This first-rate, compelling drama about army life in Hawaii on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor comes across with power and passion, thanks to sterling performances and taut direction. Heavy on sex, soap opera and sentimentality, the movie took the public by storm.
Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, and Deborah Kerr head the cast, but the supporting performances of Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed highlight the film.
Sinatra, who had alienated fans with an adulterous affair with Ava Gardner, had also blown his voice out courtesy of a vocal cord haemorrhage. He had subsequently been dropped by his record label and his talent agency and was widely considered to be washed up.
This role – which he took for a measly salary of $8,000 a week – completely turned his career around. Sinatra channelled three years of defeat and despair into a career-saving performance that culminated in Montgomery Clift’s arms and Variety declared his Oscar win the greatest comeback in showbiz history.
The usually lady-like Deborah Kerr became an overnight sex symbol thanks to the notorious beach scene with Lancaster. US censors banned the use of still images from the scene in the promotion of the film and also cut four seconds of the footage, reputedly because of the suggestive white foam covering their bodies from the crashing waves.
Shot with almost documentary realism, the film was a huge success and received Academy Awards in 1953 for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Reed), Screenplay, and Cinematography.
Contrary to the Godfather (1972) horse’s-head-in-a-bed myth, studio chief Harry Cohn cast Sinatra at his wife Joan’s insistence.
First Sgt Milt Warden
Robert E ‘Prew’ Prewitt