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Review: The Best Years of Our Lives

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Rob recently recommended The Best Years of Our Lives, and I think someone else had recommended it not long before, so I rented it from Netflix in mid-March. But it's nearly three hours long, and I didn't know enough about it to recommend it to anyone, so nobody expressed much interest in seeing it with me, so I didn't get around to seeing it 'til now. Also, I was a little worried, 'cause it's a movie about three guys who've come back from WWII, and I wasn't sure whether it was going to be depressing and/or violent.

I needn't have worried. The movie, made in 1946, is kinda heavy-handed and predictable and sentimental, but also funny and romantic and utterly charming and even moving.

Myrna Loy is probably the best part of the movie, but isn't that true for just about anything she was in? I especially like the interplay between Milly (Loy) and her daughter Peggy in the first third or so of the movie. Charming and funny. (And Loy gets a couple of really good serious moments later on, too.) And a lot of good stuff goes on in this movie in silent facial expressions and body language; some of the best moments have no spoken dialogue.

Hoagy Carmichael is also great, as usual. I liked pretty much all the other actors too. I gather that Fredric March and Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo either were fairly big names at the time or became fairly big names later, but I couldn't quite place them. (I had seen March only in Inherit the Wind, I think; turns out I saw Andrews recently as the male romantic lead in State Fair; not sure if I've seen Wright or Mayo in anything else.)

Anyway. Good stuff, especially if you have any interest in either soldiers-returning-from-war stories or disability stories.

And btw, I'm not the only person who liked it: it won seven Oscars in 1947 (including Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Screenplay, and Picture), and was nominated for another. And one of the actors received a special honorary award, but I think it's interesting to see the movie without knowing the details of that.

They really weren't afraid to praise movies in trailers in those days. (Nor to show scenes from the end of the movie; half the trailer comes from the final scene.) Here's the text that appears on the screen at the beginning of the trailer:

THROUGH THE YEARS Great MOTION PICTURES HAVE BEEN MADE...

BUT NOW Samuel Goldwyn PRESENTS ...

THE BEST THING that ever happened!

His Masterful Production OF THE LOVE STORY OF TODAY

... THAT WILL LIVE WITH YOU THROUGH ALL YOUR TOMORROWS!

Also probably the only trailer I've ever seen that shows a page from the script (albeit briefly and without any spoilers). Anyway, in case it's not obvious, I recommend waiting to see the trailer until after you see the movie.

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Virginia Mayo co-starred in a fair number of romantic comedies with Danny Kaye, most notably the movie interpretation of Walter Mitty.


My association with Dana Andrews is a bit from the opening song of Rocky Horror:

Dana Andrews said prunes
Gave him the runes
And passing them used lots of skills

which, according to this is a reference to Curse of the Demon(1958).


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