The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

One of the first Hollywood films to deal with the plight World War II’s returning veterans, this award-winning drama has continued to be as timely as when it first appeared. In fact, it was used to council returning Vietnam veterans in the ’60s. Through the stories of three men—banker Fredric March, drug-store clerk Dana Andrews and real-life disabled veteran Harold Russell—director William Wyler and screenwriter Robert Sherwood capture the face of a generation struggling to rebuild their lives. Helping to keep it timeless are the uncompromising performances, smaller-than-life sets and Gregg Toland’s innovative deep-focus photography. Independent producer Samuel Goldwyn took a lot of chances with this film. He let Wyler shoot the cast with little or no makeup and fought the Production Code Administration to depict positively Andrews’s divorce after a quickie wartime romance. He also released the film with a running time of almost three hours, an unheard of length at the time. But it paid off by winning seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and becoming the biggest hit of the ’40s.

World premiere restoration presented in collaboration with Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Dir. William Wyler

In attendance: Eddie Muller