Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Best Years of Our Lives

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:NR
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Subtle references (by today's standards) to Marie's infidelity
Alcohol/Drugs:Al and Fred get drunk, Milly makes Al promise not to drink so much and checks what he is drinking at the wedding to make sure he is keeping his promise
Violence/Scariness:Scuffle
Diversity Issues:Tolerance for those with disabilities is a theme of the movie, though dated by today's standards, as there is no suggestion that Homer can or should get a job
Movie Release Date:1946

Three men are returning home from service during WWII. Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), a bombardier, Al Stephenson (Frederic March), a middle- aged footsoldier, and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), a sailor who has lost both hands, fly back to their home town of Boone City, excited, but a little apprehensive about beginning their post-war lives. Fred is returning to a beautiful wife, Marie (Virginia Mayo), whom he barely knows. Al is coming back to his wife, Milly (Myrna Loy), and their two children, who have grown up while he was gone. And Homer is coming back to face his family and his fiancée, Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell), with hooks replacing his hands.

Each of them has a lot of adjusting to do. Al is awkward with his wife at first, and insists that they go out to a bar owned by Homer’s uncle Butch (Hoagy Carmichael), where they meet Homer and Fred, who has not been able to find his wife. Al and Fred get very drunk, and Al and Milly take Fred home with them. Al’s daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright) comforts Fred when he has a nightmare about the war, and the next morning makes breakfast for him, and drops him off at his apartment. After everyone leaves the apartment, Al and Milly reconnect to their feelings for one another. Fred finally finds Marie, who is delighted to have him home. But Homer barely speaks to Wilma.bestyears.jpg

Al returns to his job at the bank, but when he approves loans to ex-servicemen who don’t meet the bank’s requirements for collateral, his boss is concerned. At a banquet, Al gets drunk and explains movingly that he learned in the war that you have to trust people, and give them a chance, and that the rules must be changed.

Homer is still uncommunicative and withdrawn until Wilma comes to his house late one night to talk to him. He is finally able to show her the extent of his injuries, and is relieved that it makes no difference to her. They set a date for the wedding.

Fred, who was a soda jerk before the war, says that is the one job he will never do again. But he finds himself back serving ice cream, when he can’t find anything else, until he punches a customer who insults Homer and the other ex-servicemen. Marie, who cares about nothing but fun and money, is quickly bored with him, and starts seeing other men.

Fred falls in love with Peggy, but when Al asks him not to see Peggy any more, he decides to leave town. At the airport, he climbs into the cockpit of one of the old bomber planes, destined to be turned into scrap metal. He meets a man who is using the metal for building and asks for a job, explaining that he knows nothing about it, but knows that he knows how to learn. He is hired.

Fred is Homer’s best man. At the wedding, Fred sees Peggy, and the words of the wedding service seem to bring them together.

Though today’s families will have a hard time relating to the specifics of the post-war era, the theme of adaptation to changing circumstances and the need for genuine closeness is a timeless one. The most important scene in the movie is the one in which Fred realizes that he can use the same skills he used in the war — especially his ability to learn — to bring him what he is looking for. Fred and Homer both have a hard time believing that they deserve love, because each feels helpless and inadequate. Homer is afraid to risk rejection by Wilma, so he brusquely ignores her. Fred plans to leave town and never see Peggy again. But both ultimately take the risk and find the love they hoped for.

Al is also brusque and awkward with Milly at first, but by their first morning together he is ready to return to the relationship they had. Milly’s description of marriage to Peggy is particularly important in this context, making it clear that “living happily ever after” requires commitment, courage, and work.

Questions for Kids:

· What were the challenges faced by each of the servicemen in adjusting to life after the war?

· Would it have been easier for Homer if his family and Wilma talked to him about his injuries when he first came home?

· Why was it easier for Homer to talk to Fred and Al about them than it was to talk to his family?

· Why was Al so awkward with Milly at first?

· What did he mean when he talked about collateral at the banquet? Why was it important for Fred to realize that he knew how to learn? How did that change the way he thought about himself?

Connections: Harold Russell, who lost his hands in a grenade accident in training, received both a special Oscar and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Homer. He did not make another movie until “Inside Moves” in 1980. He also served as the Chairman of President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on Hiring the Handicapped. The movie also won Oscars for Best Picture, Actor, Director, Musical Score, and Writer. Butch is played by Hoagy Charmichael, composer of “Stardust.” A movie with similar themes is “Til the End of Time” with Robert Mitchum and Guy Madison.



  • Bob

    An F for this Academy Award Best Picture? Is this a mistake?

  • Nell Minow

    Wow, yes! We have had a number of errors in transferring my archives. Thanks for pointing this one out and I will fix it immediately!

Previous Posts

Christian Indie Films of 2014
This year has already seen a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented number of Christian and Biblically-based films, from big-budget epics like "Noah" and "Son of God" to small faith-oriented films like "God's Not Dead."  There is an excellent summary of four Christian independent films of 2014 on In

posted 3:59:03pm Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Frank: The Real Story of the Singer With the Paper-Mache Mask
One of the handsomest men alive spends almost the entire movie wearing a huge round paper maché head in "Frank," a moving film inspired by the real-life story of the late Frank Sidebottom.  Michael Fassbender plays Frank, a sweet-natured but very quirky musician who wears his big head mask even in

posted 9:10:16am Aug. 21, 2014 | read full post »

What's Up With My Family? -- App Helps Middle Schoolers Navigate Life
Middle School Confidential™ 3: What’s Up with My Family? is a new IOS app, the next installment of the series for tweens and teens. The third edition continues the story of Jack, Jen, Chris, Abby, Mateo, and Michelle—a tight-knit group of friends in middle school—who are realizing that growi

posted 3:59:49pm Aug. 20, 2014 | read full post »

The Simpsons Binge Watch: Every Episode Plus the Movie
Get your food delivery menus ready.  Unplug your phone.  All 552 Simpsons episodes will be broadcast in order, starting tomorrow. They include scenes cut in syndication that have not been on television since the original broadcast. And of course they include some remarkably prescient moments tha

posted 3:59:35pm Aug. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Bo Svenson
Bo Svenson is an actor, writer, director, judo champion, and, as I was lucky enough to find out, an enthralling guy to talk to, turning an interview into a wide-ranging conversation. Svenson was

posted 3:59:35pm Aug. 19, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.