“The Best Years of Our Lives”

October 19, 2023 • 1:30 pm

This is one of the best American movies ever made, and it’s free—in its entirety—on YouTube. Here’s the Wikipedia summary:

The Best Years of Our Lives (also known as Glory for Me and Home Again) is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna LoyFredric MarchDana AndrewsTeresa WrightVirginia Mayo and Harold Russell. The film is about three United States servicemen re-adjusting to societal changes and civilian life after coming home from World War II. The three men come from different services with different ranks that do not correspond with their civilian social class backgrounds.

The film was a critical and commercial success. It won seven Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Fredric March), Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell), Best Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert E. Sherwood), and Best Original Score (Hugo Friedhofer).

In addition, Russell was also awarded an honorary Academy Award, the only time in history that two such awards were given for a single performance.

It was the highest-grossing film in both the United States and United Kingdom since the release of Gone with the Wind, and is the sixth most-attended film of all time in the United Kingdom, with over 20 million tickets sold.

In 1989, The Best Years of Our Lives was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Here are the Rotten Tomatoes ratings (click to read):

It’s a superb film and it’s free. It’s almost three hours long, so if you have the time, get some popcorn and kick back to watch. (Note: it’s in black and white.)


14 thoughts on ““The Best Years of Our Lives”

  1. I won’t quibble with you about the merits of “The Best Years of Our Lives” or the choice of Fredric March for best actor, but I have to say that I think Jimmy Stewart, who was also nominated that year for “It’s A Wonderful Life,” would have been at least as good a choice, as would the movie itself, which was up for best picture.

  2. I’ve been wondering about Fredric March’s character, and how it was perceived in 1946 when the movie opened. Famously he imbibes a bit too much in drink, which is a direct result of his war experiences. My question – was this characteristic seen more as humorous, or more as pathetic? Today we see this as self-medication related to a trauma; I wonder what the other vets thought in ’46.
    BTW, I’ve read that the Academy didn’t expect Russel to win, hence the special award. But as mentioned, he did win and took home two awards for one performance.

  3. Like you Jerry, my Dad was also a WWII veteran who, I believe, experienced combat. I was born in ’55 and he died in ’79 when I was 24 years old. He never spoke to me about his experiences, and I probably wouldn’t have cared much (at my age then) if he did. I love TBYOOL because it gives me insight into how it may have been for him when he came home.

    A great film from an African-American perspective is Mudbound, available on Netflix.

  4. I just watched it. I loved the fact that it was set in what was then the present, 1946. Looking at it now is like time travel, seeing what the everyday world looked like back then, transparently, since this wasn’t a staged period piece. All those junked airplanes!!! All those simple almost handwritten business signs on the sidewalk. Empty roads! Elm trees in the city. Cute language. So interesting.

  5. I watched it for the first time and enjoyed it. Early on I had to pause and rewind the scene where the B-17 ferrying the 3 vets flew over a stadium that was identified as a high school stadium. In fact the football stadium in the scene was the Xavier University football stadium in Cincinnati. I grew up a short distance away from that stadium, and used to charge 25 cents for fans to park in our driveway. The stadium has long since been torn down (Xavier dropped football in 1977, I think). In another scene you can see the water tower in Eden Park in the distance, along with a few other Cincinnati landmarks I recognised.

  6. With my wife last night I took the advice of watching “The Best Years of Our Lives.” (We watched it on Amazon Prime rather than on YouTube to avoid being interrupted by any commercials.)

    Despite its relatively slow pace, both my wife and I remained fascinated throughout the nearly 3-hour movie. It seemed almost like a documentary of the time period, with relatively decent people trying to do the right thing, sometimes in stressful situations. (We imagined our respective parents somewhere off-screen, not much before we were born.)

    However, one of the most sympathetic characters failed dramatically in an episode at the soda fountain, when he resorted to physical violence after hearing political opinions that he (and I) found reprehensible.

    The scene of violence is shown in 5 quick steps, beginning when the disabled character of Homer — from behind — put a prosthetic “hook” on the shoulder of the passive opinionated person, quickly moving the hook to the front of the person’s shoulder (1). Then he thumps several times on the chest of this person (2). Then he forcibly removes a cloisonné flag pin from the lapel of the person (3). Then he actually attacks the person with the intention to physically harm (4).

    This brings the character of Fred into the fray, when Fred punches the person and knocks him onto a glass display case, which splinters and collapses under the falling person (5).

    I thought this 4-minute episode was certainly dramatic but unfortunate, as it suggests that physical violence against an opinion or idea is justified.

    Although Fred pays for his violence by losing (giving up) his job, the scene is presented as noble — a compatriot veteran coming to the defense of his disabled friend, right or wrong. Fred is not charged with assault, and his job is, anyway, considered shit, not respecting his innate abilities.

    And Homer — the instigator of physical violence — suffers no apparent consequences.

    The episode begins at about the 2:13:00 mark (on Prime)

    1. I should also note that the opinionated person never physically launches a return attack or punch — he only tries to deflect physical attacks against himself.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *