Tonight's Satuday Night Cinema is in keeping with Memorial Day and remembering the great debt we owe to those who put their lives on the line for freedom. From Here to Eternity, winner of 8 Academy Awards, is a towering American classic with a cast of heavyweights little matched in cinematic history -- Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine .....
"The scene is Schofield Army Barracks in Honolulu, in the languid days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, where James Jones' acclaimed war novel From Here to Eternity brought the aspirations and frustrations of several people sharply into focus."
THE SCREEN IN REVIEW: "From Here to Eternity" Bows at Capitol With Huge Cast, Five Starring Roles A. W. Published: August 6, 1953
Out of "From Here to Eternity," a novel whose anger and compassion stirred a post-war reading public as few such works have, Columbia and a company of sensitive hands have forged a film almost as towering and persuasive as its source. Although it naturally lacks the depth and fullness of the 430,000 words and 850 pages of the book, this dramatization of phases of the military life in a peacetime army, which was unveiled at the Capitol yesterday, captures the essential spirit of the James Jones study. And, as a job of editing, emending, re-arranging and purifying a volume bristling with brutality and obscenities, "From Here to Eternity" stands as a shining example of truly professional moviemaking.
As may be surmised, credit for this metamorphosis cannot be localized. The team of scenarist, director, producer and cast has managed to transfer convincingly the muscularity of the basically male society with which the book dealt; the poignance and futility of the love lives of the professional soldiers involved, as well as the indictment of commanding officers whose selfishness can break men devoted to soldiering. They are trapped in a world they made and one that defeats them. Above all, it is a portrait etched in truth and without the stigma of calculated viciousness.
Cleaves To Author's Thesis
Although the incisive script fashioned by Daniel Taradash side-steps such matters as the shocking "Stockade" chapters of the book, it fundamentally cleaves to the author's thesis. Set in Schofield, Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii, in the months preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is the tragic story of the youthful Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt, hard-headed Kentuckian whose convictions are strong enough to force him to forego his passionate devotion to both the bugle and prize fighting despite the knowledge that his superior officer, Capt. Dana Holmes, and his crew of athletes will give him "The Treatment."
It is the story, also, of First Sgt. Milton Warden, top kick of the company, a rough-hewn pillar of strength whose know-how guides and supports the pompous and philandering captain and the admiring contingent of G. I.'s in his command. It is the tale of sinewy Angelo Maggio, enlisted man from the sidewalks of New York whose brave revolt against the confinements of the Army system ends in tragedy. And it is the account of the ill-fated affair between Karen Holmes, the captain's wife, and Sergeant Warden, as well as the romance of Private Prewitt and Lorene, whose charms were purveyed in Mrs. Kipfer's New Congress Club.
Credit Fred Zinnemann with an expert directorial achievement in maintaining these various involvements on equal and lucid levels. While each yarn is pertinent and commands attention, the conflicts of its principals are fayed neatly into a compact whole. And the climactic strafing of Schofield Barracks is a fittingly explosive finish to the two hours of uncluttered drama culled from an immense and sometimes sprawling work of fiction.
Cast Plays Roles Well
Fortunately the cast members measure up to their assignments. In Burt Lancaster, the producer has got a top kick to the manner born, a man whose capabilities are obvious and whose code is hard and strange but never questionable. He is a "thirty-year man" respected by his superiors and the G. I.'s with whom he fights and plays. His view of officers leaves him only with hatred of the caste although he could easily achieve rank, which would solve his romantic problem. But he is honest enough to eschew it and lose the only love he has known.
Montgomery Clift adds another sensitive portrait to an already imposing gallery with his portrayal of Prewitt. Since he has blinded a man in the ring, no carefully planned scheme of harassment will get him in again. And, since he considers it a slight when he has been passed over as a bugler who once played taps at Arlington National Cemetery, he deems it his right to be "busted" from corporal to conform to his credo that "if a man don't go his own way, he's nothin'."
Although it is a deviation from the norm, Frank Sinatra is excellent in the non-singing role of Angelo Maggio, a characterization rich in comic vitality and genuine pathos. Deborah Kerr, heretofore the genteel lady in films, contributes a completely tender stint as the passionate Karen Holmes, defeated by a callous mate and a fruitless marriage, who clings to a doomed love.
While Donna Reed is not precisely the picture of a lady of the evening, her delineation of Lorene, wracked between a desire to be "proper" and her anomalous affair with Prewitt, is polished and professional. Although Philip Ober's weak captain is a comparatively slight and shallow role, the company of G. I.'s and the Schofield Barracks, where some of the film was shot, gave the drama and the authenticity required.
"From Here to Eternity" is being shown on a wide screen and with Stereophonic sound. It does not need these enhancements. It has scope, power and impact without them.
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, screen play by Daniel Taradash; based on the novel by James Jones; directed by Fred Zinnemann; produced by Buddy Adler for Columbia. At the Capitol.
Sgt. Milton Warden . . . . . Burt Lancaster
Robert E. Lee Prewitt . . . . . Montgomery Clift
Karen Holmes . . . . . Deborah Kerr
Angelo Maggio . . . . . Frank Sinatra
Alma (Lorene) . . . . . Donna Reed
Capt. Dana Holmes . . . . . Philip Ober
Sgt. Leva . . . . . Mickey Shaughnessy
Mazzloli . . . . . Harry Bellaver
Sgt. "Fatso" Judson . . . . . Ernest Borgnine
Sgt. Maylon Stark . . . . . George Reeves
Sgt. Ike Galovitch . . . . . John Dennis
Sgt. Pete Karelsen . . . . . Tim Ryan
Mrs. Kipfer . . . . . Barbara Morrison
Georgette . . . . . Kristine Miller
Annette . . . . . Jean Willes
Sal Anderson . . . . . Merle Travis
Treadwell . . . . . Arthur Keegan
Sgt. Baldy Thom . . . . . Claude Akins
Sgt. Turp Thornhill . . . . . Robert Karnes
Sgt. Henderson . . . . . Robert Wilke
Cpl. Champ Wilson . . . . . Douglas Henderson
Friday Clark . . . . . Don Dubbins
Cpl. Paluso . . . . . John Cason
Capt. Ross . . . . . John Bryant