|From Here to Eternity|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fred Zinnemann|
|Produced by||Buddy Adler|
|Screenplay by||Daniel Taradash|
|Based on||From Here to Eternity|
by James Jones
|Music by||George Duning|
|Edited by||William A. Lyon|
|Color process||Black and white|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$30.5 million|
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 American drama romance war film directed by Fred Zinnemann, and written by Daniel Taradash, based on the 1951 novel of the same name by James Jones. The picture deals with the tribulations of three U.S. Army soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra, stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed portray the women in their lives, and the supporting cast includes Ernest Borgnine, Philip Ober, Jack Warden, Mickey Shaughnessy, Claude Akins, and George Reeves.
The film won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, including awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), and Supporting Actress (Donna Reed). The film's title originates 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".
In 1941, bugler, career soldier and talented middleweight boxer Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt transfers to a rifle company at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu. Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes wants him on his regimental team, but Prewitt stopped fighting after he blinded a friend. Holmes makes Prewitt's life miserable. At last, he orders First Sergeant Milton Warden to prepare general court-martial papers. Warden, who looks after his men as best he can, suggests that they double up on company punishment instead. The other non-commissioned officers join in the hazing, and Prewitt is supported only by his close friend, Private Angelo Maggio.
Meanwhile, Warden risks prison by beginning an affair with Holmes' neglected wife, Karen. Sergeant Maylon Stark tells Warden about Karen's many affairs at Fort Bliss. Eventually, Warden asks Karen about them, testing her sincerity. Karen tells him that Holmes has been unfaithful to her from the beginning. This is no surprise. Warden constantly covers for Holmes' absences. But then she tells how Holmes returned home from one of his dalliances, drunk and unable to call a doctor, while she was in labor. Their son was born dead, and she is now barren. She affirms her love for Warden, and encourages him to become an officer so she can divorce Holmes and marry him. Warden reluctantly agrees to consider it.
Maggio takes Prewitt to the New Congress Club, where Prewitt falls for Lorene. (The club is presented as a dance hall, but Lorene describes it as "two steps up from the pavement".) She wants to marry a "proper" man with a "proper" job, and live a "proper" life. Maggio and sadistic Staff Sergeant James R. Judson nearly come to blows over Judson's loud piano playing. Later, Judson provokes Maggio by taking his photograph of his sister from him, kissing it, and whispering in Prewitt's ear. Maggio smashes a barstool over Judson's head. Judson pulls a switchblade, but Warden intervenes. Judson backs down, but warns Maggio that sooner or later, he will end up in the stockade, where Judson is in charge. Warden gives Prewitt Judson's knife as a souvenir.
During a weekend liberty, Prewitt is with Lorene at the club when Maggio walks in, drunk and in uniform, having deserted his post. The military police arrest him, and he is sentenced to six months in the stockade.
Later, Sergeant Galovitch picks a fight with Prewitt, and a crowd gathers. At first, Prewitt pulls his punches, but he loses control and almost knocks Galovitch out. Holmes finally steps in and stops the fight. Galovitch accuses Prewitt of starting it, but other non-coms tell the truth, and Holmes abruptly lets Prewitt off the hook.
Warden and Prewitt are having an amiable, drunken discussion in the middle of the road when Maggio stumbles on them. He has escaped from the stockade. He tells of the abuse he suffered at Judson's hands and dies in Prewitt's arms. Prewitt plays Taps and hunts Judson down and kills him with his own switchblade. Prewitt is seriously wounded and hides at Lorene's house. Warden covers for his absence.
The base commander ordered an investigation of the fight between Galovich and Prewitt. He is disgusted by the report: Officers are supposed to look out for their men. He lets Holmes avoid a lengthy court martial by resigning his commission. Holmes' replacement, Captain Ross, reprimands the others involved in the hazing and orders the destruction of the boxing team's photographs and trophies; he demotes Galovitch to private, putting him in charge of the latrine.
On Sunday morning at 8 a.m., the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Warden keeps his head in the chaos. That night, against Lorene's weeping protests, Prewitt attempts to rejoin his company but is killed when he refuses to halt. Warden identifies him as a good soldier, but a hardhead.
When Karen learns that Warden never applied for officer training, she realizes they have no future and sails back to the mainland with her husband. On board ship, she meets Lorene, who says that her fiancé, Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a heroic bomber pilot, was killed in the raid. Karen recognizes Prewitt's name, but says nothing.
Hollywood legend has it that Frank Sinatra got the role in the film by means of his alleged Mafia connections, and it was the basis for a similar subplot in The Godfather. However, that has been dismissed on several occasions by the cast and crew of the film. Director Fred Zinnemann commented that "the legend about a horse's head having been cut off is pure invention, a poetic license on the part of Mario Puzo, who wrote The Godfather". One explanation of Sinatra's casting is that his then-wife Ava Gardner persuaded studio head Harry Cohn's wife to use her influence with him; this version is related by Kitty Kelley in her Sinatra biography.
Joan Crawford and Gladys George were offered roles, but George lost her role when the director decided he wanted to cast the female roles against type, and Crawford's demands to be filmed by her own cameraman led the studio to take a chance on Deborah Kerr, also playing against type.
Two songs are noteworthy: "Re-Enlistment Blues", and "From Here to Eternity", by Robert Wells and Fred Karger.
Several of the novel's controversial plot points were changed or eliminated for the film to satisfy the Production Code Office and the U.S. Army. Army cooperation was necessary in order to shoot on location at Schofield Barracks, use training aircraft, and obtain military footage of Pearl Harbor for use in the film, as well as for cost reasons. According to screenwriter Daniel Taradash, both the Code Office and the Army were impressed by his script, which reduced the number of censorship problems.
In the novel, Lorene was a prostitute at a brothel, but in the film, she is a hostess at a private social club. Karen's hysterectomy in the novel was caused by the unfaithful Holmes transmitting gonorrhea to her, but in the film, her hysterectomy resulted from a miscarriage, thus avoiding the topic of venereal disease. The changes were made to meet Code Office standards.
In the novel, several of the enlisted men fraternize with homosexuals, and one soldier commits suicide as a result, but homosexuality is not mentioned or directly explored in the film. Again, the change was made to satisfy the Code Office. However, J. E. Smyth has written that the film's treatment of Judson's behavior towards Maggio "has all the indications of sexual abuse, and therefore reintroduces the fear of homosexuality in the 1930s military that the rest of the script had to repress for obvious reasons of censorship".
In the novel, Captain Holmes ironically receives his desired promotion, and is transferred out of the company. In the film, Holmes is forced to resign from the Army under threat of court-martial for his ill-treatment of Prewitt. The Army insisted on this change, which the filmmakers reluctantly made. Director Zinnemann later complained that the scene where Holmes is reprimanded was "the worst moment in the film, resembling a recruiting short", and wrote, "It makes me sick every time I see it."
In the novel, Judson's systematic abuse of Maggio and other prisoners, including Prewitt himself at one point, is portrayed in detail. However, in the film, Maggio's abuse happens offscreen, and is told only verbally to Prewitt, who remains free. The Army required that the abuse of Maggio not be shown, and that Judson's behavior towards Maggio be portrayed as "a sadistic anomaly, and not as the result of Army policy, as depicted in Jones' book". The filmmakers agreed, seeing these changes as improvements. Maggio, who survives and is discharged in the novel, dies in the film, having been combined with two other prisoner characters from the novel (one of whom is killed by Judson in the novel) to add drama and make Maggio a stronger, more tragic figure. The Army was further pacified by the filmmakers' inclusion of a line suggesting that Maggio's death was partially caused by his falling off a truck during a prison break, rather than solely by Judson's beatings.
Opening to rave reviews, From Here to Eternity proved to be an instant hit with critics and public alike, the Southern California Motion Picture Council extolling: "A motion picture so great in its starkly realistic and appealing drama that mere words cannot justly describe it."
The James Jones bestseller, From Here to Eternity, has become an outstanding motion picture in this smash screen adaptation. It is an important film from any angle, presenting socko entertainment for big business. The cast names are exceptionally good, the exploitation and word-of-mouth values are topnotch, and the prospects in all playdates are very bright, whether special key bookings or general run.
Of the actors, Variety went on to say,
Burt Lancaster, whose presence adds measurably to the marquee weight of the strong cast names, wallops the character of Top Sergeant Milton Warden, the professional soldier who wet-nurses a weak, pompous commanding officer and the GIs under him. It is a performance to which he gives depth of character as well as the muscles which had gained marquee importance for his name. Montgomery Clift, with a reputation for sensitive, three-dimensional performances, adds another to his growing list as the independent GI who refuses to join the company boxing team, taking instead the 'treatment' dished out at the C.O.'s instructions. Frank Sinatra scores a decided hit as Angelo Maggio, a violent, likeable Italo-American GI. While some may be amazed at this expression of the Sinatra talent versatility, it will come as no surprise to those who remember the few times he has had a chance to be something other than a crooner in films.
The New York Post applauded Frank Sinatra, remarking, "He proves he is an actor by playing the luckless Maggio with a kind of doomed gaiety that is both real and immensely touching." Newsweek also stated that, "Frank Sinatra, a crooner long since turned actor, knew what he was doing when he plugged for the role of Maggio." John McCarten of The New Yorker concurred, writing that the film "reveals that Frank Sinatra, in the part of Mr. Clift's best friend who winds up in the stockade, is a first-rate actor."
The cast agreed; Burt Lancaster commented in the book Sinatra: An American Legend that, "[Sinatra's] fervour, his bitterness had something to do with the character of Maggio, but also with what he had gone through the last number of years. A sense of defeat and the whole world crashing in on him... They all came out in that performance."
Despite the rivalry between their respective characters, Sinatra and Borgnine, both from Italian roots, became lifelong friends. They corresponded each other at Christmas season interchanging cards signed Maggio and Fatso. At a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast honoring Sinatra, Borgnine mockingly reprised his Fatso Judson character.
The film was number one in the United States for four weeks during September 1953 with a gross of $2,087,000. With a final gross of $30.5 million equating to earnings of $12.2 million, From Here to Eternity was not only one of the top-grossing films of 1953, but 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.
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".
|Academy Awards||Best Motion Picture||Buddy Adler||Won|
|Best Director||Fred Zinnemann||Won|
|Best Actor||Montgomery Clift||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Deborah Kerr||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Frank Sinatra||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Donna Reed||Won|
|Best Screenplay||Daniel Taradash||Won|
|Best Cinematography - Black-and-White||Burnett Guffey||Won|
|Best Costume Design - Black-and-White||Jean Louis||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||William Lyon||Won|
|Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture||George Duning and Morris Stoloff||Nominated|
|Best Sound Recording||John P. Livadary||Won|
|Bambi Awards||Best Film - International||From Here to Eternity||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Cannes Film Festival||Grand Prix||Fred Zinnemann||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture||Frank Sinatra||Won|
|Best Director - Motion Picture||Fred Zinneman||Won|
|Golden Screen Awards||Golden Screen||From Here to Eternity||Won|
|Golden Screen with Star||Won|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||Won|
|National Film Preservation Board||National Film Registry||Inducted|
|New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Film||Won|
|Best Director||Fred Zinneman||Won|
|Best Actor||Burt Lancaster||Won|
|Online Film & Television Association||Hall of Fame - Motion Picture||From Here to Eternity||Won|
|Photoplay Awards||Gold Medal||Won|
|Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Written American Drama||Daniel Taradash||Won|
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.