From Here To Eternity

1953 movie

If you haven’t seen it:

from_here_to_eternity_posterFrom Here to Eternity stars Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr and whats-her-name out of It’s a Wonderful Life. It is set at an army base in Hawaii in 1941, beginning a few days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

Montgomery Clift plays a soldier who incurs the wrath of his commander when, for personal reasons, he stubbornly refuses to join the boxing team. Burt Lancaster plays a sergeant who has a far nicer time rolling round in the sea and sand with the commander’s wife. There are a lot of other familiar faces too.

From Here to Eternity is based on James Jones’s best selling novel of the same name, which was based on Jones’s own war experiences at Pearl Harbor. The movie won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


If you have seen it:

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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.



Boxer Rebellion

From Here to Eternity begins with the arrival of Private Prewitt at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. He has been transferred to “Company G”. Prewitt’s reputation as a talented boxer has preceded him, and before long Captain Holmes is trying to persuade him to join the regiment’s boxing team. The Captain even offers Prewitt a promotion if he helps them win the tournament later that year. Prewitt however, declines. He reveals that he once seriously injured a friend of his during a sparring match, and has vowed that he will never box again. Captain Holmes refuses to take no for an answer, and, at Sergeant Warden’s suggestion, instructs the non-commissioned officers to make Prewitt’s life as difficult as possible until he agrees to box.


Prewitt’s torments begin. At first his only allies are Private Maggio, and Lorene, a nightclub hostess he has met. Eventually though, he wins the respect of Sergeant Warden, and the two become friends.

Sergeant Warden, meanwhile, has begun an affair with Captain Holmes’ neglected wife Karen. Karen wants to leave her husband, but fears that the Captain will be angry and take it out on Warden. She suggests that Warden apply for officer training, so that he is outside of the Captain’s influence. At first Warden agrees, but eventually admits to her that he does not want to be an officer, and Karen sadly ends the affair.

Eventually, the base commander finds out that Holmes is abusing his authority, and forces him to resign. Things are briefly beginning to look better for Prewitt, until he finds his friend Maggio dying. Prewitt seeks out the man responsible, “Fatso” Judson, and kills him. Injured and wanted for murder, Prewitt turns to Lorene for help.


Air Raid Warden

Suddenly, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour begins. Japanese planes drop bombs on the base, and the Americans, caught completely by surprise, do their best to fight them off. Sergeant Warden in particular makes a spirited defence, and leads his men well. Prewitt meanwhile, hears of the attack on the news, and although he is in no condition to fight, he attempts to sneak back into the base to help his comrades, but is shot by a sentry who mistakes him for one of the enemy.


The movie ends with a chance meeting a few days after the attack, between Lorene and Karen, on a ship leaving for the mainland. Both are heartbroken, but they are moving on with their lives. Lorene tells Karen that her fiancé was an air force pilot shot down in the attack; Karen recognizes Prewitt’s name, but she says nothing.


Steve Sunday Says:

Will you please lower your voice, people are staring. This is a nice restaurant and nobody wants to hear us screaming at each other.

Look, I really do not want to get sucked into this argument again.

Why not? Because it is a stupid argument, that’s why not. Nobody with any intelligence thinks “Pearl Harbour” is a better film than “From Here to Eternity”. Let’s just leave it shall we? What do you want for your starter? The scallops are good, I had them last time.

No I wasn’t trying to say that you are stupid, but that is what everyone here will think if they hear you trying to argue that Ben Affleck is has more on-screen presence than Burt Lancaster. Have you decided what you want to order yet? The waitress is coming over.

F*ck the waitress? Don’t tempt me. I cannot believe that you … oh no, everything is fine thanks. My girlfriend is just under the delusion that the bigger a film’s special effects budget is the better it must be. Can we have a few more minutes please? Thanks.

Oh come on! That Frank Sinatra mafia story is just an urban myth and you know it.

For pity’s sake woman, Pearl Harbour was an atrocity! It was the biggest attack on American values since…well…since Pearl Harbour! Have you really forgotten the horrific love triangle? The problem…

Are you going to let me speak or are you just going to screech your ill-informed opinions to everyone in the restaurant. That couple over there are laughing at you by the way!

Oh brilliant! The old throw-the-wine-in-the-boyfriend’s-face-then-storm-out routine. Genius.

Can I have the bill please.


Trivia Trish Says:

  • The phrase “From Here to Eternity” comes from the Rudyard Kipling poem Gentlemen-Rankers, about soldiers of the British Empire who were “damned from here to eternity”.
  • The army were not happy with the original novel’s fierce indictment of it’s system, and would only allow filming to take place at Schofield Barracks if major concessions were made. The brothel of the novel became a night club, the prostitutes became hostesses. Most notably, in the movie Captain Holmes is removed from the army, but in the novel he was promoted to Major. The novelist James Jones was not happy with the film, as he considered it to be too sanitized.
  • The film was a box office hit, the tenth highest grossing film of the 1950s.
  • from-here-to-eternity-door

    He was so surprised to see him, his hat flew clean off.

    There is an often repeated story regarding the casting of Frank Sinatra – it was suggested that the Mafia forced Columbia Pictures to cast him. This episode was fictionalized in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather (involving a horse head in a bed) and its subsequent film adaptation. Most people now accept though, that the story is most probably not true, and that in fact Sinatra begged Colombia for the part, and ended up doing it for a nominal salary hoping it would revive his flagging career, which it did.

  • Ernest Borgnine was a struggling actor when he got the part of Fatso Judson.  When he reported to the studio for filming he was told to get a haircut, so he went to the local barbers. However, when he returned he was told it was still not short enough, and he was sent back. This happened nine times, and Borgnine had to pay for nine haircuts he could not afford.  Eventually he went to the studio to ask to be reimbursed, and was told he should have gone to the makeup department and had them do it.  Years later, when he was a bigger star, he did manage to get Columbia to reimburse him as part of his fee for a different movie.
  • In the scene where Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift are sitting on the street drunk, Clift actually was drunk. Lancaster was not.
  • Montgomery Clift learned to play the bugle for the movie, even though he knew he would be dubbed. He also took boxing lessons but found he could not move like a boxer and had to be doubled by a real boxer for the long shots in the boxing match.
  • Three years after From Here to Eternity Montgomery Clift crashed his car into a telephone pole after leaving a Beverly Hills party. The accident left him disfigured and addicted to pills and alcohol. His health deteriorated, and he died of heart failure in 1966 aged 45.

This scene in the movie is believed to have inspired Gordon Ramsay’s entire career.

Main Cast and Crew:

Burt Lancaster as Sgt. Milton Warden
Montgomery Clift as Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt
Deborah Kerr as Karen Holmes
Donna Reed as Alma ‘Lorene’ Burke
Frank Sinatra as Pvt. Angelo Maggio
Ernest Borgnine as Fatso Judson.
Directed by Fred Zinnemann

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