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.

White Heat

  • Directors: Raoul Walsh
  • Producers: Louis F Edelman
  • Writers: Virginia Kellogg, Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
  • Genres: Action, Crime, Film-Noir
  • Actors: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O Brien

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) is the ruthless, deranged leader of a criminal gang. Although married to Verna (Virginia Mayo), Jarrett is overly attached to his equally crooked and determined mother, ‘Ma’ Jarrett (Margaret Wycherly), his only real confidante. When he has one of his splitting headaches, she consoles him, sits him on her lap and gives him a whiskey with the toast, “Top of the world.” It is revealed that Jarrett’s father died in an insane asylum.

Jarrett and his gang rob a train, resulting in the deaths of four members of the train crew and one of Jarrett’s accomplices, Zuckie (Ford Rainey). With the help of informants, the police soon close in and Jarrett shoots and injures US Treasury investigator Philip Evans (John Archer). Jarrett then confesses to a lesser crime, which was committed by an associate at the same time as the train robbery, thus providing Jarrett with an alibi. He is sentenced to one to three years.

Evans is not fooled. He plants undercover agent Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) in Jarrett’s cell; Fallon goes by the name Vic Pardo. His main task is to find the “Trader”, a fence who launders stolen money for Jarrett.

Jarrett’s henchmen are shot by the police or by Jarrett himself when they try to give themselves up. Jarrett then flees to the top of a gigantic gas storage tank. When Fallon shoots Jarrett several times with a rifle, Jarrett starts firing into the tank and shouts, “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” just before it goes up in a massive explosion.