HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

December 10, 2007
From the Video Shop

Pearl Harbor Times Three

Neil Turner
From Here to Eternity
1953 - United States - 118 minutes
Director - Fred Zinnemann
Writer - Daniel Taradash based upon the novel by James Jones
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.8/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars

In Harm's Way
1965 - United States - 165 minutes
Director - Otto Preminger
Writer - Wendell Mayes based upon a novel by James Bassett
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.1/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars

Pearl Harbor
2001 - United States - 183 minutes
Director - Michael Bay
Writer - Randall Wallace
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 5.3/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars


This past week was the sixty-sixth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Contemplation of that event in United States history reminded me of three of my all-time favorite movies that feature the attack.

The oldest and, without a doubt, the best is From Here to Eternity. It is a very personal film and lacks the grand scale of the others, but it excels in acting and memorable moments. Of course, the source material by James Jones is a must-read. It is a frank and gritty novel and its true nature defied accurate transfer to the screen of 1953, but this watered down version is still the stuff of excellent films.

At the Oscars, From Here to Eternity was awarded the best film. Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed won for best supporting actor and actress. Daniel Taradash who did an amazing job adapting the novel was awarded the best screenplay, and Fred Zinnemann was awarded best director. Both Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift were nominated for best actor, but were beaten out by William Holden in Stalag 17. They were robbed - especially Clift. However the real blow of injustice was dealt to Deborah Kerr who should have won for best actress instead of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

If you have never seen the film - or haven't seen it for a long time - you should do yourself a favor and enjoy one of the best films of all time. After all, the whole thing is worth it just to see that famous scene of Kerr and Lancaster on the beach. Plus look for Superman in probably his only major film other than Gone With the Wind.

From Here to Eternity ends with the attack upon Pearl Harbor and is basically a personal tale of the peacetime soldiers in Hawaii. In Harm's Way begins with the attack and is an old fashioned war movie filled with major stars and lots of melodrama. It stars John Wayne, and there's no one lwho can fight a war like The Duke . Along the way, there are enough melodramatic love stories and looks at self-grangerizing officers to make the whole thing a guilty pleasure for movie watchers.

Supporting Wayne is a who's who of Hollywood at the time. Patricia Neal plays Wayne's love interest, and Kirk Douglas is his longtime friend. Franchot Tone and Henry Fonda drop in for impressive small parts and high-echelon officers. Burgess Meredith, Stanley Holloway, and Slim Pickens create insightful supporting roles as heroes with a touch of humor. Tom Tryon is there as a thinly veiled version of John F. Kennedy with Paula Prentiss as his wife. Brandon De Wilde delivers a touching role as Wayne's estranged son with Patrick O'Neal wonderfully slimy as his self-serving mentor. Dana Andrews serves well as the idiot admiral who is driving the war effort into the ground, and there's even Archie Bunker - Carroll O'Connor - as a ship's captain.

All of this action and melodrama is presented in a heavy-handed way by director Otto Preminger. He may have been one of the most hated men in Hollywood, but he sure could deliver a star filled spectacular.

I cannot for the life of me understand why so many people hated Pear Harbor. As Roger Ebert put in his review of May 25, 2001, "Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality." Needless-to-say, I totally disagree with Ebert and the many detractors of this film. It is a nice little love story accompanied by extraordinarily accurate special effect views of the attack. All of the acting is good and Jon Voight is very good as Franklin D. Roosevelt. The DVD has many entertaining and educational special features. I know I'm fighting the tide, but I hardily recommend this film.

So there you have it - one must see film of above excellent quality and two guilty pleasures that allow you to wallow in what has become a national legend.


See all of my reviews at - http://neilturner.net/reviews/contents.html


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