After requesting a transfer, Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is stationed at an army base in Hawaii 1941. There, Officer Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) hears of his boxing reputation and wants him to represent his unit. Robert refuses and tries to hide his haunting past about his time in the ring. In order to break him into boxing again, Holmes makes Robert’s life a living hell and puts him on the most grueling details.
Robert’s friend, free spirited Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), helps him blow off some steam in their free time by taking him to a social club where Robert falls in love with one of the employees (Donna Reed). While there, Angelo gets in fights with ‘Fatso’ Judson (Ernest Borgnine), the stockade Sergeant. When Angelo goes AWOL, Fatso makes sure he’s severely punished, but things go too far.
Behind all of this, Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) starts a romantic relationship with Officer Holmes’ wife, Karen (Deborah Kerr). We learn of her strained marriage filled with tragedy and begin to approve of this affair. As the two become deeper in love, Karen hatches a plan for Milton to become an Officer and be stationed back in the states where she’ll follow after divorcing. It all seems so perfect, until the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.
The film is based on the novel by James Jones, who witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. From Here to Eternity is considered the first of his life’s war experience trilogy, The Thin Red Line and Whistle complete it.
The most memorable scene of this film is when Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr are in the throws of romance in the Hawaiian surf. There is swelling music and the sounds of waves crashing over the two as they embrace. It really pushed to the limit of romantic scenes in the 1950’s. The way Deborah suddenly runs, throws herself on her back in the sand, I feel like today that quick burst of passionate energy and motion would only be replaced with a cheap boob-shot. Burt’s naturally awesome hair is dripping all over, he’s got nothing but those tight little trunks on and he just falls to his knees beside her, surely some prudent mothers urged their daughters to avert their eyes. To this day, the scene still holds it’s merit in sex appeal, simply because it is so iconic and classy.
While From Here to Eternity is not the sort of Oscar winning picture that I personally found in the realm of greatness, it is very good and, in my opinion, the best of the 1953 nominations. The film won the Oscars for screenplay, sound, cinematography, editing, director and picture. Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra also picked up Supportive Acting Oscars. Next time you feel the itch to watch Pearl Harbor, let me suggest From Here to Eternity instead. There’s less mush and more compelling story, even with lines like this:
“Nobody ever kissed me the way you do.”