Clift and Sinatra on set

Clift and Sinatra on set

I had heard about From Here to Eternity on occasion before and I recently was able to watch this film. Set in Hawaii in the months just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, this classic tale tells the story of a buck private, captain, sergeant, and captain’s wife whose lives are all intertwined.

Montgomery Clift portrays the young private Robert E. Lee Prewitt who has just transferred to another unit and is now under the command of Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober). Holmes has heard of Prewitt’s success in the inter-regimental boxing corps and wants him to now fight for his new company. But Prewitt refuses to fight because he had previously caused another man to go blind while boxing. Holmes is sure he can convince Prewitt to change his mind by turning a blind eye while the other boxers in the company make Prewitt’s life a living hell. They give him work detail after work detail to try and break his spirit and make him want to fight. They call it “the treatment.”

While Holmes is trying to win the boxing championship to gain a promotion, Sergeant Milton Warden, played excellently by the rough and tumble Burt Lancaster, is charming Holmes’ wife. Played by Deborah Kerr, Karen Holmes is the target of rumors that followed her from her husband’s last post. Holmes decides to pursue her anyway and the two begin a passionate affair right under Holmes’ nose.

One of my favorite characters from this film was Private Angelo Maggio, played by Frank Sinatra. Maggio befriends Prewitt and sticks up for him when others will not. He defends him to the point one night that he gets on the bad side of Staff Sergeant “Fatso” Judson. Judson is the guard at the stockade and vows that if Maggio ever is courtmartialed and put in the stockade that he would make him pay.

After going AWOL from guard duty one night and getting drunk, Maggio is sent to the stockade. Word gets out that Judson is beating him unneccessarily, but Maggio refuses to cave in and report him. One night Maggio manages to escape after an especially bad beating. He stumbles into Prewitt and some other men and ends up dying in Prewitt’s arms.

Arguably the most moving scene in the picture follows. Prewitt, who had previously been in the Bugle Corps, plays taps for his friend while tears role down his cheeks. You can truly feel the comradery that existed between these two men.

While out in the nearby town one evening, Prewitt catches Judson in a back alley and kills him. But he is also stabbed in the process and barely makes to the home of his girlfriend Alma (Donna Reed). He has to hide out for a few days and heal from his wounds.

While Prewitt is AWOL, the Japanese launch their attack on Pearl Harbor. Prewitt hears the news on the radio and tries to make it back to his company to help out. But since he has been missing he has to try and sneak back without men from other companies seeing him. In his attempts, other men on patrol shoot and kill him.

Although this movie does not have the happiest ending, I believe it was a fairly accurate perception of military life and also the Pearl Harbor attacks.

This movie went on to win eight Oscars, including Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actor for Frank Sinatra (He was great,although I would have liked to hear him sing more in this film!).

Clift was also nomination for an Oscar. This is one of best roles. He captures the essence of many young men in those days; many men joined the army with intention of making it their career. Many felt that military life was their only option.

Even someone who is not normally a fan of war movies would like this film. It really focuses on the relationships and less on fighting and gunfire. This is simply a must watch.

The taps scene I mentioned:

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