the official letter recounting his son's bravery to his wife (Gladys George), it's an incredibly powerful moment. Another wonderful scene is Wright's visit to the store where Andrews works as a salesman at the perfume counter (as well as at the soda fountain). The good-natured flirting between them seems both honest and real in the hands of these two pros. One could go on and on about the wonderful score, the great Gregg Toland cinematography--from the opening shots from the transport plane to the aircraft "graveyard,"--but this is one wonderful whole that is equal to the sum of its parts; everything falls together seamlessly. Top talent at their peak; run don't walk to get a copy of this classic Best Picture winner (1946).
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 1999
If you have ever served in the military, you will see much of yourself in this very moving tale of how three WWII veterans adjust to a post-war life. All face difficulties, jealousies, and awkward moments. All become friends. Dana Andrews is magnificent as the Fred Derry, a one-time aviator hero who resigns himself to returning to his job as a soda jerk. Virginia Mayo is superb as his wife, who fell in love with his Army uniform but has no use for him now. Myrna Loy and Frederick March are excellent as a long time couple who deal squarely with his disinterest in his banking job and their daughter's emerging love for Fred. Harold Russell is totally believable as the vet who loses his arms and won't burden his girl with the inconvenience. Theresa Wright is touching as the daughter of one veteran and the savior of another. They don't make films like this anymore. I'm afraid that the characters in current films like Good Will Hunting are subordinated to a morbid facination with profanity and sex. All the more reason to get The Best Years of Our Lives.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"The Best Years of Our Lives" aired every Decoration Day - or Memorial Day as it is called in most of the U S - on one of the three TV stations that was available in my small hometown in rural Arkansas. Memorial Day is a day dedicated to the dead, it would have been better to have aired this movie on Veteran's Day - the day dedicated to the survivors of war.
Fundamentally, this is a tale about war survivors. The pain that they bear in missing limbs, broken hearts, and lost dreams is the real story. As the movie starts, we see three veterans returning to their hometown. These are three men with nothing in common other than their service. They each have been touched by the war and are trying to find a new way forward.
Homer Parrish (real-life double amputee Harold Russell) of the Navy is the one who bears the physical effects of the war. Of note, Harold Russell lost his hands in a training accident when he was in the Army Airborne. He never saw combat and spent the war providing training to other amputees on how to use prosthetics. In fact, his role in such a training movie talking about how to use prosthetics resulted in him earning this role. In many ways, Homer has the easiest transition. He has a wonderful family waiting for him. He receives generous veterans and disability benefits. However, he doesn't know how to react to how others react to his disability. In the end, he shows his girlfriend just how helpless he really is, when she reacts with kindness and love, the journey to happiness can begin.
Al (Fredric March), the sergeant, is a well-to-do bank executive. He has the most difficult transition. First, his children grew up while he was gone. He finds a daughter is a young woman and a son who is smarter and more observant than his father - at least in terms of science and politics if not human behavior. Additionally, he finds that he has become what we today would call an adrenaline junkie. Without the constant excitement in war, he finds that he needs alcohol and constant involvement from his family. Additionally, years of making snap judgments in combat have made him a little more impulsive than his bank might enjoy. Al has one of the best stories about not taking a hill and losing the war that I've ever heard.
Air Force Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), a soda jerk, is a man who married a girl he hardly knew two weeks before he left for war. He returns to find his wife did not share any allotment money with his dirt poor family. He also finds that she has been somewhat less than the perfect wife. War was a chance for this handsome, charming man to become a natural leader. Peace has a dead end job and a loveless marriage. To my mind, Fred is a lot like the folks from my part of rural Arkansas who lived in a more equitable and opportunity filled world when in combat than existed when they returned home at the end of their service.
There is a lot of star quality in this movie. Either you will recognize the names or you won't, but the script obviously attracted big names to take bit parts.
The title is very meaningful. What were the best years of these men's lives? Was it during the war or has the best yet to come?
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2005
Sometimes the studio system awes one with its ability to have everyone work together in harmony to create something unforgettable. Producer Samuel Goldwyn and director William Wyler collaborated with writer Robert E. Sherwood to make THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). All three won Oscars. The film is a towering masterpiece set in small town America (actually Cleveland) right after World War Two ends. Returning home are Al Stephenson (Fredric March) of the Army, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) of the Air Force, and Homer Parrish (real-life double amputee and non-professional Harold Russell) of the Navy. Al has wife Milly (Myrna Loy) and two kids, while Homer has a family and sweet girl friend Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell). Luckless Fred has a newlywed wife (Virginia Mayo) who was unfaithful while her husband was overseas.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES burned up the 1946 Oscars, winning Picture, Director, Screenplay, March as Actor, and two for Russell. Hugo Friedhofer's legendary score also won a richly deserved trophy. It is a long film, 170 minutes, but beautifully paced and leisurely, capturing the slow tempo of a more quiet time. Those wanting something fast and flashy should rent THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971). The performances are superb down to the bit roles.
THE BEST YEARS captures to perfection the way that returning veterans wanted their old jobs back--Al at the bank, Fred in a drugstore--when other people now had those jobs and resented the vets. The guys all keep gathering at Butch's (Hoagy Carmichael) bar to rap about life. Meanwhile, Fred has a frustrating dilemma besides losing his drugstore job. With an unfaithful wife who insists that her husband wear a uniform he no longer wants to wear, he finds himself drawn romantically to the Stephenson daughter (Teresa Wright). The Stephensons do everything to stop that, partly to placate the censor board.
The movie has vignettes more than a strong plot--Al being quizzed by his bank boss on why a particular loan was made, Homer and his father taking off his artificial limbs in a night bedroom, Al wandering through a field of airplanes about to become scrap metal for homes, and an especially lovely reel one scene in a plane cockpit with all three men looking down on their town. Backing everything are Gregg Toland's stunning deep focus B&W photography and Hugo Friedhofer's magnificent music score.
The DVD transfer seems excellent, even with minimal bonuses, for one of the greatest films ever made. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Treat yourself to it when you have a three hour time slot and want to know authentically what post-World War Two small town life was like. (Reviewed from new DVD.)