Director: Fred Zinnermann
Writer: Daniel Taradash
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Philip Ober, Mickey Shaughnessy, Harry Bellaver and Ernest Borgnine
From Here to Eternity adapts the classic book of the same name, by James Jones, with a few alterations from the source material to keep to the Production Code Office, as well as to appease the military who were vital in its creation. The film uses archival footage of the attack on Pearl Harbour as part of one of the pivotal moments of the story. This would only have been possible with the Army’s agreement. Despite this, the Army and navy both criticised the film heavily and distanced themselves from it, with the Army refusing to let its name be used in the opening credits.
Montgomery Clift stars as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, who after being transferred to Fort Shafter refuses to take part as a boxer. Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) starts to put pressure on Prewitt to join, who resists as much as possible with only one true friend, Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra).
Sinatra really proved he could do more than sing From Here to Eternity. His performance is mind-blowingly great and he’s the standout character of the film. Honestly this film is worth watching just for him, and he’s only a side-character. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, without a bad performance from the bunch.
One of the later sequences shows the Pearl Harbour attacks with military footage of the attack and dramatized moments. It’s a harrowing reminder of the devastating effects of WW2. The film captures perfectly how unprepared and unaware America was about the attack. Now that everything is almost a century in the past, watching the film now humanises something we are taught about in school. For the actors, the attack and war were still very recent and real, it shows on their faces. Despite the brutal and shocking moments, the characters still have a sense of humour with them. When First Sergeant Milton Warden moves the guard who is stopping them from getting to the ammunition, he tells him he will get a medal for following the rules as the rest of the men break down the door.
There is a moment in the film, that feels a little too sentimental in that classic Hollywood way, and it deviates from the novel massively. Captain Holmes is forced to resign, as an alternative to being court-martialled, while in the book he isn’t punished. This change was made at the request of the Army. They were still unhappy with the final product and director Zinnermann later said that the scene was the worst moment in the film, and it made him feel sick whenever he saw it. It’s good to see the captain punished, but it does feel out of place for the rest of the film.
From Here to Eternity is a timeless romantic tragedy. It’s just as captivating now to modern audience, as it must have been when it was first released. The performances are great, the story is gripping, and this is something that should be as highly spoken about as something like Casablanca, a classic Hollywood film that shouldn’t be missed.