329--Week 11 Questions/Comments

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1 Movie as source about the mid-1940s US (What did it get right? What did it get wrong?)

a Right:

Homer's sense of helplessness because he lost both of his hands in the war felt extremely real to me. The fact that the independence he had with his hands is tied to his masculinity is a reality for men then and now. Dependence is a feminine trait, not a masculine trait. -Lauren

The hopelessness was something I definitely noticed. Much akin to the panic felt by Joe in Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, it seemed like all three men were realizing at several junctures throughout the story that they wanted to be anywhere other than back home. The other thing that really struck me about this movie is that you could put the story into any time period and have it remain relevant. The struggles, fears and anger felt by the three soldiers are all still felt by the soldier's returning from Iraq. Everyone is afraid in the same language. --Cash Nelson

You can see the Post Traumatic Stress with Fred's nightmares. He seems fine for the most part but has repeated nightmares. And you can see that Al has become an alcoholic since returning home. The three men seem to be experience many of the problems that soldiers typically faced upon returning.-- Kellye Sorber

I thought the movie did a good job showing the different ways different soldiers reacted to returning home. Al who came back as an alcoholic but got a job probably equivilant to the one he would of had if he never left. Fred who has nightmares and comes home thinking he's a hot shot but then can't find a job or at least a job he wants. Homer who is diabled but doesn't want anyone to look at him differently but the real problem is the way he views himself. - Christine W.

The movie also showed how not all marriages survived the war. Many soldiers came home to find their families very different from when they had left. Fred's wife Marie is so upset with how different he has become that their marriage ends in divorce. Did many soldiers, like Homer, return home to girlfriends and were able to keep the relationship going? How many worked out nicely in the end? -- Kellye Sorber

Kellye, 31% of all marriages existing in the US in 1946 ended in divorce that year. This would have been due to a variety of causes, primarily from the readjusting to family or friends. People can change a lot in three years, and remember there were quick marriages like Fred's before deployment, women becoming independent, veterans having mental problems, but also the new marriages like Homer coming home to marry his girl, though I don't know numbers for that, and, of course, the baby boom. I think this film pretty well represents different marriage situations resulting from war. Al kept his marriage and loved his family, but now he drank more. However, I believe that his wife Milly still being the sweetest, most selfless person in the movie is just that image of the ideal wife to a returning husband. -Whitney Holcomb

According to what we learned in class, the film did a good job showing what returning servicemen had to deal with, in both relationships and in terms of getting back on their feet financially, and I'm glad to be seeing this after the lecture. Most particularly, we see about the provisions in the GI bill for loans, including the 50% explanation, and what that means for men like Mr. Novak; the 52/20 that Homer was able to benefit from; and also the Selective Service Act provision for men to get their old jobs back, with how that works for Al but doesn't help Fred much. One key thing that we can get from this is how the legislation passed in anticipation of after the war was able to benefit some veterans more than others, in different ways, depending on their situations, their readjustments to family life, their dreams, and their past experiences. -Whitney Holcomb

I liked the way the movie adds little factual tidbits throughout the movie. The instance of Fred going back to the place he worked and being told that he couldn't just get his job back because the Selective Service act technicality that if the business changed ownership he was excluded was a good example of the nice little historical touches in this movie. - Jonathan Bell

We didn't discuss this in class, but the I think it was common for soldiers fighting in Japan to take items such as samurai swords as souvenirs, like what Al brought home. I interviewed my great-uncle, about his WWII experiences for my oral history project, and he talked about souvenirs he got from Japan, including a samurai sword, which he still has. ~Katherine Stinson~

The women represented in the film were all very independent. I felt that this was accurate to the time because they were forced to be autonomous while their men were away. This can be demonstrated in Marie taking a job at the nightclub, etc. In addition - the film portrayed how the workforce had moved on without the soldiers. There were several grumbles about jobs not being safe due to the returning veterans, and it was obviously a source of tension for both sides of the conflict. Finally, in regards to war time production - the scene where they fly in and see all the unused airplanes that will be scrapped is pretty accurate as well. - Elle W.

The movie does well at showing what soldiers returning from overseas had to face when they came back home. Freddy comes home to learn that his wife has found a new job and moved in with herself, Mr. Stevenson(AL) finds that he is entitled to an even better job (unlike Fred) and Homer faces the tough task of adjusting to life in general with artificial hands. Although it may seem that Homer faces the most psychological challenges, Freddy also faces challenges of confronting his past, as war memories seem to haunt him sporadically throughout the movie. The wives of the soldiers also seem to be portrayed in extremes; Homer's wife supports him and shows her love for him more than the other two as Freddy's wife gave him a hard which eventually led to divorce. I would talk more about Al, but he just seems to have no problems at all at adjusting with the exception of maybe an acute fondness of drinking. -James Drury

Mr. Stevenson was surprised that his maid had vanished and his daughter had taken her place. Peggy then makes a comment about taking a class in domestic science, an interesting title. Was this a common course in most school's curriculum during the World War 2 years? -James Drury

Got a few notes on the economic issues portrayed in the film. The movie shows Mr. Cameron making predictions that there will be a depression because of all the soldiers returning home, a widespread thought at the time. Also, I thought other servicemen were guaranteed loans, however Al seems overly hesitant to give a loan to another serviceman because he has no collateral. The movie also makes reference to and shows soldiers receiving unemployment. James D.

I thought it was interesting that the returning soldiers didn't let Homers lose of hands effect the relationship. they are initially thrown off but accept it in a considerably short time. But his family take a long time to accept his situation. I feel this is a good description of how families had a hard time dealing with returning soldiers, and how they often assumed that soldier was psychologically changed.-- Matt DeMarr

I felt that the depiction of the mental state of all three men was an accurate account of how some people were after the war. Homer mostly fit right back in no problem, but he had his disability to work through, which many families had to deal with after the war. Fred had the marriage right before the war, that in ended in divorce after the war. Al was the example of the returning veteran who had been married long before the war, and dealt with a drinking problem after the war. I felt the movie accurately depicted at least three varieties of people's experiences after the war. --Ashley Wilkins

In the beginning when the three main characters are returning home in a taxi, Homer suggests "going to Butch's for a drink" before being dropped off at his home. This statement had some implications, primarily the anxiety being felt by the soldiers about returning home. This is important because it shows that the hesitance and reluctance goes both ways (between soldiers and their families). Furthermore, I assumed that all the men would be excited about returning home, but this movie shows how complex their feelings were about returning to their families. - David F.

The movie did a good job with portraying how upon entering Boone, the soldiers are almost shocked to find that nothing has changed. Visually, to them, it seemed as if they never left home. I believe it's Homer who points out that men are playing golf and the high school football team was playing a game and it is he who first points out that nothing has changed. As we discussed in class, these veterans saw and experienced things that most Americans couldn't even conceive. For these men to have changed so drastically and to come home to a place that seemed as if time had stood still, was an idea they had a hard time grasping. --Mallory C.

I thought that the scene with Fred and all of the now defunct places was really staggering and drove home the question of what happens after the war and what does a nation do. It's also a subtle nod to the droves of people who must have been working to crank out so many planes during the war and echoes their uselessness post-war. --Amanda Russell

What I thought was accurate in the film was when the daughter Peggy told her father when he first came home that she was taking Domestic Science and bought a cook book. That goes to show what women learned in college during those years. –Ashley Scutari

Another aspect of education in the post-war period is the increasing emphasis on science, evident by Al's son's discussion on the physics between the atomic bomb. Another comment on this scene is that it shows how isolated soldiers were during the war. Al's son knew more about the events surrounding the bomb than his own father did. According to the reading for this week, an American soldier's exposure to the outside world was typically limited to the propaganda magazine, Stars and Stripes and radio targeted specifically at the armed forces, while civilians were inundated with constant media (even if it was skewed). ~Juliann Boyles

Best Years of Our Lives is downright commendable for how it handles Al's PTSD. Watching it's portrayals of his trouble adjusting, his drinking problems, etc., I can hardly believe how ahead of the film's time it is in handling a phenomenon not otherwise well handled by the general public at the time... especially given that it was made at the same time as it's context. - JT Newcomb

I think one of the strongest things in the movie is Homer dealing with his disability. Throughout the film, he seems to be making a show of his independence, going out of his way to prove to people that he can function just like a normal person can (providing lights for cigarettes all the time, for instance). Despite this, the scene with his father at bedtime shows his helplessness and vulnerability without needing dialogue or even fully showing his arms. The scene with Wilma reinforces this, providing further expression of Homer’s feelings through dialogue and fully showing the condition his injuries has left him in. In a society that exalted masculinity and individuality, veterans with disabilities like Homer’s probably felt emasculated and disillusioned because they had to rely on others so much. A little side information: Harold Russell, who played Homer, was a real veteran who lost his hands in a training accident. Despite having no acting experience, he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and an honorary Oscar. --Taylor Brann

This movie did a good job dealing with the more personal side of people who have fought in wars. It is unusal for a movie to deal almost exclusively with the aftermath of the war rather than the war itself. This is not an insignificant contribution to that. - Wesley Weeks

I agree with everyone else who thought the film did a good job in depicting PTSD. It also didn't sugarcoat the experience of the soldiers returning from war. We have marital strife, alcoholism, social conflict, and permanent disablement. Not your typical, happy view of post-WWII America. - Sarah Richardson

I want to add to my previous comment on the isolation of soldiers. Many civilians assumed that being a soldier during the war meant exposure to different places and people, to whole other cultures. But the reality of many soldiers was one of isolation in a particular location, performing a particular task. Some soldiers never even saw combat. The movie builds on this idea several times throughout. When Homer returns as a double amputee, his friends, family and even strangers he meets assume he got the injury during some act of heroism, when in reality it was in a fire, and he rarely saw the outside of the submarine he was stationed in. Frank and Al had similar experiences, not believing their experiences could match the expectations of everyone back home. ~Juliann

Russell is especially convincing since Harold Russell really did lose his hands as a result of the war. Like his character he never saw battle, must have had a heck of a rehabilitation, but also wrote a book "The Best Years of My Life"-signifying that like Homer, he felt compelled to go on with life as the other characters did despite the clear struggles they would continue to have. The general success of the 1950s is proof that people went on with their lives, but we know from hospital records and personal memoirs of countless WWII vets that the yet to be named PTSD effected most vets for much of their lives. The way it is manifested in the film is really wonderful and not overdone. It is poignant so to sympathize with the recently returned soldiers. But the film's ending is not a clear-cut happy ending- though Al, Fred, and Homer each get their girl in the end and a potentially hopeful future life, no one's problems disappear. Al still has a drink in his hand (though I think they might under-due the alcoholism due to Hollywood Code restrictions), Homer still has hooks for hands, and Fred admits to Peggy that they might have a tough life because of him (his night-terrors, his short-temper, his less than ideal job/$/housing situation), but each have hope given to them by strong (totally selfless) women who love them. This is a big message I think the movie is pushing, as did the propaganda in reality. Women's place was with their husbands, especially if they were returning soldiers. Divorce (and especially marriage splitting by a third party) had to be portrayed using kid-gloves in 1940s Hollywood, but I am glad they showed it, as many marriages like that of Fred and Marie's did end in divorce after the war. --Jackie Reed

b Inaccurate/issues:

The depiction of Peggy and Marie was very problematic and propaganda-ish. Peggy is the good girl who is patriotic and works as a nurse, helping others, while Marie is a vain and flirtatious woman who works at a nightclub for a time and resents Fred for making her quit her job. All Marie wants to do is to go out while Peggy is more than happy staying at home shucking peas and cooking dinner for Fred and her family. Not all women were either extreme! It's the virgin/whore scenario. Oh, and the guy will always end up with the virgin (ie Fred and Peggy "the homewrecker"). This is only typecasting women in one of two parties while the male characters were much more complex.-Lauren

I thought it was kind of a problem that the only minorities shown were in minor servant like positions. Also it was troubling that they didn't really show the roles women had taken during the war, it just showed their post war roles. - Christine W.

The representation of minorities in this movie would have bothered me more if they were showing a city or other type of diverse community. For a small town during this period in time it was quite possible depending on the location that there was little to know racial or ethnic diversity. This fact, however is also the most troubling feature of the movie because it is representing soldiers experiences, but soldiers experiences would be different depending on where they went back too. The whole movie is from this romantic small town cliche. - Jonathan Bell

Agreeing with Jonathan, the movie is limited to three experiences in one small town. Although the movie provides us with some sense of what it was like for soldiers to return home and adjust, the movie provides limited understanding of how many troops actually came back and how the large numbers of soldiers returning would have impacted societal, economic, and political realms of cities, states, and the nation. -JamesD

The minority issue was a HUGE issue for me too as I watched the film, those of us who watched it at the regular screening actually started counting at one point - I believe that there were only three black people that I remember in the film.

The issue I had might not be one at all. In the unemployment line there were women. I thought the scene was depicting the unemployment checks being handed out to veterans, I thought women didn't get veterans pay for many years. Or was it just unemployment in general? --Ashley Wilkins

I thought it was interesting that Peggy accuses her parents of never having had troubles. Considering the time that the movie takes place, the Great Depression was not that long ago, and most likely put at least a little strain on many marriages. Somehow the idea of a traditional wedding and a fancy honeymoon equals a good marriage, and I think this is an example of social myths we are still trying to get away from. --Amanda Russell

My biggest issue with the representation of minorities was that Fred was so dismissive of his medals for heroism, when so many (unrepresented) women and racial minorities weren't even awarded medals for what they did. Despite the medals being handed out "with the rations," I feel as if this was probably not true for groups like the WASPS. --Amanda Russell

The character I felt bad for in the film is Peggy’s brother. The father extended the invitation to the family to go out on the town except the brother. The father stated “the three of us will go out.” He must be the black sheep of the family. –Ashley Scutari

I don't think that the reason the brother had to stay home was because he was the black sheep of the family, but rather that he had more important things to do, like study physics - since he was a male, education was after all important. ~Juliann

Amanda makes a great point. I know the movie is already long but I am disappointed in the lack of mention to minorities and women's wartime roles. I noticed after I took Dr. M's Women's history class that the film was a great, informative drama that depicted its time but re-enforces the propaganda of the time telling women where their place was. Even women who weren't married lost their jobs in factories or other positions when soldiers came home. I love the adorably innocent Theresa Wright in every film she is in, but Peggy lacks some dimension- Wilma has already got the role of selfless sweet, girl-next-door. Peggy tries to split up a marriage but I thought her character could have gone farther in pushing the norms of female roles, making them more realistic (or how about just more progressive)!--Jackie Reed

War time savings put a lot of soldiers at an advantage, or at least helped make their transition home a lot easier. Fred mentions he saved 1000 or received it from the treasury somehow. That seems like a lot of money in an economy where groceries might have been a few cents and the most expensive of perfumes were a few bucks. How did he go through all that money so fast?--Especially since the time span of the movie looks to only be a few months if that.--James Drury

2 Film's relationship to current scholarship or to primary sources from the time

The soldiers in this movie are really broader symbols of the various types of problems soldiers faced returning home. The navy man represented returning soldiers dealing with a debilitating injury also noted he was taking payments for the GI Bill. The army man represented the soldiers who returned home, but had questions about their family life, but he is also represented as the men who returned home to be successful (the success meant not taking the payments from the GI bill). The air force men represents men who returned home to face marriage problems resulting in divorce and had trouble adjusting to society in relation to the GI bill he represents those not taking payments due to issues of pride. All of these attributes are characteristics discussed about soldiers in the class lecture. - Jonathan Bell

Something that struck me from a portion of the reading was how hard it must have been on loved ones who were awaiting their sons, brothers, husbands or boyfriends return home. In the reading it mentions that letters are sent to wounded soldiers family members. The letters weren't specific - just a "seriously injured" category and a forwarding address. I can't even imagine having that little information about a loved one. All in all, I think that the film primarily focuses its attention on how it would have been to be a veteran returning to home, and somewhat avoided the situation of how life really was for those who had been left behind. - Elle Weaver

When Fred is packing up to leave Boone City, he lets his parents keep the citations for his medals. He tells them they just came with his K-rations, and they don't mean much to him. Does this mean that his citation was like a fill-in-the-blank that lots of people in his situation (whatever exactly that may have been) got, something that they were all issued? Or that the citation was just so insignificant that it merely came with rations? Paul Fussell reveals the dishonesty behind writing medal citations, and Fred's attitude toward his is that it is also essentially meaningless. Whatever it may be, his parents take pride in it, so that's one mission accomplished. -Whitney Holcomb

Ah, the ubiquitous Gone with the Wind! Fussell talks about his arrival at the field hospital by saying, “It was like the scene of the aftermath of the Battle of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind”. Whether it was an exaggeration or not, Fussell uses this comparison to show the carnage of war (and everyone would have gotten it!). The other part of the reading that struck me as Gone with the Wind-esque was his discussion of the roles of nurses. Obviously, WWII nurses had the job of mending and dealing with soldiers in a very medical way, but they still seemed to serve the same kind of comforting role as Scarlet did in the Civil War. Fussell wrote about the nurse’s “freshness, affection, and good cheer” and how they shared “inside jokes”. It seems that the intangible qualities of nurses were just as important to a soldier’s psychological condition as their medical services were to a soldier’s physical well-being. – Jason Ward

In the second section of the Fussell reading, he noted that once out of the service, he no longer had to boast of the infantry's supposed superiority when in all actuality they were the dregs of the armed forces. This sentiment does not seem to jibe with Al's character in the movie. Early in the film when the 3 men meet, there is a scene where Al is quick to defend the honor of the infantry. Also, Al is a more prosperous man which belies Fussell's assertion that the infantry is made up the lower rungs of society.-Bryan Mull

Fussell also noted that upon his return he vowed to never work under anyone again and to get as far away from his combat clothes as he could manage. This reminded me a lot of Fred's character. He swears that he won't work the soda jerk job, and clearly hates wearing his uniform as evident when he and Marie argue over his suit.-Bryan Mull

Fussell also discussed going back to school and finishing up his degree which is something Fred briefly mentioned during a fight with Marie. The option of education and the ability to finish something that veterans may have started and were pulled from, or never got the chance to even begin, must have been a big deal especially since the government would help to pay for it with the GI Bill. -Kelly Wuyscik

From the reading, it seems to me that no movie can accurately depict the suffering of someone involved in a war. This movie of course isn't focused on the war itself but while reading the excerpt from Fusell's book I was reminded how no popular portrayals are as harsh as reality. - Wesley Weeks One thing that struck me about the reading was just how cynical Fussell was, how lost he seemed. All three former service men depicted in this movie share that feeling - of not really fitting back nicely in the world they left behind. Often when men joined the armed forces during WWII, they did so believing they would fight the bad guy, bring freedom to the world and come home a hero. But as Fussell reveals, the actual experience of being a soldier was very different. It seemed Fussell spent the majority of his enlistment in a hospital, when he recieved a "Serious" injury acquired during a moment of stupidity and stubbornness, rather than heroism in his opinion. His awards meant very little to him, like Frank in the movie. Fussell also mentions the point system used to discharge soldiers, and if your points were not high enough, you were not able to go home. Even after the war was over, the inability to immediately return home was a frustration felt by many soldiers, prompting the protests for demobilization of forces. This is touched on briefly during the opening scene when the soldiers wait for a flight home. ~Juliann

3 Movie as primary source about makers/time/setting/genre

Since the movie was made during the time it represents, I feel that most of the sentiments were fairly accurate. Many soldiers were facing similar problems to those of Al, Fred and Homer. It is also somewhat of a propaganda film because it shows all the relationships and problems being solved and ending happily, when in reality this did not happen. Many of the returning soldiers were never the same and faced life long problems as a result of the war. At the same time they wanted the movie to be encouraging to all of these men that returned to find life different, they wanted to give them hope and everyone else that they had a chance to make things happy again. -- Kellye Sorber

I agree with Kellye I think the movie does a good job showing the opptimism the country had for its future as well as the fear of more war or depression. It was trying to be positive while dealing with very real fears. - Christine W.

Al states in the movie the likelihood of him being "rehabilitated" by his family. I found this to be an interesting term, and even more interesting coming from a soldier. This again derives from my assumption that soldiers would have been nothing but excited about seeing their families. This movie, though, has made realize that the soldiers (especially them, not just the families) had all kinds of doubts and expectations about returning home. The expectation of being "rehabilitated" was something I thought would come from the family and not Al. - David F

The humor in this movie stood out to me as well. Most of it was sarcastic and even dark, but nonetheless enjoyable. I also like how the term "plastered" goes back to this time period. It makes me feel better in case I ever go back in time and want to get drunk at a bar, and in order to describe my experience I use the term "plastered" and the people will know what I was talking about. - David F.

I've seen it commented on here that one of the downfalls of the movie is that it does not address the experience of minorities in the military. This seems pretty indicative of the time in which it is made. Ignoring minorities is on about the same page as the USS WVa sailor never really being shown an appropriate level of appreciation for his actions at Pearl Harbor. - JT Newcomb

The line that always sticks with me when I watch this movie is Butch talking to Homer and saying, “Give 'em time, kid; they'll catch on. You know your folks'll get used to you, and you'll get used to them. Then everything'll settle down nicely. Unless we have another war. Then none of us have to worry because we'll all be blown to bits the first day. So cheer up, huh?” This line really expresses the uncertainty of life many Americans felt following the end of WWII. The end of the alliance with Russia, the start of the Cold War, and the introduction of atomic weapons. No doubt, these things left Americans feeling extremely uneasy, especially in the late ‘40s when the country’s economy still seemed so fragile. They probably thought the next war would truly be The War to End All Wars. --Taylor Brann

4 Public reaction/impact

"Best Years" won 7 Academy Awards in 1947 and it is preserved in the Library of Congress. It only lost the award for Best Sound. The American Film Institute included in 3 times in its top 100 movie lists. The producer, Samuel Goldwyn received the Irving Thalberg Award, a special honor for outstanding work in production. Harold Russell was given a Special Oscar® "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." Obviously this film had a large impact on the general audience, critics, and other actors of the time. --Amanda Russell

Harold Russell also won the Best Supporting Oscar (only person to win 2 oscars for the same role). William Wyler saw him in a documentary and actually rewrote the part especially for him. He was not an actor and like his character, he never saw combat, but it goes to show that men and women could be deeply affected and their lives forever changed without even needing to experience the terrors of actual battle or war, like those women who died in the WASPs or WACs or people who died or were disfigured in factories. I personally was touched (I cried at least twice) by the authenticity of Harold Russell's performance. --Jackie Reed

Best Years of Our Lives is an enduringly popular film, at least with the TCM-loving crowd. As Amanda already mentioned, it won seven Academy Awards. World War II films tend to be popular. Most Americans would probably say that WWII was one of our shining moments. After all, we saved Europe (and the world) from the ultimate villains. Americans equally felt the economic and social uncertainty in the aftermath of the war. It's not surprising that a film which focused on these problems would be so popular with the public in 1946. - Sarah Richardson

5 Other movies/questions of style/framing/storyline

This movies use of the romantic small town seems to be a greater symbol of what the creators are portraying as American. Additionally the lack of racial or ethnic diversity in the town is also a part of this symbolic message. In the end everyone also lives happily ever after making this movie follow a cliche story line. - Jonathan Bell

There were a lot of generational tensions going on in the movie… about twenty years before generational tensions were “in”. The scene in Butch’s pub where Al pressures Fred into abandoning his feelings and intentions with Peggy reminded me of the scene in The Graduate when Mr. Robinson said to Ben, “I want you to stay away from Elaine”. In both examples we see a traditionally strong father figure dissuading a “drifting”/ unconventional suitor from pursuing a girl who deserves nothing but the best. Even though the mid-1940s and the late-1960s were radically different for many reasons, the uncertainty and optimism that existed in those two eras made the storyline of ‘love conquering all’ very appealing. It seems as though “Father Knows Best” was a notion reserved for the 1950s! - Jason Ward I was struck at how successful the movie was in depicting an era that was still ongoing when the movie was released. In recent years nearly all of the movies made about the Iraq war have flopped commercially. I wonder why Best Years of Our Lives could be so successful during its day whereas similar attempts to depict a current war on screen have failed? Are we so tired of the 24/7 news bombardment that we shun movies depicting the war? It as not as though all the Iraq war movies have been bad either, some have been highly regarded by critics. Does it say more about society now or in the 40s that nobody watches movies about the Iraq war today, yet BYOL was such a success?-Bryan Mull

I thought that the story was and interesting concept. They took three men who returned and all are of different ranks. On their way home Fred is the man of power and is looked up to by the other two men but as the story continues he is the one who has the hardest fall. Al is of a lower rank but has rising power through out the story. Homer has a difficult time just like the other two but it has more to with psychology. His adjustment is considerably better at least with money then that of Fred. The story is well written and very compelling.-- Matt DeMarr

Part of me wonders if maybe the movie was so successful because the American public was so used to propaganda films and newsreels. For once, they were able to watch an actual film and it was about something everyone could relate to. People could identify with it and not have to worry about being heavily influenced in a "Pro-America" propaganda-esque way. --Kelly Wuyscik Being that this movie was made in 1946 and was about 1946, the ending intrigued me. It pretty much assumed that whatever complexities the soldiers and their families were experiencing would somehow be solved (in the film's case, love was the answer). This was very different than what we saw in Matewan because that film ended without any closure for the labor workers. In terms of the time they were made, these two films are not so different in that sense either. Matewan was made in the 80's when labor unions consumed the media's attention, as it did in the 1920's. So it was like both these films were created in response to current events and attempted to give a solution (if there was one) to the problems at hand. - David F.

Being the GIANT country music geek that I am, I kept thinking back to Brad Paisley's "Whiskey Lullaby" video. The soldier returns from war, finds his wife cheating on him, and as Brad sings, "puts the bottle to his head and pulls the trigger." I kept waiting for a story that would be devastatingly sad, and was greatly relieved that this didn't happen. --Cash Nelson

6 Overall

I really loved this movie, I kept cheering on the love story the entire time and was happy that Fred's marriage ended in divorce. - Kellye Sorber

I like this movie better than any that we've seen so far. It was more engaging and had good suspense. I found myself rooting for Fred and Peggy and disliking Marie (which we're supposed to do), and cheers even erupted as we watched Peggy say that she would break up Fred's marriage. I liked Homer and really wanted him to ask Wilma to marry him.... I felt the connections that I think a viewer is supposed to feel and the characters they want to succeed. I didn't get that from any of the other movies. That may have something to do with the fact that the characters are all made up and not to be compared with true figures and facts. In sum, I guess I liked it because it was meant to be fiction, rather than history. I wasn't judging it like I judge historical movies. -Whitney Holcomb

I think this movie did such a good job portraying the time period accurately because the movie was made during the time period it depicts. For a movie such as this, not a whole lot of research would have been necessary since the people involved with the movie are living in the time period the movie is supposed to portray. I also think that this movie is very relevant to audiences today, just as it was when it first came out in 1946. Today, we have soldiers returning home from Iraq, and some of them are facing problems similar to those of the WWII veterans, such as post traumatic stress disorder, combat related injuries and disabilities, etc. -Katherine Stinson

It would have been really cool to see a post- WWII movie done with the same type of concept as Crash. You know, have five to eight different storylines representing different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds from different parts of the country. To a certain extent, filmmakers have to rely on stereotypes in order to connect with the audience, but by widening the scope of post- war situations, the viewer could gain a deeper understanding of what the time was like. I think Best Years of Our Lives does a remarkable job of depicting the realities of post-war, white, small town America.– Jason Ward

Overall, I really liked the film. The film was longer, yes, but that didn't hamper it at all! I meant to only watch 1/2 on Tuesday and the other half on Wednesday, but I ended up watching about 130 minutes of it the first day because I wasn't paying attention and was enjoying the film! The only thing that made me stop watching was my husband texting me saying "I just got off the train be by the house in 5 minutes to get you to go vote" and I was like "Eep!" So I liked the movie overall and would most definitely recommend it to other people! -- Ashley Wilkins

i felt that Peggy was a very strong character. Are they using Peggy's character to show women in a stronger role?-- Matt DeMarr

It was very interesting that Peggy was one of the heroines of the movie - painted as good, wholesome and All American, when in reality she was a homewrecker - regardless of Fred's marital problems, he was still married! It is just interesting that even though she helps break up the marriage, she is seen as good and pure...perhaps that is a little complexity appearing in a female role, or perhaps it is to paint Peggy as Fred's savior, from an eternity of unhappiness. Are the filmmakers saying that as long as you are pure of heart, it is ok to break the sanctity of marriage, or are they implying that maybe even good and wholesome girls can be a little complicated? What do you think? ~Juliann

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It was centered around ordinary people, trying to accomplish an act that people have to go through everyday, acclimating to their surroundings. It's a very real and telling movie, especially since it's a film about returning from the war, filmed at a time when people were returning from the war. --Mallory C.

Overall I really enjoyed the film as well. I felt that it accurately portrayed post-war hard times for Americans returning from the War. I think it is one of the most accurate films we have seen this semester. It also had a love story which gives it the Hollywood appeal to keep the general audience interested. –Ashley Scutari

I really love The Best Years of Our Lives, but like most movies, it certainly has some issues. For instance, the lack of minority and female veterans and the lack of minority presence in general is a large problem because it diminishes their importance in the war and their importance in American society. Of course, that’s no surprise. Hollywood has long ignored minorities, and that just reminds viewers of the time in which the film was made. Also, there is an issue that always bothers me: what happened to Al’s son? The boy just disappeared; he wasn’t even at the wedding. Finally, there is the unrealistic “life is good” happy ending for everyone. That, however, doesn’t bother me as much. I think the point of the film was not only to express the difficulties of returning veterans, but to provide the hope of a better future for veterans and all of America. It may seem a little outdated now, but in that time of uncertainty following WWII, Americans really needed that reassurance. --Taylor Brann

I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved this movie. I loved Fred. I loved Peggy. I love the Freggy combination. Perfect. Oh, and Milly was such a rockstar. -Kelly Wuyscik