For the second time, I’ve seen a Best Picture nominee that lost to one of these films. I saw It’s A Wonderful Life a few Christmases ago, and while I don’t remember much about it, I did enjoy it and saw it as a Christmas classic. But how does this film, from the director of Mrs. Miniver and featuring an all-star cast, stack up? Let’s find out.
The film follows the homecomings of three WWII veterans and the difficulties that they have to adjust to. Al Stephenson (Fredrick March) has a comforting home and family but gets in some hot water with his old boss. Fred (Dana Andrews) got married to a woman he barely knew shortly before war began, and now has to get further acquainted with his wife. Homer (Harold Russell) lost both hands in the war, and although he has gotten used to it, his family (and fiancee) has not.
I found this film to be enjoyable. The production quality with each film continues to amaze me, but for this particular film, I feel the need to mention the score and sound editing, which play a larger part in the film than you might expect. The writing is also very good, but I can’t help but feel that this story would be better off as a stage play. The film’s two hour fifty-eight running time goes by faster than you might expect, but after a while you’ll find yourself glancing at your watch.
And then there’s the acting. I find it very confusing that Fredrick March won Best Actor, seeing as how he probably had the least amount of screen time of the three men. Andrews was a bit better, but I didn’t find his story very interesting. But by far my favorite performance in the film is Russell. Yes, seeing as how he lacks hands in real life, I don’t know how much of his performance was really ‘acting’, but that doesn’t matter. I love him for the same reason that everybody loves Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones. Homer has a disability that not only has he accepted it, but excels in life despite of it.
So which film is better, The Best Years Of Our Lives or It’s A Wonderful Life? I think that the latter film is more impressive simply looking at how well it’s message of importance in life stand out. But I will say that I can understand why this movie won at the Oscars. It came out at a time when everyone could finally calm down over the war and nobody was ready to make fun of the whole thing. Yet. But if there’s one thing that cannot be excused, It’s the fact that Fredrick March won the Oscar when it should have been Jimmy Stewart! Seriously, Academy?