The Best Years of Our Lives is the Pick of the Week

One of the finest American films of all-time headlines a new week of slim releases.
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If you ask any true film lover and TCM devotee what's one of their favorite movies, they'll probably tell you The Best Years of Our Lives, legendary director William Wyler's still endearing and heartrending 1946 masterpiece, one that continues to garner new fans and admirers (young and old), and a classic that should always remain a standard during Veterans Day.

By some reason you don't know the story, it's about three World War II servicemen: Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), platoon sereant Al Stephenson (Fredric March), and naval petty officer Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) who return home from the war. In their cases, it becomes the "war at home," as they struggle to adjust to civilian life and the internal conflicts with their families and friends (all of who have seemed to start moving on without them). Derry, a war hero, finds himself unable to get a high-paying job and has to restort to working as a soda jerk; Stephenson, a bank executive, gets into trouble for giving loans to veterans, whom he thinks deserve it; and Parrish, who lost both of his hands in the war, has to face his new life and fiancee.

What makes the film still feel fresh, despite being three hours and almost 75 years old, is its heart and empathy for its characters. There are also incredible performances from the entire cast, not just with Andrews, March, and especially Russell. There's also Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Cathy O'Donnell, who portray their roles as the women in the men's lives with dignity, tenderness, humor, and poignancy. The film won a total of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director for Wyler, and Best Actor for March. Russell, for his wonderful performance, became the first and only actor to date, to win two awards for the same character, Best Supporting Actor and an Honorary award for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans". 

As with other Warner Archive releases, the special features are rather slim, but they include a vintage introduction with Mayo, interviews, and theatrical trailer. I wish it would have included its 1949 radio adaptation, which starred Andrews and Janet Waldo, but I guess the folks at Warner couldn't get the rights to it. Despite that, I think that it is a definite must-have for anyone's collection, especially if they love classic films. It's a landmark film that continues to stand the test of time, and rightly so.

Other releases:

The Shop Around the Corner (Warner Archive): Ernst Lubtisch's romantic Christmas classic starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart as bickering co-workers who discover each other to be their secret pen pals while working in a Budapest general store. Read my review.

It Happened on 5th Avenue (Warner Archive): Secret inhabitants of a ritzy Manhattan mansion include an intelligent hobo and a few GI families who set up residence in it, while the wealthy owner is away in Virginia. Except the owner isn't there. He's actually in disguise, and discovering how they (the average people) live.

Akira (4K): The classic and influential 1988 anime, where a bike gang leader tries to save his best friend from a mysterious government project. He battles sinister politicans, anti-goverment activists, and corrupt scientists to get to the Tokyo Olympiad, where the climatic final battle takes place, as he destines to expose all the secrets of the entire experiment.

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