From Here to Eternity
|From Here to Eternity|
original movie poster
|Directed by||Fred Zinnemann|
|Produced by||Buddy Adler|
|Written by||James Jones (novel)
|Music by||George Duning|
|Editing by||William A. Lyon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||118 minutes|
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann and based on the novel of the same name by James Jones. The picture deals with the tribulations of three 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 and George Reeves.
The film won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, including for Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Supporting Actress (Donna Reed).2 The film's title comes originally from a quote 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, Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), a bugler, transfers from the Bugle Corps at Fort Shafter (giving up his corporal stripes) to a rifle outfit, Company "G", at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu. He was replaced as 1st bugler and left Shafter for Schofield. Prewitt, a native of Kentucky, enlisted at Ft. Myer, Virginia. He intends to be a "thirty-year man." Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes (Philip Ober) has heard of his reputation as a talented middleweight boxer. Holmes urges Prewitt to join the regimental boxing team and promises that Prewitt will be promoted to corporal or even sergeant if he helps win the boxing trophy on December 15. Prewitt refuses, recounting that he stopped fighting because of what happened to Dixie Wells, his sparring partner, over a year before. Holmes does not sympathize. He offers Prewitt the job of company bugler. "Not if it means fighting!" replies Prewitt.
Holmes retaliates by making army life as miserable as possible for Prewitt, hoping he will give in. Holmes is unable to break Prewitt's spirit. Holmes orders First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) to prepare general court martial papers after Sergeant Galovitch first insults Prewitt, then gives an unreasonable order which Prewitt refuses. Prewitt also refuses to apologize to Galovitch, saying he should receive the apology from Galovitch. Warden, however, knowing of Holmes' unfair treatment and realizing Prewitt is a career soldier, suggests that he try to entice Prewitt to change his mind by doubling up on company punishment. The other non-commissioned officers assist in the conspiracy. Prewitt is supported only by his friend, Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra).
Meanwhile, Warden begins an affair with Holmes' neglected wife Karen (Deborah Kerr). Warden tells Karen the penalty for an affair with his commanding officer's wife is a twenty-year sentence in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth. Sergeant Maylon Stark (George Reeves) has told Warden that Karen had many affairs at Fort Bliss, including with him. As their relationship develops, Warden asks Karen about her numerous affairs to test her sincerity with him. Karen relates that Holmes has been unfaithful to her most of their marriage. She miscarried one night when Holmes returned home from an affair with a hat-check girl, drunk and unable to assist her by calling a doctor, resulting in her being unable to bear any more children. She then affirms her genuine love for Warden.
Prewitt and Maggio spend their liberty time at the New Congress Club, a gentlemen's club where Prewitt meets and falls for Lorene (Donna Reed). Lorene tells Prewitt, "as a waitress in a small Oregon town, she dated for three years, the son of the richest family in town. When her boyfriend married, she went to Seattle and met a woman who had worked in Hawaii. She then sailed to the islands, staying there a year and two months." Her desire: to "make a sock full of money to return to Oregon and buy a house for her mother." She also wants to marry a "proper" man with a "proper" job and live a "proper" life. Prewitt confides to Lorene the reason he refuses to box for the company is that he blinded Dixie Wells, a close friend, while sparring. Maggio encounters Staff Sergeant James R. Judson (Ernest Borgnine) at the club. When Maggio complains that Judson's piano playing is interfering with his dancing, the two nearly come to blows. Maggio is told that Judson is the Sergeant of the Guard at the stockade.
Later, at a tavern called "Choy's," located near the base, Judson sees Maggio holding a photograph of his sister. Judson takes the photograph from Maggio vulgarly kisses it, and whispers unheard, but apparently vulgar words about her in Prewitt's ear. Maggio smashes a barstool over Judson's head. Judson pulls a switchblade on Maggio, but Warden, sitting in a corner, intervenes to save Maggio by telling Judson that killing Maggio would "create two weeks of paperwork" for him. When Judson advances on Warden with the knife, Warden breaks a beer bottle in two and holds the jagged bottle part like a weapon and coaxes Judson, calling him by his nickname, "Fatso." Judson throws down his knife and steps back. Warden tells them, "Killers, huh! I'd trade the pair of you for a good Camp Fire Girl!" However, Judson warns Maggio that sooner or later Maggio "tough monkey" will end up in the stockade, and he will be there waiting for him.
Karen tells Warden that if he became an officer, she could divorce Holmes and they could return to the States and marry. Warden is not keen on the idea because of his dislike of officers, but he agrees to consider the matter. Prewitt is given a weekend pass, courtesy of Warden, and goes to meet Lorene who is too busy at the club to talk. However, she meets him later at a bar for a drink. He tells Lorene he loves the Army and shows Lorene his prized possession, a bugle mouthpiece. Prewitt tells her the honor of his lifetime, being selected to play Taps at Arlington National Cemetery on Armistice Day with the President (Franklin D. Roosevelt) in attendance. Maggio then walks in drunk and in uniform, explaining that he was assigned to guard duty that night but deserted his post. Lorene encourages Prewitt to take Maggio back to the base. While Prewitt is calling for a cab, Military Police arrive and arrest Maggio, and he is sentenced to six months in the stockade.
Matters come to a head for Prewitt when Sergeant Galovitch picks a fight with Prewitt while on yard detail, and the two come to blows. At first, Galovitch repeatedly pummels Prewitt, who initially refuses to fight back, then resorts to using only body blows. But as Galovitch and others watching continue taunting him, Prewitt's fighting side re-emerges, and Prewitt comes close to knocking Galovitch out before Holmes (observing from outside the crowd) finally steps in and stops the fight. When Galovitch falsely accuses Prewitt of starting the fight, Holmes is about to punish Prewitt again until the man in charge of the detail says that it was Galovitch, not Prewitt, who started the fight. Instead of punishing Galovitch, Holmes abruptly lets him off the hook and disperses the crowd. The entire incident is witnessed by the base commander, who orders an investigation by the Inspector General. When Holmes' true intentions are revealed to the commander, he orders a court-martial. When Holmes begs for an alternative, the commander's aide suggests that Holmes resign his commission "for the good of the service" and leave the Army, which the general accepts with dispatch. Holmes' replacement, Captain G.R. Ross, verbally reprimands the others involved, having the boxing team's framed photographs and trophies removed. He tells them "From now on, no man's going to earn his stripes by boxing!" Ross then orders Sergeant Galovitch's demotion to private, putting him in charge of the latrine.
Maggio manages to escape from the stockade and find Prewitt. Maggio dies in his arms after telling of the abuse he suffered from Judson in the stockade at Judson's hand. The following night Prewitt plays taps as tears stream down his cheeks. Seeking revenge, Prewitt tracks down Judson in town and invites him into a back alley to talk, then attacks him using the very same switchblade Judson had pulled on Maggio earlier. Prewitt kills Judson, but not before sustaining a serious stomach wound. Prewitt staggers from the alley and goes into hiding at Lorene's apartment. Despite Prewitt's AWOL status, his platoon sergeant carries him "present" for three days at Warden's direction. Lorene, whose real name is Alma Burke, tends to Prewitt's wounds.
When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Prewitt, still weak from his unhealed wound, finds out about the attack, and attempts to return to camp under cover of darkness but is shot dead by a sentry. Warden identifies the body admitting that Prewitt was a friend, laments Prewitt's stubbornness, and states the irony that because of the attack, the boxing tournament is cancelled. He tells the other soldier, "He was always a hardhead sir, but he was a good soldier. He loved the army more that any soldier I ever knew".
Holmes' resignation results in Karen's having to return to the States with him. When she finds out that Warden failed to apply for officer status, she realizes they will never be together.
At the end, Lorene and Karen meet on a ship leaving for the mainland. Karen then tosses two leis into the water. She tells Alma, "There's a legend: if they float in towards shore, you'll come back someday. If they float out to sea, you won't." Alma says she will never return, telling Karen that her fiancé was a bomber pilot killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor while trying to taxi his bomber to the edge of the apron: "He was awarded the Silver Star, they sent it to his mother. She wrote me. She wanted me to have it. They are very fine people, Southern people. He was named after a general. Robert E. Lee... Prewitt." Karen recognizes Prewitt's name from conversations with Warden. Lorene holds Prewitt's treasured bugle mouthpiece saying "Isn't that a silly old name!"
- 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 "Lorene" Burke
- 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
- John Dennis as Sergeant Ike Galovitch
- Merle Travis as Private Sal Anderson
- Tim Ryan as Sergeant Pete Karelsen
- Arthur Keegan as Treadwell
- Barbara Morrison as Mrs. Kipfer
- George Reeves as Sergeant Maylon Stark
- Claude Akins as Sergeant 'Baldy' Dhom
- Alvin Sargent as Nair
- Joseph Sargent as soldier
- Robert J. Wilke as Sergeant Henderson
- Carleton Young as Colonel Ayres
- Tyler McVey as Major Stern (uncredited)
The novel's author, James Jones, had a small, uncredited part.
Hollywood legend has it that Frank Sinatra got the role in the movie because of his alleged Mafia connections, and that this was the basis for a similar subplot in The Godfather.3 This has been dismissed on several occasions, however, by the cast and crew of the film. Director Fred Zinneman 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."3 More plausible is the notion that Sinatra's 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.3 Sinatra himself had been bombarding Cohn with letters and telegrams asking to play the ill-fated Maggio, even signing some of the letters "Maggio". Sinatra benefited when Eli Wallach, who was originally cast as Maggio, dropped out to appear on Broadway instead. Sinatra gained the role, ultimately taking a pay cut in the process (earning $8,000, a huge drop from his $130,000 salary for Anchors Aweigh) to star in the film.
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 while Crawford's demands to be filmed by her own cameraman led to the studio taking a chance on Deborah Kerr, also playing against type.4
The material of the rather explicit novel had to be considerably toned down to appease the censors of the time, but author James Jones objected to this. For example, in the famous beach scene, it is less obvious that Kerr's and Lancaster's characters are having sex than it is in the novel and in the later miniseries based on the book. Though she wore a bathing suit, Deborah Kerr was told to wear a skirt before the scene. Others wanted the suit to have a fixed skirt, but both Kerr and Lancaster stuck with doing the passage with no change their beachwear. The two refused to do the scene standing up, so Zinnemann let them do the scene with waves of the water hitting them and staying wet as they both kissed. The censors also wanted the scene to be trimmed totally, but Columbia refused and the scene stayed in. Also left out of the film are Maggio being a male hustler and the portrait of the gay nightlife in Waikiki.
The on-screen chemistry between Lancaster and Kerr may have spilled off-screen; it was alleged that the stars became romantically involved during filming.5
A rumor has been circulating for years that George Reeves, who played Sgt. Maylon Stark, had his role drastically edited after preview audiences recognized him as television's Superman. This is depicted in the film Hollywoodland. However, Zinnemann maintains all his scenes were kept intact from the first draft, nor was there ever a preview screening.
The U.S. Army withheld its cooperation from the production (most of the movie was filmed where it was set, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii) until the producers agreed to several modifications, most noticeably the fate of Captain Holmes. Numerous barracks locations are still intact and still occupied by active duty troops. In both the movie and the book the bar and restaurant called Choy's, where the fight scene takes place in the movie and where the novel opens is named Kemo'o (pronounced "kay-moe-o" in Hawaiian) Farms Bar and Grill. Choy's was chosen by James Jones in honor of Kemo'o Farms' head chef. Kemo'o Farms Bar and Grill is still in operation and remains deeply associated with the adjacent Schofield Barracks, and the cast and crew, especially Sinatra, are reputed to have patronized the bar to the point of excess.
Two songs are noteworthy: "Re-Enlistment Blues" and "From Here to Eternity", by Robert Wells and Fred Karger.
Opening to rave reviews, From Here to Eternity proved to be an instant hit with critics and the 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." Variety agreed: "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." 6
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.6
The New York Post applauded Frank Sinatra, remarking that "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."
The cast agreed, Burt Lancaster commenting in the book Sinatra: An American Legend that "His fervour (Sinatra), 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."3
With a 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 be equivalent to in excess of $240 million U.S. in recent times.1
William Holden, who won the Best Actor Oscar 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.
- "Box Office Information for 'From Here to Eternity'." The Numbers. Retrieved: April 12, 2012.
- "The 26th Academy Awards (1954) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-20..
- Sinatra 1995, p. 106
- "From Here to Eternity (1953)." moviesplanet.com. Retrieved: May 31, 2011.
- Buford 2000
- Brogdon, William. "Review:'From Here to Eternity'." Variety, July 29, 1953. Retrieved: January 14, 2010.
- "From Here to Eternity." Festival de Cannes. Retrieved: January 25, 2009.
- Buford, Kate. Burt Lancaster: An American Life. New York: Knopf, 2000. ISBN 0-679-44603-6.
- Dolan Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
- Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN 1-57488-263-5.
- Sinatra, Nancy. Frank Sinatra: An American Legend. Chappaqua, New York: Readers Digest Association, 1995. ISBN 0-7621-0134-2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to From Here to Eternity (film).|
- From Here to Eternity at the Internet Movie Database
- From Here to Eternity at allmovie
- From Here to Eternity at the TCM Movie Database
- From Here to Eternity at Rotten Tomatoes
- From Here to Eternity at Virtual History
- Script (pdf)
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