|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 and career soldier Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt transfers to a rifle company at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu. Because Prewitt was also a boxer, Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes wants him on his regimental team. Prewitt refuses because he stopped fighting after he blinded a friend. Holmes makes Prewitt's life miserable; and ultimately orders First Sergeant Milton Warden to prepare a court-martial. Warden successfully suggests doubling Prewitt's company punishment as an alternative. Prewitt is hazed by other non-commissioned officers and is supported only by his close friend, Private Angelo Maggio.
Prewitt and Maggio join a social club where Prewitt becomes attracted to Lorene. At the club, Maggio gets into an argument with stockade Sergeant Judson. Later, at a local bar, Judson provokes Maggio and the two nearly come to blows before Warden intervenes.
Warden, despite warning from another sergeant, risks prison after beginning an affair with Holmes' wife, Karen. Karen's marriage to Holmes is fraught with his unfaithfulness which was exacerbated after the stillbirth of a child and Karen's subsequent infertility. Karen encourages Warden to become an officer which would enable her to divorce Holmes and marry him.
Maggio is sentenced to the stockade after walking off guard duty and getting drunk. This results in harsh treatment at the hands of Judson. Prewitt discovers Lorene's name is really Alma and her goal is to make enough money at the club to return to the mainland and live a proper life. Prewitt tells her his career is in the military, and the two wonder whether they have a future together.
A sergeant named Galovitch, who is a member of Holmes' boxing team, picks a fight with Prewitt. The fight is reported to Holmes who observes it without intervening. Prewitt gets the best of Galovitch, and Holmes learns Galovitch started the fight, but Holmes issues no punishment. Higher-ranking officers observe Holmes' conduct and force his resignation in lieu of a court martial.
Maggio escapes the stockade after a brutal beating from Judson. His injuries are aggravated during his escape and he dies in Prewitt's arms. Prewitt seeks revenge against Judson and the two stab each other in a back alley. Judson dies from his wounds and Prewitt, severely injured, goes absent without leave and stays with Lorene. Warden covers for his absence.
The captain that replaces Holmes demotes Galovitch and affirms that boxing will not be used as a pathway to promotion.
Warden tells Karen about Prewitt. Karen tells Warden that Holmes' resignation is forcing them back stateside; but Warden divulges he is not interested in becoming an officer. Karen walks away with both realizing their relationship has ended.
The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Warden keeps his head in the chaos. That night, Prewitt attempts to rejoin his company but is killed when he refuses to halt. Warden identifies him as a good soldier, but a hardhead.
Karen and Lorene coincidentally stand next to each other on the ship that is taking them to the mainland. Lorene tells Karen that her "fiancé" died heroically during the Pearl Harbor attack and was awarded a silver star (none of which is true). She names Prewitt as the fiancé, and looks at his bugle mouthpiece which she is holding. Karen recognizes the name, but stays silent. Both ladies throw leis into the sea, as they depart, wondering if they will ever return to Hawaii.
- 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 Burke / Lorene
- Frank Sinatra as Private Angelo Maggio
- Philip Ober as Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes
- Mickey Shaughnessy as Sergeant 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 (uncredited)
- Claude Akins as Sergeant "Baldy" Dhom (uncredited)
- Alvin Sargent as Nair (uncredited)
- Robert J. Wilke as Sergeant Henderson (uncredited)
- Carleton Young as Colonel Ayres (uncredited)
- Kristine Miller as Georgette (uncredited)
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.
Differences from the novel
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 not only became one of the highest-grossing films of 1953, but also 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".
- American Film Institute recognition
Awards and nominations
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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to From Here to Eternity (film).|
- From Here to Eternity on IMDb
- From Here to Eternity at AllMovie
- From Here to Eternity at the TCM Movie Database
- From Here to Eternity at the American Film Institute Catalog
- From Here to Eternity at Rotten Tomatoes
- From Here to Eternity at Virtual History
- Script (pdf)
- From Here to Eternity essay by Daniel Eagan in America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry, A&C Black, 2010 ISBN 0826429777, pages 471-473