The Best Years of Our Lives

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Samuel Goldwyn
  • Writers: Screenplay, Robert E Sherwood, Story, MacKinlay Kantor
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, War
  • Actors: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo

After World War II, demobilized servicemen Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) and Al Stephenson (Frederic March) meet while hitching a ride home in a bomber to Boone City, a fictional Midwestern city, patterned after Cincinnati, Ohio.[1] Fred was a highly decorated Army Air Forces captain and bombardier with the Eighth Air Force in Europe, who still suffers from nightmares of combat. Homer had been in the Navy, losing both of his hands from burns suffered when his aircraft carrier was sunk. For replacements, he has mechanical hook prostheses. Al served as an infantry sergeant in the 25th Infantry Division, fighting in the Pacific.

Prior to the war, Al had worked as a bank executive and loan officer for the Corn Belt Savings and Loan bank in Boone City. A mature man with a loving family, his patient wife Milly (Myrna Loy), adult daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright) and college freshman son Rob; he nevertheless has trouble readjusting to civilian life, as do his two chance acquaintances.

The bank, anticipating an increase in loans to returning war veterans, promotes Al to Vice President in charge of the small loan department because of his war experience. However, after he approves a chancy loan to a veteran, Al’s boss Mr. Milton (Ray Collins) advises him not to gamble on further loans without collateral. At his welcome-home dinner, a slightly-drunk Al gives a stirring speech, acknowledging that people will think that the bank is gambling with the shareholders’ money if he has his way, “And they’ll be right; we’ll be gambling on the future of this country!” Mr. Milton applauds his sentiments, but Al remarks later, “He’ll back me up wholeheartedly until the next time I help some little guy, then I’ll have to fight it out again.”

A now-divorced Fred meets Peggy at Homer and Wilma’s wedding. After the ceremony, Fred approaches Peggy and holds her, telling her that their life together will be a hard struggle, that they’d be “kicked around.” She is unfazed; they smile and kiss.

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