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A tantalizing war film and landmark in mature-themed entertainment

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach love scene in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

With its unapologetic look at sex, prostitution, adultery, and corruption in the military – all of which were taboo subjects in American films at the time – the massive hit “From Here to Eternity” set a precedent for tackling more mature topics in US films. This masterpiece about a lonely lot of people living in and around an American Army barracks was a major critical and box-office triumph, earning thirteen Academy Award nominations and taking home a record-tying (with “Gone with the Wind”) eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Decades later, the American Film Institute (AFI) named it the 20th Greatest Love Story and the 52nd Greatest American Film of all-time. I remember my mother telling me that this movie was shockingly all about sex, and while it may not shock anymore, its gripping story and stable of mesmerizing performances continue to make it blockbuster movie entertainment at its best.

Soldier Montgomery Clift salutes his Captain in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

“From Here to Eternity” takes place on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and centers around “Private Prewitt” (“Prew”), an unbending career soldier who sticks by his principals. A first bugler in the bugle corp, when he was replaced by an inferior bugler due to favoritism he asked to be transferred. Also a former top middleweight boxer, he quit boxing when he permanently injured someone. The film begins with "Prew's" arrival at the Schofield Barracks in 1941, in the months preceding the bombing of Pearl Harbor. "Captain Holmes", Schofield's regimental boxing coach, requested "Prew" be transferred to there since he needs a top middleweight boxer like "Prew" in order to score a win (and a promotion). But “Prew” refuses to box, and as a consequence, many of the men and officers give him "the treatment", harshly bullying him to coerce him to fight.

Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Monty Clift as soldiers in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

"Prew" is the center around which other storylines emerge, such as the fact that his superior, “First Sergeant Warden” has an affair with "Holmes'" wife "Karen", "Prew" falls for a "hostess" named "Lorene", his buddy "Maggio" keeps getting harassed by a brutal guard nicknamed "Fatso", and then there's also the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At its heart, this war film is a personal saga that presents itself as a thrilling look at complex people and army life.

Montgomery Clift and prostitute Donna Reed in the  classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

“From Here to Eternity” was based on a controversial 1951 novel by James Jones which was said to contain the most swear words of any novel at the time. Stationed at Schofield Barracks during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jones' explicit novel was based around his experiences. In addition to coarse language, the book contained sex, homosexuality, adultery, prostitution, sadism, and violence. It’s also important to note that it was released during the McCarthy Era (which I explain in my “High Noon” post), a time when it was risky to speak ill of the government or its institutions, and the book presented a scathing portrait of the armed forces. Though the novel caused quite a scandal (and was banned in some US libraries), it quickly became an international bestseller and won the 1952 U.S. National Book Award. Because its 861 pages were filled with material banned from US movie screens under the Motion Picture Production Code (see my “Red Dust” post), no one in Hollywood would touch the book, with one exception - Harry Cohn, the president of Columbia Pictures.

Deborah Kerr meets Burt Lancaster in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

Portrait of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn having his cigarette lit
Harry Cohn

Known as a tyrant (to put it mildly) and a gambler, Cohn purchased the film rights for a whopping $85,000 shortly after the novel’s release and the project became known in the industry as “Cohn’s Folly”, for no one thought he could pull it off. He hired screenwriter Daniel Taradash to adapt it into a film, insisting it run no longer than two hours, and Taradash miraculously streamlined it, toned down the sex and violence and removed overt homosexuality and prostitution, all while keeping the spirit of the novel. Pleasantly surprised it wasn’t completely watered-down from his novel, even Jones liked the script and ultimately the movie. Taradash won a Best Screenplay Academy Award for his efforts (his only Oscar win or nomination).

Ernest Borgnine pulls a knife on Frank Sinatra in fight scene in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Taradash insisted that Cohn hire Fred Zinnemann to direct the film. Though Zinnemann had a major hit with the Western “High Noon” (earning a Best Director Oscar nomination), he was primarily thought of as a director of artistic films rather than moneymakers. But Cohn sent Zinnemann the script. Drawn to making movies about outsiders fighting the system, Zinnemann loved it. His masterful direction and desire to always present truth as he sees it turn this film into a tantalizing study of people whose lives are inadvertently changed by war.

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach love scene in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Zinnemann handles the scandalous aspects in a very matter of fact way, giving the film a personal and lifelike feel. One example is the film’s most famous scene, the love scene on the beach between “Warden” and “Karen”. He captures it with a poetic beauty and simplicity that keeps it an intimate and very real love scene. The adulterous pair are lying on the beach in their bathing suits kissing with such passion they are oblivious to the waves crashing over them. Both dripping wet and her hands on his broad muscular shoulders, “Karen” says "I never knew it could be like this. Nobody ever kissed me the way you do”, and he proceeds to quiz her about the countless men she's "kissed". Cutting-edge erotic in 1953 and still hot stuff today. This controversially risqué scene quickly became iconic, and is now among the most famous love scenes in all of cinema.

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach love scene in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

For this scene and the entire film, Zinnemann had to contend with the Motion Picture Production Code headed by devout Irish Catholic Jospeh Breen. As head of the Code Administration, Breen did everything he could to “purify” the silver screen, making sure nothing he deemed immoral would be seen in American films. But by 1953, television was presenting more controversial themes, and to compete, films began to do the same and the Code was slowly loosening its tight grip and “From Here to Eternity” was one of the films at the forefront. While Breen’s power was rapidly diminishing, he did still have influence and one need look no further than the illicit beach scene. For some reason, Breen found the waves covering them objectionable and removed four seconds from the sequence (he was that nit-picky specific). In addition, he insisted that “Karen” wear a skirt over her bathing suit, and so she did (and costume designer Jean Louis earned a Best Costume Design Oscar nomination for the film). It is also interesting to note that Breen retired in 1954, the year this film earned a Best Picture Oscar.

Donna Reed applied makeup with Montgomery Monty Clift watches in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Though hard to grasp today, also daring was the film’s fresh approach to casting, as four of its five stars played against type. Because Zinnemann had such a gift with actors, all five of the film's stars received Academy Award nominations for their performances, and two took home statues. This is not surprising when you look at Zinnemann’s track-record. There were 19 Oscar nominated performances in his 25 feature films, with six Oscar wins. With his instinct for talent, he cast many of cinema’s greatest actors in their first films, including Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, and Rod Steiger.

Bare chested shirtless Montgomery Clift Monty in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Cohn wanted gruff actor Aldo Ray to play “Prew”, but casting was vital to Zinnemann, and he wanted Montgomery Clift. Cohn exploded, saying Clift wasn’t believable as a boxer or bugle player, and was probably homosexual. Zinnemann said he couldn’t do justice to the script if he felt he didn’t have the right cast and if Clift was out, he was out. Cohn sent the script to Clift the next day, who had wanted to play the role since he read the book, and Zinnemann and Clift were both onboard. Zinnemann won his first Best Director Academy Award for "From Here to Eternity", and it made him an A-list director. He earned ten Oscar nominations in his fifty-year career, winning a second Best Director Oscar for 1965's "A Man for All Seasons”. You can read more about Fred Zinnemann in my post on “High Noon”.

Brut Lancaster as Sergeant Warden in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

The one star in “From Here to Eternity” who was cast according to type was top-billed Burt Lancaster who plays “First Sergeant Milton Warden”. A bigger than life movie star known for charisma, confidence, and his imposing athletic physique, he also exuded sex, making him ideal for the part. He brings an authoritative air with underlying compassion – a tough but fair pillar of strength who in his heart, cares about his men and his job. He is superb at being forceful, keeping an intense eye on “Prew”, and having his scenes with “Karen” sizzle with sex. Lancaster even shows tenderness with “Prew”, as he runs his fingers through “Prew’s” hair when the two are drunk (their relationship is certainly homoerotic at times). Lancaster’s work at creating such an intricate character earned him his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination, solidified major star status, and propelled his career into a more mature and varied direction.

Bare chested and shirtless Burt Lancaster in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Burt Lancaster didn’t subscribe to the studio system but managed his career his own way. He chose roles that interested him and early-on began his own production company, producing and often starring in his own films. His good looks, athleticism, charm, and versatility at playing likable and sinister roles made him a major movie star for decades, and it’s is no surprise AFI voted him the #19th Greatest Male American Screen Legend of All-Time. He was one of my favorites as a kid.

Portrait of young sexy Hollywood movie star actor producer Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster

A tough kid from New York City, Burt Lancaster took an early interest in gymnastics. He dropped out of college to join a circus where he performed acrobatics until he was forced to quit after injuring his arm. After working odd jobs trying to figure out what he wanted to do, he served in the US Army during World War II where he performed in USO shows. After the army, by chance a Broadway producer saw him in an elevator and thought he’d be right for a part in his upcoming play, “A Sound Hunting” in 1945. Lancaster was cast, and though short-lived, the show ran long enough for him to be discovered by Hollywood agent Harold Hecht, who thought Lancaster could be a big movie star and told him if he became as big as he thought, they could produce their own films within five years. Hecht had Lancaster sign a nonexclusive contract with producer Hal B. Wallis for two films a year, allowing him to make any additional films he wanted.

Burt Lancaster with gun in battle in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Technically, Lancaster's film debut was in "Desert Fury", but the second film he made, the classic 1946 noir "The Killers”, was his first to be released and instantly made him a star. He played vulnerable tough guys in more films before the decade was out, including "Brute Force" and "I Walk Alone”, and in 1948 he and Hecht formed Norma Productions, producing three films starring Lancaster, including "The Flame and the Arrow" in 1950. Norma Productions was renamed Hecht-Lancaster, and later Hecht-Hill-Lancaster once producer/writer James Hill joined them. Lancaster’s independent production company became the most successful in Hollywood of the era. You can read more about that in my post of their 1955 Best Picture Oscar winner, "Marty".

Burt Lancaster dances with Deborah Kerr in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Handsome sexy portrait of a young movie star Hollywood producer actor Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster

An actor who loved a challenge, Lancaster played a variety roles, often stretching himself in less commercial films while making standard Hollywood fare, including "Sweet Smell of Success", "Come Back, Little Sheba", "The Rose Tattoo", "The Crimson Pirate", and "Separate Tables”. In 1961, he landed a role that fit him like a glove, the title character in "Elmer Gantry", which earned him his only Best Actor Academy Award. He earned two additional Best Actor Oscar nominations for 1962's "Birdman of Alcatraz" and 1980's "Atlantic City”. His other classics include "Vera Cruz”, "Judgement at Nuremberg", "The Swimmer”, “Airport", "The Leopard”, and "Local Hero”. He was in five films directed by John Frankenheimer, (including "The Train” and "Seven Days in May") and seven opposite actor Kirk Douglas (including “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and "The List of Adrian Messenger"). Lancaster's final film was in 1989's "Field of Dreams", followed by several TV appearances, the last being the 1991 miniseries "Separate But Equal” opposite Sidney Poitier. Though a very private person, Lancaster was public with his politics. He stood against the House Un-American Activities Committee, supported and worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, hosted fundraising for Martin Luther King Jr. and marched and spoke at his 1963 March on Washington. Lancaster was married three times, and had five children, all with his second wife. He was a notorious ladies' man, who according to many sources (including his ex-wife) also slept with many men. There were rumors he and "From Here to Eternity" co-star Deborah Kerr had a fling during filming, but Kerr stated that was never the case. Burt Lancaster died in 1994 at the age of 80.

Montgomery Clift Monty with a drink in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Portrait of young handsome movie star Hollywood Method actor Montgomery Monty Clift
Montgomery Clift

Montgomery Clift is sublime as “Prew” (“Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt”), the lone soldier who won’t allow his spirit to be broken. As soon as Zinnemann read the character description “deceptively slim” in Jones’s novel, he knew only Clift had the edge needed to bring this man to life. And through quiet contemplation and fearless emotion, Clift indeed turns “Prew” into a compelling person battling a corrupt system. There’s nothing flamboyant or overdone, just pure honesty. If you watch him you’ll see Clift listen, digest, and react to whatever is around him. It’s truly extraordinary acting. You can see a myriad of nuanced emotion pour from him, as in the speech he gives “Lorene” about boxing. Clift makes acting look effortless. He often improvised or changed lines in his films so they flowed more naturally and fit his character, and feeling “Prew” was rather inarticulate, he cut many of his own lines of dialogue. Clift was a Method actor, and threw himself completely into his roles. To prepare for "Prew", he studied a subtle Kentucky accent, trained with a professional boxer, jogged every day to get into shape, and hunched himself to suggest “Prew’s” shyness. Although that’s not him we hear bugling, Clift spent six months learning to play the bugle to get exact mouth, finger, and breathing movements, and even carried a bugle around with him everywhere he went before filming. Because he had trouble shaking off the role once filming ended, he continued carrying around the bugle for months. Zinnemann had directed Clift in his first film, 1948’s “The Search”, earning Clift his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination. He earned his third (of four Oscar noms) for “From Here to Eternity”. For some reason, Clift hated his performance in this film.

Montgomery Clift blows the bugle while Frank Sinatra watches in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Montgomery Clift had recently become a major star and heartthrob, and was a new breed of actor. He had a naturalness, sensitivity, sadness, and depth of feeling never before seen in a film actor, let alone a leading man. His intensity was known to raise the stakes for any actor who worked with him (Lancaster was said to be worried he’d be “blown off the screen” by Clift), and many actors gave their finest performances appearing alongside him, such as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Olivia de Havilland, and the two Oscar-winning supporting actors in this film. In his autobiography, Ernest Borgnine said of Clift, “He just oozed sincerity in all his scenes, and that really helped me and the other actors get to the top of our game”. Unlike his on and off screen tortured soul image, every close friend of Clift’s I’ve heard speak about him says he was outgoing and lots of fun with a great sense of humor and not anything like the brooding man we see or read about. You can read more about the life and career of Montgomery Clift in several previous posts – “A Place in the Sun”, “The Heiress”, “Red River”, and “The Misfits”. Just click the film titles to read more.

Beautiful Deborah Kerr plays a nymphomaniac in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

Scottish actress Hollywood movie star, young portrait of blonde Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr

Deborah Kerr is another cast member who gives an outstanding performance against type, as "Karen Holmes”, the “Captain’s” sex-starved wife. Having become a major star portraying prim, ladylike, and just about virginal women, playing a woman just shy of a nymphomaniac was quite outside the box for Kerr’s image. But this incredibly talented actress breathes such truthfulness into this fascinating woman that one’s heart almost breaks over her. “Karen” is a woman desperate for love who uses sex to fill the emptiness, and Kerr allows this woman’s emotional turmoil to wash across her face, making for yet another of the film’s fascinatingly intricate characters. Because this film is filled with first-rate performances, every one of these flawed characters come off as lifelike. Kerr’s performance is devoid of insincerity, and her undeniably steamy chemistry with Lancaster is palpable. Kerr earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her fine work in this film.

Deborah Kerr looking sexy in her bathing suit at the beach in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

Zinnemann cast Kerr because he thought that when audiences realized Deborah Kerr was portraying a promiscuous adulterer, they would be glued to the screen. He was right, for her casting alone added depth, mystery, and intrigue. She was glammed-up for the role, looking the sexiest and most sensual of any of her screen appearances (even Marilyn Monroe-like at times), and “From Here to Eternity” forever changed Kerr’s screen image. Like Lancaster, from this point on she was given more varied and complex roles. Offscreen, Kerr was said to be tons of fun with a mouth like a sailor. You can read more about the life and career of this talented Scottish-born actress in my post on Black Narcissus”.

Donna Reed hold the bugle mouthpiece in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

Glamour portrait photo of Hollywood movie and TV star and actress Donna Reed young
Donna Reed

Also previously appearing on this blog cast against type is Donna Reed who plays “Prew’s” love interest “Alma Burke”, aka “Lorene”. In the book “Lorene” was a prostitute working in a brothel, and to get past censors Taradash made her a “hostess” in a “social club”. But 1953 audiences knew “Lorene” was a prostitute, reaffirmed by lines such as when she tells “Prew”, “I’m a girl you met at the New Congress Club. That’s about two steps up from the pavement”, or that her goal in life is to be "proper" with a "proper life". Reed appears in practically every one of her scenes opposite Clift, and when together they hypnotically look at one another and smolder with sex. And her emotional scenes (such as pleading with “Prew” that he not return to his company) are equally arresting. Her touching portrayal earned her a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award (her only Oscar win or nomination).

Donna Reed primps as the prostitute Lorene in the classic movie Oscar winning war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Donna Reed had become a star playing warm hearted good girls, earning herself an image as the quintessential "girl-next-door". After playing these types for over a decade, she wanted something more challenging and fought to get this part. Cohn wanted her in the role (she was under contract to Columbia at the time), but Zinnemann did not. So Zinnemann put Reed through many screen-tests and in the end hired her to appease Cohn (because he won so many battles over Cohn, such as the casting of Clift). As soon as filming began, Zinnemann changed his tune about Reed as she metamorphosed into the role, underplaying, exuding sex, seemingly hardened by life, and with a no-nonsense attitude. It was a Donna Reed no one had ever seen before and it changed her into being looked at as a serious actress. You can read more about the life and career of Donna Reed in my post on her best known classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Frank Sinatra applies talcum powder in his Oscar winning role in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Another unexpected casting choice was Frank Sinatra as “Private Angelo Maggio”. Having made a name for himself as a singer, becoming the idol of Bobby sox wearing teenage females (Bobby soxers) in the 1940s, his movie career to date consisted almost exclusively of singing in musicals. But by 1953, his career was at an all-time low. When he learned about the role of the cocky, scrawny, Italian street kid “Maggio”, he knew this part was made for him and that it could revive his dead career. He hounded Cohn and Zimmerman for the role, but no one was interested in a washed-up singer. At the time, Sinatra was married to movie star Ava Gardner and the two were in Africa while she was filming Columbia Pictures' "Mogambo". She used her influence to get Cohn to consider Sinatra for the role, but Cohn was so uninterested that he forced Sinatra to fly back to Los Angeles and do a screen-test at his own expense to be considered. Sinatra did, and after Cohn and Zinnemann saw the screen-test, Sinatra was cast but with a major salary cut. But it paid off big time.

Frank Sinatra rolls the olives while Donna Reed and Montgomery Clift watch in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

“From Here to Eternity” was Sinatra’s first completely dramatic role and he gives a knockout performance filled with personality and heartbreak, infusing the picked-on “Maggio” with a fascinating inner might. And even though he is drunk in many scenes, Sinatra adds a sadness, showing the unspeakable qualities an actor can bring to a part. It is a beautiful piece of acting all the way through which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, his only competitive win. Nearly all of his scenes are with Clift and the two became very close during filming. Clift coached Sinatra, and Sinatra stated on more than one occasion that Clift taught him more about acting than anyone else ever did. They became drinking buddies, reportedly getting plastered and talking about their lives. Sinatra’s marriage with Gardner was on the rocks, and Clift was a major support. Sinatra even attempted suicide at one point, and Clift visited him in the hospital (with an alcohol filled flask in his pocket) every night.

Montgomery Clift holds a beat up Frank Sinatra in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

The skill of Sinatra’s performance shocked everyone, and this film proved to be his comeback, almost immediately making him a superstar, which he remained for the rest of his life. He would become one of the world’s most influential artists, icons, and legends. His warm and easy crooning voice, precise diction, gift for conveying emotion, and musical genius made him one of the bestselling singers in the world (selling over 150 million records). He’s been called the first pop star, the first superstar, and earned nicknames which include "Chairman of the Board" and "Ol' Blue Eyes”. His complicated off-screen life was clothed in controversy, mystery, divorces, affairs, associations with the Mob, and his giant ego. He was one of the major show business figures of the twentieth century.

Icon, legend, singer, actor, young portrait photo of Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra

New Jersey born Frank Sinatra’s life was dramatic from the moment he was born. The son of two Italian immigrants, his mother had trouble giving birth and the doctor used forceps to pull him from her womb, scarring the left side of Sinatra's face and perforating his left eardrum for life (he later had plastic surgery). Left for dead, everyone focused on his barely conscious mother until someone in the room picked him up, washed him off, and slapped his back and he began breathing. His physical defects (neighborhood kids called him “scarface”) marked him for life. Sinatra’s parents owned a tavern where he would sometimes sing a song for change as a young boy. He had an early interest in music and began singing professionally as a teenager, soon singing for both the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey big bands, and began recording on his own in 1942. Quickly topping the music charts, Sinatra found himself a Bobby sox idol, and he changed popular music from being adult oriented to include a younger generation (his overwhelming success became known as “Sinatramania”). His film career began while he was singing for Tommy Dorsey’s Band, appearing as himself singing with the band in the 1941 musical “Las Vegas Nights”. He continued to appear in a handful of musicals, with his first significant role opposite Gene Kelly in the 1945 musical "Anchors Aweigh". He also appeared that year in a short film about antisemitism, "The House I Live In”, for which he received a Special Academy Award. In 1949 he appeared in two more musicals opposite Kelly, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and the groundbreaking "On the Town".

Legend, icon, singer, actor pensive portrait of Frank Sinatra smoking cigarette
Frank Sinatra

In 1950 Sinatra's career began a nosedive, as the publicist that helped make him an idol unexpectedly died, his singing career began to falter, his public affair with Gardner while married to first wife Nancy damaged his reputation, he suffered a submucosal hemorrhage in his throat, and his concerts were barely making money. By 1952, Columbia Records dropped him, and movie offers dried up. It looked like Sinatra’s career was over. Then came "From Here to Eternity”. It gave him the respect and momentum to rebuild his career. He signed with Capitol Records, working with arranger and conductor Nelson Riddle, recording many of his best known songs (including "I've Got the World on a String", "I Get a Kick Out of You", "They Can't Take That Away from Me", and "I've Got You Under My Skin”), and he remained a top singer from then on. In 1960, Sinatra founded his own record label, Reprise Records, where he recorded a mountain more of hits including "Summer Wind", "Strangers in the Night", and "Something' Stupid". In his career, Sinatra recorded over 1,300 songs, 59 albums, 297 singles, and innumerable hits. He earned nine Grammy Awards from his thirty one nominations.

Drunk Frank Sinatra embraces Donna Reed and Montgomery Clift in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity”

"From Here to Eternity" also revitalized Sinatra's film career, and from then on he steadily appeared in all types of films through the 1960s, including "The List of Adrian Messenger", "The Manchurian Candidate", "High Society", "Von Ryan's Express", "Guys and Dolls", "Some Came Running", "The Detective", and "The Man with the Golden Arm" in 1955, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. In 1970, the Academy awarded him their Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He directed one film, "None by the Brave" in 1965.

Legend, icon, singer, movie star Frank Sinatra in hat and suit
Frank Sinatra

Sinatra and a group of his performer friends (including Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford) became known as the Rat Pack, of which Sinatra was the unofficial leader. They represented a cool, swinging, hedonistic life, and would perform together is Las Vegas, show up at each other's concerts, and work together in films, most famously 1960's"Ocean's 11". The Rat Pack became a large part of Sinatra's public persona. He had Mafia connections, though he publicly denied fraternizing with them and hated being linked to the Mob. Sinatra's godfather was mobster Willie Moretti, he was friends with Bugsy Siegel and had ties with gangsters such as Lucky Luciano and Mickey Cohen. It seems Sinatra used the Mob to help make some career moves, such a breaking contracts. When the best-selling 1969 novel "The Godfather" was published, one of the central characters was a womanizing, heavy drinking past-his-prime singer who turned to the Mafia to get a movie role to revive his career. Many thought it was based on Sinatra and his landing the role in "From Here to Eternity". By all accounts, Sinatra didn’t use the Mob to land the role (just Ava Gardner) and according to "The Godfather" writer Mario Puzo, the character was not based on him. But because the character seemed so similar, Sinatra didn't want the film made and the Mob tried to stop it. "The Godfather" was immediately recognized as one of the greatest films ever made (though Sinatra loathed it). He was married four times, including his marriage to Gardner and actress Mia Farrow. He had three children with his first wife Nancy (singer/actress Nancy, actor Frank Jr., and actress Tina). Frank Sinatra died in 1998 at the age of 82.

Ernest Borgnine is sadistic Fatso in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Hollywood movie and TV star, actor, Ernest Borgnine serious portrait young
Ernest Borgnine

A familiar face to readers is Ernest Borgnine, who paints a fabulous portrait of the sadistic stockade guard, “Staff Sergeant James R. ‘Fatso’ Judson”. “From Here to Eternity” was at the beginning of Borgnine’s career, for he began appearing in TV and film in 1950. This role was by far his most important to date, and it made him the biggest heavy in Hollywood, leading to more A-list films (such as "Vera Cruz" and "Bad Day at Black Rock"). It also introduced him to Lancaster who had a strong voice in casting Borgnine in the first Hecht-Hill-Lancaster film, “Marty” in 1955. That classic earned Borgnine a Best Actor Academy Award changing his life and career. You can read about Ernest Borgnine in two previous posts, “The Poseidon Adventure” and “Marty”. Check them out for more.

Montgomery Clift Monty and Jack Warden walk to basic training in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Hollywood character actor, young portrait photo of Jack Warden
Jack Warden

A quick mention of three well-known actors who make brief appearances in “From Here to Eternity”. The first is Jack Warden, who plays “Corporal Buckley”. He bunks in the bed next to "Prew" and tells him at one point as they walk to training, "I'll help you as much as I can, but I can't get too far out on a limb. I ain't risking losing my stripes”. Warden appeared in 165 films and TV shows and became a very popular character actor of the 1970s and 80s, earning two Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominations (for 1975's "Shampoo" and 1978's "Heaven Can Wait"). "From Here to Eternity" was his first credited film role. Jack Warden died in 2006 at the age of 85.

George Reeves chats with Burt Lancaster in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Portrait photo of young TV and movie star George Reeves Superman
George Reeves

George Reeves makes an uncredited appearance as "Sergeant Maylon Stark", the man who informs “Warden” about "Karen's" lurid past. Classic TV fans will know him as "Superman", from "The Adventures of Superman" (which ran from 1952 to 1958), one of the most popular TV shows in America at the time (second only to "I Love Lucy"). Reeves hoped this film would revive his film career, but it didn't. Sadly, shortly after "The Adventures of Superman" ended, at the age of 45, George Reeves was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head. His death, which has been called suicide, murder, and an accident, remains one of Hollywood's great mysteries. I previously mentioned Reeves in my post on "Gone with the Wind", for he has a minor role in that classic as well.

Shirtless Claude Akins punches a speed bag boxing in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Young portrait photo of TV and movie star actor Claude Akins
Claude Akins

Lastly, I’ll point out Claude Akins who plays “Sergeant ‘Baldy’ Dhom”, one of the regiment’s boxers, appearing briefly in several scenes, including in a close-up of him punching a speed bag in the boxing gym. This prolific actor appeared in over 200 films and TV shows, starting with this uncredited part in "From Here to Eternity". While he appeared in many classic films (including "The Caine Mutiny", "Rio Bravo", "Inherit the Wind", and "The Defiant Ones"), Akins is best known for starring as "Sheriff Lobo" on the TV shows "B.J. and the Bear" and "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo". Claude Akins died in 1994 at the age of 67.

Montgomery Monty Clift as soldier playing the bugle in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

In addition to its Academy Award wins for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay, this film also won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Recording, and Best Film Editing. Along with its nominations for Best Actor (for Lancaster and Clift), Best Actress, and Best Costumes, its music score was also Oscar nominated. “From Here to Eternity” was remade for TV as a miniseries in 1979, starring William Devane and Natalie Wood, and as a short-lived TV series in 1980.

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach love scene in the classic movie film "From Here to Eternity"
“From Here to Eternity”

This week’s classic is an emotional joyride showcasing a deeply fascinating cast of characters. It's solid movie entertainment. Enjoy “From Here to Eternity”!



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TO READ AFTER VIEWING (contains spoilers):

Ernest Borgnine as sadistic stockade guard in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

A fun fact that illustrates the power of movies:

Ernest Borgnine said that for years he was approached by people (including Sinatra’s young son at the time) wanting to beat him up because he was “that guy who killed Frank Sinatra” .

Frank Sinatra appears before Ernest Borgnine at the stockade in the classic movie war film "From Here to Eternity"
"From Here to Eternity"

Zinnemann was partial to filming on location and in order to be allowed to film at Schofield Barracks (where the story was actually set), he made two story concessions as per the military’s demands:

  1. “Captain Holmes” would be punished for his bad behavior. In the book, “Holmes” was promoted to Major, which the military felt gave them a bad image.

  2. The beating and torture of “Maggio” in the stockade by “Fatso” (which was explicit in the book) would not be shown.

They also wanted the ending changed so that “Prew” was shot by the Japanese, but Zinnemann kept faithful to the book’s ending.

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