81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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From Here To Eternity

September 14th, 2009 · 1 Comment · 1953, Adaptation, Black and White, Columbia Pictures, Composer: George Duning, Drama, From Here to Eternity, Inciting Incident, Mid-Point, Plot Point I, Plot Point II, Screenplay Structure, War

From Here To Eternity Hollywood returns to form for this, the 17th adaptation out of 26 Best-Picture films. With From Here to Eternity, Hollywood has chosen as Best Picture movies based on novels, short stories, plays (or characters in one of the three) 65% of the time.

A plot summary written by Ed Sutton on the Internet Movie Database says,

It’s 1941. Robert E. Lee Prewitt has requested Army transfer and has ended up at Schofield in Hawaii. His new captain, Dana Holmes, has heard of his boxing prowess and is keen to get him to represent the company. However, ‘Prew’ is adamant that he doesn’t box anymore, so Captain Holmes gets his subordinates to make his life a living hell. Meanwhile Sergeant Warden starts seeing the captain’s wife, who has a history of seeking external relief from a troubled marriage. Prew’s friend Maggio has a few altercations with the sadistic stockade Sergeant ‘Fatso’ Judson and Prew begins falling in love with social club employee Lorene. Unbeknownst to anyone, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor looms in the distance.

The film won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Sinatra), and Best Supporting Actress (Reed).

Yeah, that Sinatra and that Reed.

From Here To Eternity is a big movie with a big cast. Lots of familiar faces, including a few classic character actors:

Burt Lancaster (1913-1994)………………….Sgt. Milton Warden

Montgomery Clift (1920-1966)……………..Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt

Deborah Kerr (1921-2007)…………………..Karen Holmes

Donna Reed (1921-1986)…………………….Alma ‘Lorene’ Burke

Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)……………………Pvt. Angelo Maggio

Philip Ober (1902-1982)………………………Capt. Dana Holmes

Ernest Borgnine (1917- )………………………Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson

Jack Warden (1920 – 2006)…………………..Cpl. Buckley

Claude Akins (1926-1994)……………………Sgt. ‘Baldy’ Dhom

From Here To Eternity features one of the most famous movie scenes of all time: From Here To Eternity Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster lying on the beach, passionately kissing as a wave crashes in on them.

This movie wasn’t as easy to peg regarding the major screenplay structure elements as some of the previous movies. I’m not sure why. Maybe I got too caught up in the storytelling to pay attention. Or maybe it’s contains more than three acts. But here’s my best shot at guessing:


Inciting Incident: Just before the 10-minute mark of the movie, Mrs. Holmes (Kerr) pays a visit to the base and meets Sgt. Warden (Lancaster). “Anything I can do for ya?” Sgt. Warden asks. (We all know what he can do for her.)

Plot Point I: When Sgt. Warden pays a visit to Mrs. Holmes and plants a kiss on her. This happens at the 24-minute mark, a little early for Plot Point I. But I don’t see anything weighty enough after that to spin the movie off into Act II.


Mid Point: Pvt. Maggio (Sinatra) walks off guard duty, goes AWOL, and gets caught. This earns him a stint in the stockade, where the sadistic Sgt. Judson (Borgnine) gets his chance to take Maggio down a few pegs. This happens between one hour and four minutes and one hour and seven minutes into the movie — which, by my calculations, is about the mid point of a movie that’s 118 minutes long.

Plot Point II: Pvt. Maggio is beaten to death by Sgt. Judson. Pvt. Prewitt (Clift) plays taps for him. Not a dry eye in the house.


The last Act of the movie features nothing less than two relationships breaking up, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the death of a main character, and two sad women setting sail away from Hawaii shortly after the attack — all in less than 30 minutes.

This is a fine movie. Lancaster is all teeth and muscle. Kerr is a bleached-blonde floozy. Reed is a street-tough escort in a gentleman’s club. Sinatra is a scrawny little guy with a lot of talent. And Clift is his typically brooding character. According to the behind-the-scenes featurette, Montgomery Clift wasn’t the producer’s first choice to play the role. But the director, Fred Zinnemann (1907-1997) insisted. Screenplay was written by Daniel Taradash (1913-2003). The novel on which the movie was based was written by James Jones (1921-1977).

If nothing else, From Here To Eternity proves that war is hell. But that point was proved way back in 1930 in All Quiet On the Western Front.

Thirteen Academy Award nominations? Here’s one possible reason why: the other movies nominated were Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday, and Shane. Out of the five movies nominated, From Here To Eternity is clearly the stand-out film.


One Comment so far ↓

  • Ango

    the strong points of this movie, for me, were Montgomery Clift (one of my all time favorite actors) and Frank Sinatra. I also think Donna Reed was really beautiful in this film.

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