The Best Years of our Lives

Award winning American epic drama film “The Best Years of our Lives” (1946) directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy, Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Howard Russell among others.

Al Stephenson (Frederic March), Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) and Homer (Harold Russell) are returning from action in the World War II. Incidentally all three are from the same county and get a transport plane to fly them back.

Upon coming back, all three of them face problems in integrating back to normal society. Al is married to Milly (Myrna Loy) and has teenaged daughter and son. He is having anxiety problems having to go back to his banking job. Homer lost both his hands at the war and is fitted with steel hooks so he is having issues with his family including his girlfriend Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell). She still loves him, but he feels a burden on everybody, becomes moody and depressed and angry.

Fred barely knew his wife Marie (Virginia Mayo) before he was shipped out to war. Upon coming back he realises he still knows her very little. She has taken a job in a night club. He is an expert and accomplished bombardier in the war for the air force but has very little skill for getting a normal job. He goes back to his drug store job which fetches him very little money. His wife is ambitious so she leaves him.

Fred falls in love with Peggy, (Teresa Wright), the daughter of Al, but Al sees nothing in the marriage and asks him to break it off. Feeling dispirited he tries to leave the county, when he lands up a job to dismantle old aircraft parts for use in the building business.

Though very lengthy at 2.50 hours the script is quite good and very subtly hints at the issues surrounding the war veterans, the problems they have in adjusting to normal lives. They are hampered by bureaucracy in day to day life, whereas in the war, they had to take decisions upon instinct and gut upon the theatre of war. Very nicely each men belongs to different branch of the services – army, air force & navy.

It fetched a clutch of awards including the Oscars and Golden Globes. I thought Dana Andrews has done a superb job and also Frederic March. Among the ladies, it was okay performance from them.

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