Monday, December 7, 2009

From Here to Eternity

Day 341 - 12/7/09 - Movie #341

BEFORE: See, there IS a method to my madness. Today is Pearl Harbor Day (a day which will live in infamy...) and I've already seen the movie "Pearl Harbor" - so I'll watch this classic film, set in Hawaii in the months leading up to the 1941 attack. One of the premium movie channels is running this film today also - so I guess great minds think alike.

THE PLOT: In 1941 Hawaii, a private is cruelly punished for not boxing on his unit's team, while his captain's wife and second in command are falling in love.

AFTER: See, now Pearl Harbor makes sense - the company captain was so busy putting his boxing team together, that nobody was watching out for those Japanese planes...

All I really knew about this film was that Frank Sinatra won a Best Supporting Oscar for it, and of course that infamous beach scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Karr kissing in the surf. But now I have a context around those two things...

Montgomery Clift stars as Private Prewitt, who's been transferred to a new base since they're in need of a middleweight boxer - but he refuses to fight since injuring an opponent months ago. So the officers set out to make his life miserable with extra drills and duties until he agrees to box. Meanwhile, Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster) begins an affair with the company commander's wife, leading to that famous beach scene. And Pvt. Maggio (Sinatra) has some barroom altercations with the sergeant who runs the stockade - gee, I hope that doesn't come back to haunt him later on...

It's funny to see the double-standard in the 1940's - a military man having an affair is acceptable, but if his wife has the affair - it's a scandal. It's also funny how unimportant everything else is once those planes come over the horizon.

There's a moment in the film where Burt Lancaster is on a phone call, and leans against the wall, which contains a large calendar showing the date December 6, 1941. This is the equivalent of showing a desperate person racing for an ocean liner - and pulling back to reveal that the ship is the Titanic...

Another moment that struck me was when a munitions officer wouldn't dispense any ammunition without a signed order from the company commander - even though Japanese planes were strafing the base. This is a great metaphor for the film's blanket question - what makes a good soldier? Is it blind obedience to regulations and one's superiors, or could there be a better way to measure it?

Co-starring Ernest Borgnine (a real Navy vet, and I don't mean "McHale's Navy"), a young(ish) Jack Warden, and Claude Akins.

RATING: 6 out of 10 Hawaiian shirts

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