118 Min. | Drama – Romance – War | October 1953
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Staring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr
From Here to Eternity Review: One of the big blockbuster best sellers of the post World War II years is James Jones’s From Here to Eternity, a tale of the peacetime army in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor. The book was definitely going to be made into a film and it was only a question of casting to make it a success. Director Fred Zinneman had a good intuitive sense about casting here, even against type. The two principal female parts were done against type. Deborah Kerr who made a career of playing respectable women played a captain’s wife who’s drinking and playing around. Not that husband Philip Ober is letting grass grow under his feet either, but Kerr’s latest sexual exploit involves her with the First Sergeant of her husband’s company, Burt Lancaster. Donna Reed, who up to that point was best known for being Mary Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, plays a prostitute here. A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, jilted by a rich boyfriend stateside, she’s in Hawaii to make money and then go home and buy some respectability. She’s not looking for romance with any soldiers, but you can’t plan these things.
Clift and Lancaster are a great study in contrasts and that’s what drives From Here to Eternity. Lancaster as Sergeant Milt Warden is the ultimate professional soldier, held in the highest regard by his men. Lancaster is someone who knows how to work the system, you see it in the way he manipulates his captain. Of course he’s got to be a manipulator there since he’s having an affair with Deborah Kerr. He tries to protect Clift from himself and ultimately fails. Clift has transferred into an infantry company and he was at one time a boxer. But he blinded someone in a fight and quit boxing. Philip Ober who prides himself on having several champions in various weight classes worked to get Clift in his company. Clift upsets his plans by refusing to box so he has the various sergeants give him “the treatment.” Sinatra was right on the money in terms of picking a role. His faith in himself and Columbia Pictures and Fred Zinneman’s faith in him netted him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, one of eight awards won by From Here to Eternity.
From Here to Eternity is a film loaded with good actors in small roles who got their first notice in this film. Ernest Borgnine, Robert J. Wilkie, Claude Akins, Jack Warden, Mickey Shaughnessy, all play various soldiers and each one is memorable. Especially Borgnine as the vicious sadistic sergeant of the stockade. TV’s Superman was in From Here to Eternity also. George Reeves who was looking to escape the typecasting from Superman has a part as another sergeant who warns Lancaster about Deborah Kerr. He gave a fine performance, but most of it wound up on the cutting room floor. That would have unforeseen tragic consequences. This is not any kind of glamorous army. These people are all too real and not very noble. The original novel was toned down quite a bit for the screen. But when the attack on Pearl Harbor comes, the men rise to the occasion, do their jobs in a more than competent manner and led by Burt Lancaster in that company. It’s these men who won that war in the Pacific and the one in Europe as well and From Here to Eternity despite the less than noble portrayals of them as individuals is a great tribute to them as a team.