From Here to Eternity (1953) from Tuna

A small cove. A wave crashes into the cove, and we follow it as it envelops a couple locked in an embrace on the sand. This is one of the
most easily recognized scenes in the history of cinema, one of the most erotic, and one that the Greene commission didn't want us to see.

From Here to Eternity was one of those books that was considered far too controversial, anti-military, and sexual to ever be brought to the screen, but Columbia bought the rights. Daniel Taradash wrote a brilliant first script, and made the entire project possible, but not without serious censorship problems from both the Army and the Greene commission. 

A reminder plot summary.

Pvt. Robert E. Lee Pruitt (Montgomery Clift) takes a two level drop in rank to transfer out of the bugle corps when someone's nephew is given the top bugler spot that he earned and held. He ends up in a rifle company at Schofield Barracks due to the intervention of the company commander, Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober), who is trying to leverage his position as coach of the division boxing team into a promotion. Pruitt is a talented middleweight who has given up boxing after blinding a friend while sparing. To help pressure Pruitt into boxing, Holmes uses his top sergeant, First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) to harass Pruitt. Warden does as ordered, but is a consummate soldier, and is ultimately fair. Things get very interesting as Pruitt won't give an  inch, and Milton starts an affair with the Captains wife (Deborah Kerr). 

Meanwhile, Pruitt falls for a girl at a social club, Donna Reed, and his best friend, Pvt. Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) is thrown into the stockade, and thus into the clutches of "Fatso," the kind of serious asshole and sadist that only the military can create, played to perfection by Ernest Borgnine. The film ends with Pearl Harbor Day. 

Filming in Hawaii was deemed a necessity. To get the Army's permission, they had to cut some scenes of physical abuse in the stockade, and  had to have the Captain disgraced. In the original script, the Captain was promoted. The Greene commission, who realized how sexually charged the script was, was all over it. First, Donna Reed changed from a hooker in a whore house to a hostess. Second, they went over the famous beach scene again and again, requiring that Kerr wear a small skirt over her bathing suit, forbidding certain angles, etc. They really didn't like the water crashing either, but the film makers won that round, and one of the most erotic moments in cinema stayed in the film. 

It was the mega-winner at the academy awards, winning 8 of 12 nominations, including best picture. It is still rated 8.0/10 at IMDB. Interestingly, Stalag 17, which wasn't even nominated for Best Picture, is now 8.3/10 at IMDB.


none. see Tuna's comments.
Scoopy's notes:

Do you know the connection between this movie and The Godfather? Do you remember the Sinatra character in The Godfather, and how he really needed that movie role to put him back on top again, and how the filmmaker was ultimately persuaded by a horse head in his bed? That is very loosely based on a real incident, and the role Sinatra wanted so desperately was Maggio in From Here to Eternity.

The Maggio role was already cast before Sinatra entered the scene. Eli Wallach had been offered the role, and had accepted, but Eli had to beg off because he discovered a conflict, and took off for New York to do a Tennessee Williams play, Camino Real, on Broadway. All that is well documented, but IMDb incorrectly reports that Walllach gave no reason, an urban legend related to the alleged underworld influence, implying that Eli was persuaded to drop out. 

At any rate, the role was open again, and everyone in Hollywood knew about it. Sinatra coveted the part, and knew it would return him to the limelight. The real story had nothing to do with the wiseguys. Sinatra wanted the role so much that not only offered to waive his salary, but he offered to work for a negative salary - he would pay to be in the film. Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, still wasn't convinced. Finally, it wasn't the mob, but Sinatra's very powerful superstar wife, Ava Gardner, who made Cohn an offer he couldn't refuse.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • full screen only, but excellent quality

  • Full-length commentary by the director's son

  • Making-of featurette, and a featurette based on the director's autobiography

This movie featured some of the most daring casting in history, comparable to the selection of Zellweger to play Bridget Jones, but multiplied several fold.

  • Sinatra was not really respected as a dramatic actor.
  • Englishwoman Deborah Kerr stepped down from her usual roles as duchesses to play the housewife, and had to work hard on an American accent. (Joan Crawford was the first choice, but declined because she didn't like the costumes (!!?? Not enough hangers?) 
  • Montgomery Clift, who usually played wimps and soft-spoken professors, was signed to play the boxer who shacks up with a 'tute.
  • Donna Reed, the ultimate goody two-shoes, was signed to be the hooker.

Of course, it all worked out. Sinatra and Reed won Oscars, Clift and Kerr were nominated, as was Burt Lancaster. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.0 
  • With their dollars ... made for $2 million, it did well at the box.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, I can't give this classic less than an A.

Return to the Movie House home page