It always amuses me to finally see what is considered a classic movie scene and see where it fits into a film. Everybody knows the classic scene in From Here to Eternity, whether you knew it was from that film or not. The scene shows two people at a beach rolling around as waves wash over them. It is a classic, often spoofed scene and though it is very well known, it has almost nothing to do with From Here to Eternity. Set in a military base in Hawaii, this film follows three different ranked soldiers.
• Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift)- a recent transfer to Hawaii, Prewitt was a champion boxer and the best bugler in his battalion. Upon realizing that he was a champion fighter, Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) attempts to get Prewitt to fight for them. Unable to get back in the ring after accidentally blinding an opponent, Prewitt refuses the offer. Upset by his refusal, Holmes enlists the help of other boxers and his own right hand man, Seargant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) to pressure Prewitt to fight. For months Prewitt is worked to the bone, given terrible jobs and forced to work more than the rest. The extra work and even the threats from the other soldiers could not get Prewitt to change his position. Eventually and begrudgingly, Warden develops a hard to see soft spot for Prewitt and allows him to go off base a number of times. Going with his friend Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), Prewitt eventually meets Alma ‘Lorene’ Burke (Donna Reed) at a Gentleman’s Club and falls in love. The film chronicles Prewitt’s time in the army while he sticks by his principles and looks at his growing relationship.
• Sergeant Milton Warden: Sergeant Warden is a hardworking, extremely underappreciated man. Warden is overworked, doing his job and most of the work his superior, Captain Holmes, should be doing. At first Warden enjoys this because he gets to pull most of the strings but eventually the lack of appreciation and recognition begins to get to him. Warden falls in love with and begins an affair with Holmes’ wife, Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr). In fact it is the two of them that are in the classic scene I mentioned earlier. Trapped in a marriage with no love, Karen is desperate to get out of it but can’t. Warden is a very interesting character. Though he has been put in an unfair position, he is fiercely loyal to his rank, his superiors and his nation.
• Private Angelo Maggio- One of Prewitt’s good friends, Angelo is not necessarily a main character in the film but I think he needs to be mentioned. A usually lighthearted, joking man, it becomes clear throughout the film that he struggles with a drinking problem. One night while on the town, Angelo creates a problem with the brutal and violent Sergeant Fatso Judson (Ernest Borgnine). Fatso promises that the conflict will cause future repercussions for Angelo if he is every court marshaled. A stupid decision causes that exact thing to happen, leaving Angelo at the mercy of Fatso.
This film has a lot of components to it, looking at love, loyalty and parts of the military in general. Though the majority of the film is set on a military base, there is little action expect for the film’s tragic end. I really like the character development in this film. The characters motives and personalities are uncovered by the dialogue in a way that makes it seem quite natural. Each character had their merits and their problems and they all dealt with them in a similar manner: alcohol. We see every main character abuse alcohol and it brings each of them some form of misfortune. Some characters learn from their mistakes and benders while others do not.
This film defeated Julius Caesar, the Robe, Roman Holiday and Shane for the 1954 Oscar Best Picture. I didn’t find the plot of this film to be mind-blowing but I certainly think the performances were strong enough to make this an Oscar Best Picture Winner. Frank Sinatra took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Donna Reed took home a Best Supporting Actress. The film also earned Daniel Taradash a Best Writing Oscar and Fred Zinnemann a Best Director Oscar. It also won Best Sound Recording, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing winning a whooping eight Oscars in total. Overall I give this film a 7 out of 10. Don’t judge a film based on its “classic” scene because sometimes, they really have nothing to do with the rest of the film.