The Best Years of Our Lives
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It's the hope that sustains the spirit of every GI: the dream of the day when he will finally return home. For three WWII veterans, the day has arrived. But for each man, the dream is about to becomea nightmare. Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) is returning to a loveless marriage; Sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March) is a stranger to a family that's grown up without him; and young sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) is tormented by the loss of his hands. Can these three men find the courage to rebuild their world? Or are the best years of their lives a thing of the past? Featuring a brilliant cast that includes Myrna Loy and Virginia Mayo, this postwar classic garnered* seven OscarsÂ(r), including Best Picture. Heart-wrenching, touching and "filled with emotional dynamite" (The Hollywood Reporter), it remains "one of the best films about war veterans ever made" (American Movie Classics). *1946: Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Writing/Screenplay, Film Editing, Music/Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
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Keeping in mind it's a film from 1946, it looks outstanding. Film grain is present, showing Warner Brothers thankfully did not DNR the film into oblivion, yet there are no obvious flecks or spots in the picture, indicating a meticulous restoration took place.
The (thankfully!!!) mono DTS-HD audio track is excellent as well; Hugo Friedhofer's beautiful soundtrack has never sounded better.
I've never seen this film look better except when I've seen a pristine 35mm print shown at an excellent film venue.
The new Blu-ray also includes the introductory and ending interviews with Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright shot for the Pioneer Special Edition Laserdisc release in 1995.
I only wish they would have included the Laserdisc's isolated score track, which is still the only source for the ORIGINAL score for the film as the original recording of the soundtrack as was used in the film was never released on an audio format (LP or CD) (any soundtrack recordings available are new recordings of the score being performed by other performers.)
If you love this film or even only like it, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy - a complete steal at the current price (that Pioneer Laserdisc release was itself $39.98 back in 1995!!)
Then there's Homer who lost both of his hands in the war. Homer is played by Harold Russell, a real life army veteran who lost both of his hands in an accident. No need for any Forrest Gump, CGI shenanigans here. (This non-professional actor went on to win an Academy Award for his performance.) Homer's girl Wilma still loves him despite his crushing feelings of inadequacy. The scene between Homer and Wilma, played by Cathy O'Donnell, later in the film is one of the most touching scenes in any film ever made. It simply has to be seen. Finally there's Al who struggles a bit with the bottle although this is not overplayed. In fact, and I think it's what makes it so good is that the entire film avoids turning into a sentimental cliche. It is stirring but not syrupy and it stays unpredictable and maintains subtlety throughout. It's a long film but it's so good, the time just flies by.
Their roles were switched during the war: Fredric March plays Al Stephenson, an upper-class banker who was a infantry Sergeant during the war. Al returns to the bank and gets a promotion. Dana Andrews plays Fred Derry, a lower-class drug store employee who was an Air Force Captain during the war. Fred cannot find work except at the drug store. Harold Russell plays Homer Parrish, a middle-class guy just out of High School who was sailor during the war. Homer lost his hands and receives disability pay. Myrna Loy is excellent as Al Stephenson's wife. Unfortunately, all of the female roles are supportive in nature (1946), and include Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo. If you want to see the best movie with Teresa Wright, see "Shadow of a Doubt".