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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Revisit ft. Kieran B.

Updated: Jun 30

Original Episode: #17 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) (released June 4, 2020)

New Episode: #212 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Revisit ft. Kieran B (released May 29, 2024)


Guest: Kieran B. (Host and Creator of the Best Picture Cast)




Cast:

  • William Wyler, Director

  • Robert E. Sherwood, Writer

  • Gregg Toland, Cinematographer

  • Hugo Friedhofer, Composer

  • Emil Newman, Musical Director

  • Myrna Loy as Milly Stephenson

  • Fredric March as Technical Sergeant Al Stephenson

  • Dana Andrews as Captain Fred Derry

  • Teresa Wright as Peggy Stephenson

  • Virginia Mayo as Marie Derry

  • Cathy O'Donnell as Wilma Cameron

  • Hoagy Carmichael as Butch Engle

  • Harold Russell as Petty Officer 2nd Class Homer Parrish

  • Gladys George as Hortense Derry

  • Roman Bohnen as Pat Derry

  • Ray Collins as Mr. Milton

  • Minna Gombell as Mrs. Parrish

  • Walter Baldwin as Mr. Parrish

  • Steve Cochran as Cliff


Recognition:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives premiered at Radio City Music Hall on November 21, 1946.

  • On a budget of between $2.1-3 million, it would go on to gross roughly $23.7 million over its lifetime finishing as the #1 film of 1946-1947 according to Variety. If adjusted for inflation, it is estimated that The Best Years of Our Lives would be the 87th highest grossing film of all-time and #4 for all films released in the 1940s (#2 for live action films).

  • It is the sixth most-attended film of all time in the United Kingdom, with over 20 million tickets sold.

  • It was universally praised by critics at the time, and it would be recognized by the Academy Awards with 8 nominations (Picture, Director (Wyler), Actor (March), Supporting Actor (Russell), Screenplay (Sherwood), Film Editing, Original Score (Friedhofer), and Sound) and 2 special nominations (Honorary Award (Russell) and Thalberg Humanitarian Award (Goldwyn)). The only nomination it did not win was for Best Sound.

  • The film was included by the American Film Institute at number 37 in its 1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies, and at number 11 in its 2006 AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers, and at number 37 in its 2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).

  • It has been included at #6 on all three of Tom's Annual Best Picture Rankings lists in 2022-2024.

  • In 1989, The Best Years of Our Lives was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

  • The Best Years of Our Lives currently holds a 97% among critics on RT, a 93 score on Metacritic, and a 4.2/5 on Letterboxd.


Plot Summary: The Best Years of Our Lives is a deeply moving exploration of the post-war experience, capturing the struggles and triumphs of three World War II veterans returning to their small Midwestern town: Al Stephenson (Fredric March), a banker grappling with the disconnect between his pre-war ideals and the changing society he returns to; Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), a former bombardier facing the harsh reality of joblessness and a faltering marriage; and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), a sailor who must adapt to life after losing both hands in the war.


Directed by William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives presents a poignant narrative woven with emotional complexity and social relevance. The film is not just about the challenges of reintegration, but also about the enduring strength of the human spirit. It’s a reflection on the collective American psyche, a nation learning to heal and move forward. "The Best Years of Our Lives" stands as a timeless classic, a cinematic masterpiece that resonates as profoundly today as it did in the immediate aftermath of the war.


Did You Know?:

  • To avoid awkwardness when he first met his fellow cast members, Harold Russell made a point of reaching out with his hooks and taking their hands, thus putting them at ease with his disability.

  • When Homer is getting ready for bed, he comments that once his artificial hands are removed, he's helpless as a baby. This was was added to make his character even more sympathetic. In reality, the actor Harold Russell was capable of putting on his artificial hands with no assistance.

  • Virginia Mayo had read the novel "Glory for Me" and envisioned herself as Marie Derry. After producer Samuel Goldwyn refused to give her the part, she had pictures taken of herself at a local bar. That convinced Goldwyn, who was simultaneously working on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), to give her the part over the objections of director William Wyler. Mayo filmed the two movies simultaneously--sometimes shooting scenes from both on the same day.

  • This was the first time Myrna Loy had worked with William Wyler, and she was wary of his reputation as "90-Take Willy". As it turned out, the two got along very well.

  • The airplane graveyard where Dana Andrews' character climbs aboard a decommissioned bomber was a real graveyard for thousands of B-17 and B-25 bombers, along with numerous fighter planes. The crew washed down Andrews' bomber then hit it with dust to make it stick on the forward turret for a grittier look. Though the salvage crew scene was part of the movie, in real life such work crews did dismantle the old planes to make housing for returning veterans.


The Stanley Rubric:

Original Legacy Score: 8.5

New Legacy Score: 8


Original Impact/Significance Score: 9.5

New Impact/Significance Score: 10


Original Novelty Score: 9.5

New Novelty Score: 9.5


Original Classicness Score: 8.5

New Classicness Score: 9.5


Original Rewatchability Score: 8

New Rewatchability Score: 8.5


Original Audience Score: 9.3 (only RT)

New Audience Score: 9.1 (89% Google, 93% RT)


Original Total Score: 53.3 (previously #12 on the full GMOAT list)

New Total Score: 54.6


Remaining Questions:

  • Do the Army and Air Force have beef with each other?

  • Does Homer where a wedding ring, and, if so, how and where? (*not meant to be silly or crass)

  • What is the second division in baseball?

  • What would be your rankings on the healthiness of each of these couples 5 or 10 years on?

  • Why doesn't Peggy's brother Rob attend the wedding? He has as much connection to Homer and Wilma as she does?

  • How was Fred a Captain if he never had to command anyone?

  • Were there Army infantry in the Pacific?


In Memoriam:

Dabney Coleman, 92, American actor (9 to 5, Tootsie, The Guardian, Recess), Emmy winner (1987).

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