1946 – The Best Years of Our Lives

The second world war is over, and films are changing with the times.  This film was especially interesting, being the first post-war winner, because it was set contemporarily; the theatrical trailer marketed the film as the “Masterful Production of the LOVE STORY OF TODAY”

I’m pretty sure the movie stars my friends Jon Lesperance as Fred (Dana Andrews) and Dan Nelson as Homer (Harold Russell).  The likenesses are uncanny.  And they chose a good movie to star in…

The film displays the difficulties of coming home from war and reintegrating into home life.  One man returns home with hooks instead of hands and must rely on his father to put him to bed.  He is too embarrassed to follow through with marrying his fiance.  Another man comes home to his young wife who wants to live life on the town, while her veteran husband can’t seem to land a job in the midst of all the competition of other veterans returning home.  The third man returns to a wife and children that have grown so much he barely recognizes them.  He is a loan officer and must make key decisions about incoming veterans who want to resettle but lack any assets because they’ve been away at war.  All three of them men suffered from nightmares about what they had recently seen and experienced while fighting.

I found this film particularly intriguing–and educational!–because it is a film about the aftermath of WWII that was actually contemporarily made for the time.  Many films have been made recounting WWII, but you can’t beat the emotional and instructional charge of a film made for the moment which it’s about.  There is a level of merit I feel I can give to this movie that I couldn’t apply to, say, Pearl Harbor (2001).  I had not necessarily thought about the difficulties of finding a job at that time because of the sheer number of men clamoring for jobs all at once.  And these days, amputees have incredible options for prostheses.  Then, choices were limited.  I feel like I learned second-hand (rather than third or fourth) some of the effects of the WWII on families.

Myrna Loy and Fredric March (Milly and Al Stephenson) were hilarious opposite each other.  I’ll leave you with  my favorite movie quote from Mrs. Stephenson to her husband, as they advise their daughter on the subject of marriage:

“We never had any trouble… How many times have I told you I hated you and believed it in my heart?  How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me, and we were all washed up?  How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?”

I recommend this one.

2 thoughts on “1946 – The Best Years of Our Lives

  1. I really enjoyed this movie. I think that there is tremendous reason for this movie to still be considered a classic today. This is one of the few movies we have watched on the list that I would like to watch on a yearly basis.

  2. i think i may need to see this one. i’m fascinated by wars and intrigued by movies about wars (even more when they can relay a feeling and present as accurate of a telling as possible).

    i, for one, hated ‘pearl harbor’. it should have been called love harbor. it was not a movie about the men who gave their lives that day as much as it was about a love triangle that december 4th got in the way of. the very small part of the film that actually focused on the events of that day were well done (i liked that they involved both sides), but i wish they could have fleshed out that part of the story…especially since they felt it necessary to call it ‘pearl harbor’.

    okay. stepping off the soap box and looking forward to seeing ‘the best years of our lives’

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