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Saturday Matinee: From Here to Eternity

originally published 4/11/2015

I've just finished the first part of All or Nothing at All; Alex Gibney's extraordinary documentary about Frank Sinatra. It's pretty amazing stuff, unflinching in the look it takes at the life of Ol' Blue Eyes. If you're a fan—I am—and can handle the truth, it's almost as stunning as Gibney's Going Clear about Scientology. 

For me the doc also brought to mind today's Saturday Matinee suggestion: From Here to Eternity based on the novel by James Jones. Frank Sinatra won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Private Angelo Maggio, a role in which Eli Wallich was originally cast.

Here's the lowdown on the 864 page book —yeah, I'm guessing the film left quite a lot out:

Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941.  Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler.  But when he refuses to join the company's boxing team, he gets "the treatment" that may break him or kill him.  First Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he's risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer's wife.  Both Warden and Prewitt are bound by a common bond:  the Army is their heart and blood . . .and, possibly, their death. 
In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier's life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair. . .in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no ther the honor and savagery of men.

From Here to Eternity came out in 1953, was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 8 of them. It was a very good year! Sinatra, who called himself  'a song and dance man' in his acceptance speech, won Best Supporting Actor while Donna Reed won Best Supporting Actress. Anyone else old enough to remember The Donna Reed Show? She was the perfect mom to Shelly Fabares and Peter Paulsen, about 360ยบ from the prostitute she plays in the film. 

The classic 1950's black and white drama took Best Picture, Best Director, as well as the prizes for writing, black & white cinematography, sound recording and editing. What didn't From Here to Eternity win? Both Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift were nominated for Best Actor but, like Richard Burton for The Robe, both men lost out to William Holden in Stalag 17. Deborah Kerr didn't win in the Best Actress category either, the award that year went to Audrey Hepburn for Roman Holiday. The costume design and musical score lost out as well. Still, it won the big one. You can watch From Here to Eternity, Best Picture of 1953, with its iconic sexy beach scene on Amazon, VUDU, and Google-play. Remember; despite the colorized posters, the film was shot and released in black and white.

By the way, Frank Sinatra's recording of the From Here to Eternity theme song didn't even get a nomination

 Saturday Matinee: Movies you can stream right now, to watch today