A winner of eight Oscars, among them that all important one for Best Picture. But it’s probably better known for bringing Sinatra the Oscar for the best performance in a supporting role. Hollywood legend has it that Sinatra got the role (and probably the Oscar as well) because of his Mafia connections. Of course it has often been denied by various the people within the business, but legends are legends because they – like old soldiers – never die.
The film is set in 1941, on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Montgomery Clift plays a bugler and ex-boxer called Prewitt, who is transferred to the Schofield Barracks, Honolulu (where much of the footage was shot); his superior, Captain Holmes happens to be a boxing trainer, and therefore wants him to represent the regiment in an upcoming tournament. Prewitt refuses for personal reasons and is subsequently given a particularly hard time by Holmes and his boxers. A second storyline has a sergeant (Burt Lancaster) falling for his superior’s nymphomaniac wife, Mrs. Holmes (Deborah Kerr).
Joking and legends apart, Sinatra is quite good as the irresponsible tippler Angelo Maggio, but it’s definitely Montgomery Clift who dominates the movie with one of his characteristic performances. Clift, one of the finest actors of his generation, is at his very best here and some others (Lancaster in particular) were nervous to act alongside him. With smaller roles for Ernest Borgnine (as the sadistic sergeant in charge of the prison stockade, who’s responsible for Maggio’s death) and Donna Reed (as the night club princess falling for Prewitt) this is really an actors’ movie.
From Here to Eternity also gave us the iconic beach scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. It wasn’t prepared, but it looked so good that it remained in the movie and would appear on most movie posters. Otherwise their love story feels dated and is certainly not helped by some truly melodramatic moments, such as Kerr explaining her behavior with a distorted Freudian memory of a miscarriage. It's still a good film, dated in spots, but tremendously well acted and over before you know it.