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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

From Here to Eternity (1953)

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: In the most beautiful place on Earth in the organization that's supposed to be the most disciplined, we find the most undisciplined and unhappy people of all.

Plot Summary: In 1941, in Oahu, Hawaii, Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is voluntarily transferred after quitting the Bugle Corp upon being replaced as First Bugler. Prewitt reunites with his good friend, Pvt. Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), before meeting with the company commander and Regimental boxing head, Capt. Dana Holmes (Philip Ober). Holmes pressures Prewitt to join the company boxing club, but he steadfastly refuses because of a fight-related tragedy. Holmes' adjutant, Sgt. Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster), cautions Prewitt against opposing Holmes, but Prewitt stubbornly declines to box. Soon, the base is a caldron of action as Holmes makes romantic overtures to Capt. Holmes’ wife Karen; Prewitt starts a relationship with Lorene, (Donna Reed) a club hostess, while continuing to endure hassling due to his refusal to box; and Maggio starts a grudge match with "Fatso" Judson (Ernest Borgnine), sergeant of the stockade. Each relationship seems headed for disaster as war in the Pacific looms.


  • Fred Zinneman, Director

  • Daniel Taradash, Writer

  • Burt Lancaster as First Sergeant Milton Warden

  • Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt

  • Deborah Kerr as Karen Holmes

  • Donna Reed as Alma Burke / Lorene

  • Frank Sinatra as Private Angelo Maggio

  • Philip Ober as Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes

  • Mickey Shaughnessy as Corporal Leva

  • Harry Bellaver as Private First Class Mazzioli

  • Ernest Borgnine as Staff Sergeant James R. "Fatso" Judson

  • Jack Warden as Corporal Buckley


  • From Here to Eternity was released on August 5, 1953.

  • It made $30.5 million on a budget of $1.7 - 2.5 million, and was the third highest grossing movie of 1953 behind Peter Pan (Disney) and The Robe.

  • From Here to Eternity not only became one of the highest-grossing films of 1953, but also one of the ten highest-grossing films of the decade. Adjusted for inflation, its box office gross would exceed US$277 million in 2017 dollars.

  • From Here to Eternity was met with almost universal praise from critics, and would go on to be nominated for 13 Oscars including Best Actor (Lancaster and Clift) and Best Actress (Deborah Kerr) winning 8 for Best Picture, Director (Zinnemann), Supporting Actor (Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Reed), Screenplay (Taradash), Cinematography - Black and White, Film Editing, and Sound Recording.

  • The film has been recognized on two AFI lists: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies: #52 (1998) and AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions: #20, and in 2002, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

  • The film was twice attempted to be turned into a TV series in 1966 and 1980.

  • From Here to Eternity currently holds an 88% among critics on RT, an 85 score on Metacritic, and a 3.7 out of 5 on Letterboxd.

Did You Know:

  • The title phrase comes originally from Rudyard Kipling's 1892 poem "Gentlemen-Rankers," about soldiers of the British Empire who had "lost [their] way" and were "damned from here to eternity."

  • Despite the positive response of the critics and public, the Army was reportedly not pleased with its depiction in the finished film, and refused to let its name be used in the opening credits. The Navy also banned the film from being shown to its servicemen, calling it "derogatory of a sister service" and a "discredit to the armed services".

  • Harry Cohn resisted the idea of casting Montgomery Clift as Prewitt as "he was no soldier, no boxer and probably a homosexual." Fred Zinnemann refused to make the film without him.

  • Montgomery Clift threw himself into the character of Prewitt, learning to play the bugle (even though he knew he'd be dubbed) and taking boxing lessons. Fred Zinnemann said, "Clift forced the other actors to be much better than they really were. That's the only way I can put it. He got performances from the other actors, he got reactions from the other actors that were totally genuine."

  • Burt Lancaster was so nervous about acting alongside Montgomery Clift that he was physically shaking in their first scene together.

  • William Holden, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Stalag 17, felt that Lancaster or Clift should have won. Sinatra would later comment that he thought his performance of heroin addict Frankie Machine in The Man with the Golden Arm was more deserving of an Oscar than his role as Maggio.

  • Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and author James Jones were very close during the filming, frequently embarking on monumental drinking binges. Clift coached Sinatra on how to play Maggio during their more sober moments, for which Sinatra was eternally grateful.

  • Frank Sinatra credited Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift with helping him find his feet dramatically for the film. Prior to this, most of Sinatra's film engagements had been comedic roles or in musicals, but by working alongside such heavyweight actors, Sinatra was able to hone his craft in new directions. Indeed, he and Lancaster remained friends for the rest of their lives. Sadly, the relationship with Clift was not so long-lasting. Three years after From Here to Eternity (1953), Clift was involved in a life-altering car crash that required facial reconstruction and left him addicted to pain medication. This, coupled with his alcoholism, made him a very different person from the actor who played Prewitt. At a party thrown by Sinatra, Clift made a drunken pass at one of the singer's entourage that ended up with him being thrown out of the party and denied access to Sinatra and his inner circle.

  • Frank Sinatra had personal problems of his own. The collapse of his marriage to Ava Gardner weighed heavily on him; it got so bad he announced to Montgomery Clift one night that he was going to kill himself.

  • An urban myth regarding the casting of Frank Sinatra was that the Mafia made Columbia Pictures an offer they couldn't refuse. This, of course, was fictionalized in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather (1972) and its subsequent film adaptation. The real reason for Sinatra's casting was mainly his then-wife Ava Gardner, who was shooting a film for Columbia head Harry Cohn had suggested to him that he use Sinatra. Although initially reluctant, Cohn eventually saw this as being a good idea, as Sinatra's stock was so low at the time that he would sign for a very low salary. Sinatra had been lobbying hard for the role, even suggesting he would do it for nothing, but he was eventually hired for the token amount of $8,000.

  • The now classic scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the rushing water on the beach was not written to take place there. The idea to film with the waves hitting them was a last-minute inspiration from director Fred Zinnemann.

  • The MPAA banned photos of the famous Burt Lancaster-Deborah Kerr passionate kiss on the beach for being too erotic. Many prints had shortened versions of the scene because projectionists would cut out frames to keep as souvenirs.

Best Performance: Frank Sinatra (Angelo)/Montgomery Clift (Prew)

Best Secondary Performance: Frank Sinatra (Angelo)/Burt Lancaster (Warden)

Most Charismatic Award: Donna Reed (Alma)

Best Scene:

  • Prewitt Meets Holmes

  • First Night at the Congress Club

  • On the Beach

  • Prewitt v. Galovitch

  • Maggio in the Brig

  • Taps

  • The End of Fatso

  • Holmes Resignation

  • Prewitt's Demise

  • Floating Out to Sea

Favorite Scene: Taps/Prewitt v. Galovitch

Most Indelible Moment: Prewitt's Demise/On the Beach

In Memorium:

  • Christine McVie, 79, British musician (keyboardist for Fleetwood Mac), classically trained musician who wrote and/or sang several of their hits including “Don’t Stop,” “Over My Head,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Say You Love Me.”

  • Clarence Gilyard, 66, American actor (Walker, Texas Ranger, Die Hard, Matlock). Had several recurring roles in the 80s and 90s, but became a Professor in the Film Department at UNLV later in life.

  • Albert Pyun, 69, American film director (The Sword and the Sorcerer, Cyborg, Captain America). Most of his movies were low-budget, B Films that went straight to video, but did accomplish the first feature film for the Marvel Avenger "Captain America".

  • Irene Cara, 63, American singer ("Flashdance... What a Feeling") and actress (Sparkle, Fame), Oscar winner (1983). Was also a regular in her teen years on "Electric Company".

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Robert E. Lee "Prew' Prewitt: Nobody ever lies about being lonely.

Karen Holmes: Why don't you tell the truth, you just don't want the responsibility. You're probably not even in love with me.

Sergeant Milton Warden: You're crazy! I wish I didn't love ya; maybe I can enjoy life again.

Karen Holmes: If you're looking for the captain, he isn't here.

Sergeant Milton Warden: [eyes Karen coyly] And if I'm not looking for him?

Karen Holmes: He still isn't here.

Robert E. Lee "Prew' Prewitt: A man should be what he can do.

Sergeant Milton Warden: Rose, do you know why I like to have you serve me beer? So as I can watch you when you walk away.

Robert E. Lee "Prew' Prewitt: A man don't go his own way, he's nothing.

Sergeant Milton Warden: Maybe back in the days of the pioneers a man could go his own way, but today you got to play ball.

Karen Holmes: [to Sgt. Warden standing outside her porch in the pouring rain] Well, you'd better come inside... you'll get wet.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 7.75

Impact/Significance: 9.5

Novelty: 8

Classic-ness: 7

Rewatchability: 7.25

Audience Score: 8.3 (82% Google, 84% RT)

Total: 47.8

Remaining Questions:

  • Did Prewitt want to reach his company or was it assisted suicide?

  • Why are they holding the BAR Machine Guns by the barrel?

  • Did Prewitt die in a sand trap?

  • What do you make of Alma's final speech?

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