From Here to Eternity (1953)

118 mins | Melodrama | September 1953

Director:

Fred Zinnemann

Writer:

Daniel Taradash

Producer:

Buddy Adler

Cinematographer:

Burnett Guffey

Editor:

William Lyon

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

First-time author James Jones took the title for his novel From Here to Eternity from a line of the "Whiffenpoof Song" whose lyrics were inspired, in part, by a Rudyard Kipling poem entitled "Gentlemen-Rankers," published in his Barrack-Room Ballads (1892). The song's lyric reads, "Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree, Damned from here to Eternity, God ha' mercy on such as we, Baa! Yah! Baa!" According to an article in the NYT Book Review , before the novel's publication, every Hollywood studio turned down the opportunity to purchase Jones's graphic portrayal of peace-time Army life. The article also states that Columbia purchased the novel within a week after its release for $85,000. A 5 Mar 1951 DV news item announced that the film would star Broderick Crawford, Glenn Ford and John Derek. A later HR news item noted that Montgomery Clift was the first major star hired for the film.
       Although an LAEx article stated that author Jones would not be working on the film adaptation, a late Mar 1951 news item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column mentioned that he was working on the screenplay. An Apr 1951 HR news item indicated that Jones would write the screenplay and S. Sylvan Simon would produce and direct. Simon died on 18 May 1951 and his contribution to the production, if any, has not been determined. Later HR news items announced that director Vincent Sherman would be assigned to the film and that studio head Harry Cohn would produce the picture.
       The following casting and pre-production information was gathered from a modern ... More Less

First-time author James Jones took the title for his novel From Here to Eternity from a line of the "Whiffenpoof Song" whose lyrics were inspired, in part, by a Rudyard Kipling poem entitled "Gentlemen-Rankers," published in his Barrack-Room Ballads (1892). The song's lyric reads, "Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree, Damned from here to Eternity, God ha' mercy on such as we, Baa! Yah! Baa!" According to an article in the NYT Book Review , before the novel's publication, every Hollywood studio turned down the opportunity to purchase Jones's graphic portrayal of peace-time Army life. The article also states that Columbia purchased the novel within a week after its release for $85,000. A 5 Mar 1951 DV news item announced that the film would star Broderick Crawford, Glenn Ford and John Derek. A later HR news item noted that Montgomery Clift was the first major star hired for the film.
       Although an LAEx article stated that author Jones would not be working on the film adaptation, a late Mar 1951 news item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column mentioned that he was working on the screenplay. An Apr 1951 HR news item indicated that Jones would write the screenplay and S. Sylvan Simon would produce and direct. Simon died on 18 May 1951 and his contribution to the production, if any, has not been determined. Later HR news items announced that director Vincent Sherman would be assigned to the film and that studio head Harry Cohn would produce the picture.
       The following casting and pre-production information was gathered from a modern interview with writer Daniel Taradash located at the AMPAS Library: producer Buddy Adler always intended to cast Burt Lancaster as "Sgt. Milton Warden" and a deal was struck with Hal Wallis and Paramount to borrow Lancaster for $150,000. Cohn wanted Aldo Ray for "Robert E. Lee Prewitt" and tested him with contract player Donna Reed, which brought her to attention for the role of "Alma." Until then, only Roberta Haines had been under consideration for the role. Taradash also stated that Joan Crawford was greatly interested in the role of Karen and had serious discussions with director Fred Zinnemann, but her demands for certain cameramen and makeup artists discouraged Columbia from pursuing her further.
       Deborah Kerr's agent suggested her the part of Karen, and the filmmakers considered the casting of Kerr, who was primarily known for playing cool, sophisticated roles, to be unusual enough to be successful. Eli Wallach was the preferred candidate for the role of "Angelo Maggio," but despite a powerful screen test, Wallach's demand for twice the standard fee eliminated him from the running. Frank Sinatra petitioned strenuously for the part of Maggio and the filmmakers agreed that Sinatra's skinny build projected a particular helplessness that secured him the part. Sinatra's flagging film and singing career was revitalized by the great success of the film and his subsequent Academy Award.
       At Cohn's insistence, Taradash brought the unwieldly 800 plus page novel down to a 150 page screenplay. A myriad of characters and relationships were dropped, as well as taboo incidents of excessive brutality, homosexuality and suicide. Other changes included deleting Prew's three-month stint in the stockade and having Karen leave Holmes permanently. The greatest change, however, concerned Maggio, who does not die, but endures near sadistic physical abuse to convincingly feign insanity to receive a "section 8" court martial and Dishonorable Discharge.
       According to information on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen office expressed concerns about Warden and Karen's adulterous relationship, yet the filmmakers altered very little of the portrayal. Many other recommendations from the PCA, mostly concerning sexual situations, were flatly ignored, but the script, to which Zinnemann adhered, nevertheless received PCA approval before filming and an MPAA certificate after completion. According to Var and HR news items, after its release, the film was banned by the Navy from being shown on ships and shore installations for being "derogatory to a sister service." The Army, however, approved the film for camp screenings and the Catholic Legion of Decency gave the film a "B" rating rather than condemning it.
       In a Dec 1953 letter in the Fred Zinnemann collection in the AMPAS Library, Zinnemann wrote Cohn expressing anxiety over the film's European release, which he feared would be affected by the volatile worldwide political situation. Zinnemann wrote, "The anti-American feeling is very strong and very widespread and it seems quite clear that the Communists are prepared to exploit any item they can get hold of in order to increase hostility to America." The letter continues, in part, "In this situation, with world shaking decisions in the making, it would seem to me a frightful blunder to release From Here to Eternity in any country--whether Europe or Asia--which has a large body of opposition to the United States....I was so concerned about all this that ...the idea of [of attaching] a foreward [to the film] which would state, without apologizing, that our film deals with pre-war America...is urgently necessary..." Cohn responded immediatly, admitting he knew very little of efforts by foreign countries opposed to the United States to use American motion pictures as propaganda. He also noted, "You doubtless know that in the foreign countries where "Eternity" has opened, the business has been very big." There is no indication that any further action was taken regarding Zinnemann's recommendations.
       The film was filmed partially on location on the island of Oahu at Schofield Barracks. The scene on the beach in which Warden and Karen kiss in the sand as waves crash over them has become one of the most recognizable film moments in popular culture.
       From Here to Eternity went on to win a Best Picture Academy Award, as well as awards for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Sound Recording and Best Film Editing. The film received two nominations for Best Actor (for Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster), and nominations for Best Scoring and Best Costume Design. In May 1953, Sinatra recorded a song entitled "From Here to Eternity," with words by Robert Wells and music by Fred Karger, "inspired" by the movie's score, but which had no other connection to the film.
       Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent (1927--) made his motion picture debut in the film as "Nair." The CBCS listed him as "Al Sargent;" this may have been his only acting role. A news item in LAT in Mar 1954 revealed that a Brooklyn postal clerk, Angelo Maggio, who had served with James Jones in the Army in Hawaii, filed a criminal action suit against Columbia, Jones and Charles Scribner & Sons publishing house, claiming the use of his name in the book and the film had made him the subject of ridicule. The disposition of the suit has not been determined.
       In Feb 1979, a made-for-television, three-part mini-series was broacast on NBC, starring William Devane as Warden, Natalie Wood as Karen and Kim Basinger as Alma. The telefilm inspired a short-lived series that ran on NBC from Mar to Aug 1980, with Barbara Hershey replacing Wood. The scene in which George Reeves as "Sgt. Maylon Stark," appeared with Lancaster was included in Allen Coulter's 2006 Focus Features release Hollywoodland , but digitally altered to replace Reeves with Ben Afleck, who portrayed Reeves in the 2006 film inspired by the actor's 1959 death. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Aug 1953.
---
Box Office
8 Aug 1953.
---
Daily Variety
5 Mar 1951.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jul 53
p. 3.
Daily Variety
31 Aug 1953.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1954.
---
Film Daily
29 Jul 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
26 Mar 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1953
p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Mar 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Jun 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Aug 53
p. 1933.
New York Times
10 May 53
sec. VII, p. 8.
New York Times
6 Aug 53
p. 16.
NYT Book Review
25 Mar 1951.
---
Variety
29 Jul 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
Background mus
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel From Here to Eternity by James Jones (New York, 1951).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Taps" by Daniel O. Butterfield
"Chattanooga Choo Choo," music by Harry Warren.
SONGS
"Re-enlistment Blues," words and music by James Jones, Fred Karger and Robert Wells.
DETAILS
Release Date:
September 1953
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 August 1953
Production Date:
7 March--5 May 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 September 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2899
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
118
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16582
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1941 on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt arrives at Schofield Barracks, to which he has voluntarily transferred after quitting the Bugle Corp upon being replaced as First Bugler. Prew reunites with his good friend, Pvt. Angelo Maggio, before meeting with G Company commander and Regimental boxing head, Capt. Dana Holmes. Holmes, aware of Prew's success as an Army boxer, pressures him to join the company boxing club, but Prew steadfastly refuses. Later, Holmes's adjutant, Sgt. Milton Warden, cautions Prew against opposing Holmes, but Prew stubbornly declines to box. Later, Warden sees Holmes's attractive wife Karen visiting the post and learns of her "reputation" from another non-commissioned officer. Upon discovering that Prew refuses to box, the other soldiers in the boxing club harass him relentlessly with Holmes's approval. Maggio protests, only to be disciplined as well. One afternoon, Warden visits Holmes's cottage on a pretext of Army business, knowing that Holmes is out. Karen initially rebuffs Warden's romantic overtures, but soon gives in to his directness. On pay day, Maggio and Prew visit the New Congress Club, where Prew meets a club hostess, Lorene. A drunken Maggio riles "Fatso" Judson, sergeant of the stockade, but Prew prevents a fight between them. Prew later confides in Lorene that he refuses to box because he once blinded a friend while sparring. Meanwhile Warden, who has met Karen for a romantic late afternoon swim in the ocean, angers her by callously condemning her immoral behaviour. Hurt, she reveals that she discovered Holmes's infideltiy soon after their marriage and because of his drunken negligence she miscarried their child ... +


In 1941 on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt arrives at Schofield Barracks, to which he has voluntarily transferred after quitting the Bugle Corp upon being replaced as First Bugler. Prew reunites with his good friend, Pvt. Angelo Maggio, before meeting with G Company commander and Regimental boxing head, Capt. Dana Holmes. Holmes, aware of Prew's success as an Army boxer, pressures him to join the company boxing club, but Prew steadfastly refuses. Later, Holmes's adjutant, Sgt. Milton Warden, cautions Prew against opposing Holmes, but Prew stubbornly declines to box. Later, Warden sees Holmes's attractive wife Karen visiting the post and learns of her "reputation" from another non-commissioned officer. Upon discovering that Prew refuses to box, the other soldiers in the boxing club harass him relentlessly with Holmes's approval. Maggio protests, only to be disciplined as well. One afternoon, Warden visits Holmes's cottage on a pretext of Army business, knowing that Holmes is out. Karen initially rebuffs Warden's romantic overtures, but soon gives in to his directness. On pay day, Maggio and Prew visit the New Congress Club, where Prew meets a club hostess, Lorene. A drunken Maggio riles "Fatso" Judson, sergeant of the stockade, but Prew prevents a fight between them. Prew later confides in Lorene that he refuses to box because he once blinded a friend while sparring. Meanwhile Warden, who has met Karen for a romantic late afternoon swim in the ocean, angers her by callously condemning her immoral behaviour. Hurt, she reveals that she discovered Holmes's infideltiy soon after their marriage and because of his drunken negligence she miscarried their child and was left incapable of bearing more children. Shocked, Warden apologizes. As the weeks pass, Prew's continued refusal to fight infuriates Holmes, who would like to court-martial him, but Warden convinces him to apply "the treatment," grueling physical punishment in the guise of extra duty. Prew endures the treatment without protest, assuring Maggio he will never give in. One evening at Choy's bar, after Prew surprises the men by demonstrating his skill with the bugle, Warden breaks up another tense confrontation between Maggio and Fatso. Despite Lorene's bewilderment over Prew's tolerance of the treatment, they continue to see each other. She soon confesses that her real name is Alma and gives him the key to her cottage. Soon after, Maggio, angered at being assigned guard duty, goes AWOL and, after being arrested by MPs, is court-martialed and sentenced to six months in the stockade. Meanwhile, Karen encourages Warden to apply for promotion, explaining that as an officer, Warden could be shipped stateside where they could marry after she divorces Holmes. Uneasy, Warden tentatively agrees. Prew proposes to Alma, but she scoffs at him for being an Army "thirty-year-man" and declares her determination to marry well to achieve the social acceptability she craves back in the States. Prew then discovers that Maggio has been placed in solitary confinement as punishment for several escape attempts and has received severe beatings from Fatso. Later, acting on orders from Holmes, Sgt. Ike Galovitch, head of the boxing team, forces Prew into fighting one afternoon, quickly drawing a crowd who cheer Prew on. That night as Prew and Warden sit drunkenly on a camp road, Maggio, severely battered, stumbles out of the woods. Collapsing into Prew's arms, he describes Fatso's brutal abuse and dies, content to have escaped the stockade. On his next free day, Prew searches town for Fatso and knifes him to death in an alley behind Choy's. Seriously wounded, Prew staggers to Alma's for help and remains there for several days. Hearing of Fatso's murder, Warden carries Prew on the active list as long as possible. The camp commander, Gen. Slater, who has investigated the fight between Prew and Galovitch, accuses Holmes of applying illegal measures against a soldier and informs him he must either resign or be court-martialed. Holmes then resigns in disgrace. Karen later tells Warden that Holmes has asked her to return stateside with him and inquires about Warden's commission. When Warden admits he has not submitted the request because he cannot accept being an officer, Karen sadly breaks off their relationship and returns to her husband. The next morning, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Prew, still weak, hears of the attack over the radio, and is determined to return to Schofield despite Alma's hysterical protests. Under the cover of night, Prew attempts to slip back into camp, but is shot by a guard. A few days later, sailing on one of the first evacuation ships, Karen meets Alma, who tells her that her fiancé was a pilot, who died bravely during the attack. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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