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Podcast #145 – Bad Apples #1 – The Best Years of Our Lives

 

Note: The following is an automated transcription of the podcast. As a result, it may contain errors.

Steve Silverman So, on New Year’s Eve, my wife and I watched the movie The Best Years of Our Lives. And honestly, I thought about this movie for days afterward. And since I do a history podcast, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss this old movie as part of the podcast. And since we’re both teachers, at least she’s still a teacher, and I’m a retired teacher. I figured since we have the website Rotten Tomatoes, we should call this Bad Apples. Anyway, welcome to the show, my wife, Mary Jane.

Mary Jane Hi.

Steve Silverman And Mary Jane, had you ever heard of this movie before?

Mary Jane No, I’d never heard of it before.

Steve Silverman Yeah, me either. And considering it was so successful at the time, and it’s such a classic movie, to have never seen it or never heard of, it’s pretty amazing. So, let me do a little background on the movie. It was made in 1946. That’s the same year as It’s a Wonderful Life. That makes it 75 years old right now. It was released one year after World War Two ended, and it was the highest-grossing film in all of the 1940s. In fact, up until this time, no movie had done more business except for Gone with the Wind. In fact, is still the sixth most attended movie of all time in the UK. In 1989, it was one of the first 25 movies chosen by the Library of Congress for the US National Film Registry. And, I should mention this movie was totally free online. If you go to archive.org you can watch it for free. The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture Best Director, Frederick March won Best Actor, Harold Russell, he won Best Supporting Actor. And as you know, in every podcast I ask a Question of the Day. So here’s the question: In fact, by winning the Best Supporting Actor, Harold Russell became the only person in Academy history to have what honor? Do you know what honor that was? I don’t? Well, you’ll hang around to the end of this podcast, the end of this story, and you’ll find out. I should point out this is not an action movie. Do you agree with that?

Mary Jane I absolutely agree that it is not an action movie.

Steve Silverman Yeah. I mean.

Mary Jane It’s a melodrama.

Steve Silverman Yeah. You’d think a war movie would be an action movie, but it’s not. And probably the most noticeable thing about this movie. It’s very long. It runs almost three hours, two hours and 50 minutes. Now, did you feel that it was a long movie? Or is it just seemed okay.

Mary Jane Well, you know, I sensed that it was long, but certainly, I certainly didn’t think it was approaching three hours.

Steve Silverman Yeah. When it ended, I thought it was about two hours. Just starting to get to that point where you get a little fidgety in your seat. But I had no idea it was approaching the three hour mark. It just never dragged for a single moment that we watched it.

The movie took place in Boone City, which is a fictitious town in the Corn Belt. And it’s the story of three men who come back from World War Two. And they had never met before their plane ride back aboard an army airplane. And it’s all about their attempts to pick up their lives afterwards. All three of them arrived home to warm greetings by their families, but they soon realized that life has gone on without them. And not only have they changed, but so their families and the world around them.

The movie does a great job of showing the difficulties that faced soldiers returning back home after World War Two, you know, the lack of jobs, lack of housing, and just the overall problem of readjusting into ordinary life. Now there may have been other movies prior to this that dealt with it, but I think this may be the first mainstream movie to examine the effects of PTSD. I mean, are you aware of any movie prior to this that dealt with that?

Mary Jane No, not not so close to World War Two.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I mean, this movie was, they started making this movie within months of the war ending. So we’ll talk about that as we go through this. So I thought what we do is talk about each of the three stories starting with the oldest man first.

So Frederick March plays Sergeant Al Stephenson. He’s in his 40s and he’s a banker. What did you think about his role? Did it seem believable to you?

Mary Jane Yeah, I thought he did a great job.

Steve Silverman Yeah. And he won the Academy Award for it, so I think others agree.

Mary Jane It makes sense.

Steve Silverman Yeah.

And now I would, I would say the only part I didn’t like about his role was when he played being drunk. A couple of times, particularly is a scene where he’s in a bar, and he’s really, really drunk, and he’s dancing with everyone. And then there’s a car ride home. And he’s a little bit over the top, I thought, but overall, I really did like the scenes and how it played out with him. Now, Myrna Loy plays his wife. Now, she was a big time actress at this time, but she just basically has a sub part in this movie. What did you think about her?

Mary Jane I thought she did a great job. She kind of represents the mature spouse who understands her partner and she doesn’t push too hard when he clearly is over drinking a lot. I mean, yeah, I thought she did a great job.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I mean, the one scene where she, where he’s drunk, and she’s counting, you know, she’s taking her knife and carving how many drinks, you know, he had into the table. That was. I don’t know. That seemed very realistic to me. You can just see the look on her face. Honestly, I thought she was the second best actor in this movie. Every scene that she was in, she just handled really well. And she wasn’t acting over the top or anything. I just thought she was very realistic in what she was doing.

Mary Jane I thought she did a great job. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t put her as the second best, but that’s just my opinion.

Steve Silverman Yeah. So that’s why we’re talking about the movie. Now their family is clearly well off. They have an elegant apartment, nice clothes, and everyone seems happy, at least at first. Now, you want to just talk a little bit about why he starts to become unhappy and why he turns to drinking?

Mary Jane Well, I think when he arrives home, he can’t believe how much his kids have changed. And there’s actually, you know, problems of like, almost a generation gap. When he speaks to his son, and gives him, tries to give him a sword from Japan, the son almost can’t relate to what he’s gone through.

Steve Silverman Yeah. Honestly, I thought the son was the worst actor in the movie. He was so stiff. And they wrote him out. I mean, he was only in the beginning couple of scenes. And then he just disappears from the movie. The daughter, which is Teresa Wright, she’s a big character in the whole movie, but the son never appears again after that, and I think that’s probably because he was he wasn’t that great of an actor. I could be wrong. I couldn’t help but wonder why they even put his part in there. I mean, why couldn’t you have just come home and you know, had one daughter and not a son who was so stiff and such a bad actor, and really was written out of the movie pretty quickly.

Mary Jane Well, I mean, he did even question what was done during the war, right, dropping of the atomic bomb. I think that little piece was important for the storyline.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I guess, but it just, I just didn’t like what he was doing. He, I thought he was the worst part of the movie. I mean, the movie was very good. But that one little, anytime he was on the screen. I just felt like he couldn’t act. So anyway, that’s my opinion.

So, Teresa Wright played his daughter. And had you ever seen Theresa Wright before?

Mary Jane I don’t think so.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I’ve seen her in a few movies. The first time I think I ever saw was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, called Shadow of a Doubt. I probably saw that about 35 years ago, so I was just, you know, going through a phase where I was watching all the old Alfred Hitchcock movies. And I actually really liked that movie. It’s a very good Hitchcock movie. It’s not one of his most famous ones like Psycho or Rear Window or Vertigo, but it’s a really, really good movie that he did. And that’s the first time I ever saw her. Now she plays a key part in this movie. Not only is she Al Stephenson’s daughter, but she becomes a love interest of the next character we’re going to talk about, because that’s Captain Fred Derry who’s played by Dana Andrews. Now, Fred was a crew member on a bomber and is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Yet, he returns home to find his life back home is far worse than it was when he was dropping bombs. Do you want to talk a little bit about what his life was like when he came home?

Mary Jane Well, he can’t seem to find it seems like he’s underemployed. He actually goes back to where he worked before. And he called described himself as a soda jerk. You know, so he’s, he wants to do better, but he can’t seem to find better employment.

Steve Silverman And that was a common problem. After the war, all these men came home and there was no place for them to find jobs, at least good-paying jobs. Now, his character supposedly married 20 days prior to leaving for war. And his wife Marie Derry is played by Virginia Mayo and she plays kind of a ditzy, you know, showgirl, I guess you could say.

Mary Jane Right, almost trashy, I would say.

Steve Silverman Yeah, trashy is probably a good way to describe it.

Mary Jane Yeah.

Steve Silverman What did you think about their interaction?

Mary Jane Well, clearly they were married kind of on the fly. And she wasn’t really so interested in him so much as the soldier that she had met right before he left.

Steve Silverman And there’s a scene in the movie where he comes in and he’s not wearing his uniform. And she is not impressed.

Mary Jane Right. She’s very disappointed just to see him the way he’s dressed. And he is uncomfortable with the fact that she wants him to put back that uniform back on and he kind of wants to start a new life.

Steve Silverman Right. And also, he’s not earning enough money for her. She has very expensive tastes, and he was earning good money in the military. But now that he has a civilian job, he’s not doing well. And she’s just complaining, you know, she’s basically whining and complaining, right?

Mary Jane She’s definitely not as empathetic and nurturing as the other women characters. Yeah.

Steve Silverman You know, you know, pretty early on this marriage is not gonna work out.

Mary Jane Yeah, I mean, he gets back. You can’t even find her actually, because she’s working in some nightclub. He doesn’t even know where she is.

Steve Silverman Right. And, and it’s kind of clear that, you know, they couldn’t do this in the 1940s. But it’s clear she’s been with other men. I think that’s implied by her character.

Mary Jane Right, right, definitely.

Steve Silverman Of course another love interest comes into his life. That’s Peggy Stephenson, who is played by Teresa Wright. And she’s playing Al Stephenson’s, Sargeant Al Stephenson’s daughter. Did you feel that that relationship as it was building that it was? I don’t know, to me it didn’t seem like a real relationship. It was like almost like they looked at each other and then they’re in love and you know?

Mary Jane Yes. I mean, it may not been as developed as it could have been. Yeah, it did seem like suddenly they really cared about each other out of the blue, sort of, yeah.

Steve Silverman Yeah, it seemed a little thrown together. I would have liked to have seen that developed a little bit better in the movie. I would say there’s one of the few weaknesses in the movie is that that one little story arc, that little portion of the story wasn’t developed. It was almost like they, you know, it was like instant love and it didn’t play as well as I had hoped. I think if they had somehow thrown a little bit more into the movie to develop that it would have been better. Now, one of my favorite scenes in the movie was at an aircraft graveyard in Ontario, California, where he is walking along through all these airplanes that are being dismantled. What did you think about that scene?

Mary Jane I thought it was great. I mean, there was really ominous music and you understood kind of right away that he felt, you know, like he was becoming obsolete kind of like the planes.

Steve Silverman Yeah, it basically, you know, now that the war is over, there’s no use for these planes, and there’s no use for him. And, honestly, I thought it was spectacularly filmed. I mean, just that scene, it was just so grand to look at. Just something that’ll probably stay with me for the rest of my life. I mean, there really wasn’t much dialogue. I can’t play it for anybody. But just you know, you can see him reflecting on his life. And it’s also a turning point in the movie, but I’m not going to give that away.

Mary Jane Right, right.

Steve Silverman Now the third story that’s interwoven with the other two leading men is that of Homer Parrish, played by Harold Russell. And he’s a he’s a Navy man who worked below deck and he claims he never saw combat. That basically he was below deck for the entire war. And of course, what happened to him?

Mary Jane They were bombed apparently, and his his two arms were burned off.

Steve Silverman Yeah. And would you agree with me that you weren’t sure for most of the movie whether he really was an amputee or not?

Mary Jane Oh, absolutely. That’s what it kind of kept me thinking, you know, like, is this guy a real true double amputee? Or are they do they have kind of like, pretend prosthetics on his arms? I couldn’t tell.

Steve Silverman Of course, what is the truth?

Mary Jane The truth is what you actually discover watching the film at the towards the very end is he is truly a double amputee from the war. And it’s the, the scene is pretty startling. Yeah.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I think the scene where he reveals that, you know, I mean, there were other scenes where he was getting dressed. Like there was a scene where his father helped him get ready for bed, but they never showed, you know that he was missing the lower portion of his arms.

Mary Jane Yeah, right below his chest area. They didn’t really show, right.

Steve Silverman I think actually, the best scene in the movie is when he is with his fiance Wilma. And he’s trying to explain to her what life is like living with a double amputee. And, you know, they go up to his bedroom, and he’s getting ready for bed and he’s showing her what he’s going through.

Mary Jane Right. And every night you’re going to have to help me with this because they have to remove the straps and everything. So yeah.

Steve Silverman I think that was the best scene in the movie. I don’t know if you agree with that or not.

Mary Jane As I described it, it’s kind of startling. And yeah, yeah, I mean, it’s memorable. For sure.

Steve Silverman Yeah. So why don’t we play a short clip of that?

Mary Jane Great. Okay.

Steve Silverman So to set the scene up Homer, who’s played by Harold Russell, he’s up in his bedroom in his parents house showing his fiance Wilma, who is played by Cathy O’Donnell, what it’s like when he removes his prosthetic arms for the evening.

Homer Parrish This is when I know I’m helpless. My hands are down there on the bed. Can’t put them on again without calling to somebody for help. can’t smoke a cigarette or read a book? That door should most shut icon open get out of this room? Who’s dependent as a baby that doesn’t know how to get anything? cry? Fine. Well, now you know. I have an idea of what it is. I guess you don’t know what to say. It’s all right. Go on home. Go away like your family said.

Wilma I know what to say, Homer. I love you. And I’m never going to leave you. Never.

Steve Silverman Let’s talk a little bit about Harold Russell, quickly, because he was not an actor. From what I read the part was originally written to be about a man suffering from shell shock. But it was rewritten after director William Wyler saw him in a military educational film that was called Diary of a Sergeant. And by the way, that’s for free also on archive.org. And I think it’s also on YouTube.

Mary Jane It’s worth watching, also.

Steve Silverman Yeah. Basically, it was footage of him and how he learned to adapt with these, basically these maneuverable hooks that he had for hands and arms. And, honestly, I don’t know about you, but I was amazed what he could do with that.

Mary Jane Yeah, I mean, actually, if you watch the film, you’ll learn that he has to move his right shoulder blade in order to use his left hand and his left shoulder blade to use his right hand r pincers, you would almost say.

Steve Silverman This is in the documentary and not in the movie we’re talking about.

Mary Jane Right.

Steve Silverman Now, you know, from the beginning of the movie, from The Best Years of Our Lives, from the very beginning, and you’re not really sure if he really has prosthetics or not. But you know he’s really good with him because the first thing he does is like, he signs his name. And then another time he

Mary Jane Lights a cigarette for someone else.

Steve Silverman Yeah, he grabs the matches and he lights the matches and lights his cigarettes, and he and he lights it for the other two guys. Pretty amazing. The whole movie I just, you know, at first, I wasn’t sure if they were real or not. But, holy cow, he had incredible skill.

Mary Jane Right. And at one point, of course, it’s a duet, but he actually plays the piano with his uncle in one scene.

Steve Silverman Yeah. And I should mention the uncle is Hoagy Carmichael, who was, you know, very famous as famous in his day.

Mary Jane Okay. I didn’t know Hoagy. But that’s great to know.

Steve Silverman Now, I should tell you, I mean, you actually know this, I think that he lost his limbs, not in combat, but he was in the United States training others. And he went to grab a box of TNT and it had a defective fuse and it blew up. And that’s how he lost his two arms.

Mary Jane Right. Right. But still, you know, it’s just as tragic.

Steve Silverman Yeah. And he was a student at Boston University when they asked him to be in the movie. And in fact, when the movie ended, shortly after all the publicity and all the fame had died down, he went back and he got his degree from there. So he didn’t stop his education become a big movie star.

Mary Jane Right.

Steve Silverman It was one of the few roles that he actually did. Now, did you think him being a non-actor was good or bad?

Mary Jane I actually thought it was a real positive. I think they took a bit of a gamble and it really paid off because he injected a bit of realism into that character. That you know, all the other characters you know, they kind of have a Hollywood look to them. They’re actually quite attractive and all that. He’s kind of he looks like your next-door neighbor. He even had a regional accent, which I liked.

Steve Silverman Yeah, except this was in Bostonian.

Mary Jane They’re supposed to be…

Steve Silverman You don’t really notice it in the movie until you think about it.

Mary Jane I kind of noticed. I love accents.

Steve Silverman Yeah, but you’re a language teacher.

Mary Jane Yeah.

Steve Silverman But yeah, so he has a Bostonian accent. He’s supposedly, you know, raised in the Midwest from when he was a baby. So, a little out of place, but I didn’t notice that. But honestly, I thought every scene that he was in was the best part of the movie. I’m not really sure this movie would have been as great if he wasn’t in that movie. I think it would have just been an ordinary, you know, war movie, but because he was in that movie, I thought he made all the difference.

Mary Jane I absolutely agree. Yeah.

Steve Silverman So this leads to the answer of what honor Harold Russell has with the Academy.

Mary Jane Okay.

Steve Silverman With the Oscars. And that is he is the only person to win two Academy Awards for the same exact role. So basically, they didn’t think he win Best Supporting Actor, but they wanted to honor him somehow. So, they gave him an honorary Oscar for “For bringing hope and courage to the fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives.” So that was his first Academy Award that night. And then, of course, later in the evening, he won Best Supporting Actor. So he’s the only person in history to get two Oscars for the same exact role. Now, do you think he deserved it?

Mary Jane Yeah, I did. I thought he did a great job. As I said, they took a risk in a way but it really paid off.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I think it was well deserved. It has nothing to do with me even being an amputee. He just made the movie. He made it more realistic. Without him in the movie, the movie would just have been an ordinary movie. He is what made this movie exceptional.

Mary Jane Yeah, I mean, the other two, you know, one is, you know, possibly going to have issues with alcoholism. And the other is, you know, dealing with depression, possibly, but his problem is, it’s pretty front and center and you do grow to care about the character.

Steve Silverman So which of these three stories did you like best? Of course, we have the older gentleman play by Frederick March, who, you know is a banker, and he lives in a very nice apartment and everything seems to be going well, although he is on the verge of becoming an alcoholic. And then we have the second part, Captain Fred Derry played by Dana Andrews. You know, and he can’t seem to find his place in the world, but he comes back, he can’t get a good job, his marriage is falling apart. And then, of course, we have Harold Russell is Homer Parrish. His biggest problem, I think is, you know, trying not just having people accept him and not treat him differently. But he can understand why people would want to treat him in the same way, particularly his fiance, why would she want to marry him now that he’s a double amputee? So of those three characters running through the movie, which one did you like the best?

Mary Jane Well, I think I’ve already kind of indicated that, but again, it’s going to be the one with Homer Parrish and his, his sweetheart, you know, or just his circumstance, the sweetheart doesn’t have a very big part herself, but just him accepting what he has and not feeling self-conscious.

Steve Silverman Yeah. Yeah, he definitely is the best part of the movie, as I’ve said this several times already. Without him, I don’t think the movie would have played as well. Now, would you say this is a political movie?

Mary Jane I mean, it I would literally call it an ode to the American GI.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I mean, there’s very little in the way of politics in there. You already mentioned about the son talking a little bit about bombing and nuclear power, and so on. So there is one scene where Homer goes into the pharmacy and he sees a captain Fred Derry, he’s the one who’s playing the soda jerk. And a man walks in. And that’s probably the most political portion of the movie. The guy basically is questioning why we were in the war. And I have to be honest, I was kind of shocked by this. Now, he never really tell you why he disagrees with, you know, the United States being part of the war. You just keep saying, you know, kind of read the facts, look at the facts. But it is the most political part of the movie, but it’s not a political movie. So I thought what I do is play a clip of that.

Mary Jane Okay, that sounds good. So let’s

Steve Silverman So, let’s take a listen.

Unnamed Character You got plenty of guts. Terrible when you see a guy like you that had to sacrifice himself? And for what?

Homer Parrish And for what? I don’t get to Mister.

Unnamed Character Well. We let ourselves get sold down the river. We were pushed into war.

Homer Parrish Sure, by the Japs and the Nazis.

Unnamed Character No, the Germans and the Japs had nothing against us. They just wanted to fight that Limeys and the Reds. And they would have whipped them, too. We didn’t get deceived into it by a bunch of radicals in Washington.

Homer Parrish What are you talking about?

Unnamed Character We fought the wrong people. That’s all. Just read the facts, my friend, find out for yourself why you had to lose your hands. And then go out and do something about it.

Steve Silverman So what is the title The Best Years of Our Lives mean to you?

Mary Jane Well, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about that question. But I possibly what’s ahead of them now that they’re back. They’re back from the war, and you hope that what’s ahead of them is the best years of their lives.

Steve Silverman Now there’s only one time in the movie that they kind of mentioned something like that. Yeah. Marie Derry, played by Virginia Mayo. She plays the showgirl, you know, cocktail waitress, I guess. And she says something to the effect, like, Oh, I gave up the best years of my life. So let’s take a quick listen to that.

Mary Jane All right. Yep.

Steve Silverman So here’s a short clip with Fred Derry, who’s played by Dana Andrews, comes home to find his wife, Marie, who was played by Virginia Mayo, alone in their apartment with another man. She claims he’s just a friend.

Fred Derry Did you know him while I was away?

Marie Derry I know lots of people. What do you think I was doing all those years?

Fred Derry I don’t know, babe. But I can guess.

Marie Derry Go ahead, get your head off. I could do some guessing myself. What were you up to in London, in Paris and all those places? I’ve given you every chance to make something yourself. I gave up my own job when you asked me. I gave up the best years of my life and what have you done? You flop. Couldn’t even hold that job in the drugstore. So I’m going back to work for myself. That means I’m going to live for myself too. And in case you don’t understand English, I’m gonna get a divorce. What have you got to say to that?

Steve Silverman So I interpreted the title, when I thought about it afterward, after seeing the movie, the way I interpreted it was that basically, all these people, they were away at war, their family’s back at home, they all gave up the best years of their lives that they missed out on so much. Whereas you’re looking at it from the opposite point of view that they have the best years in front of them. So maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Mary Jane Possibly. That’s the way I saw it, though. Yeah.

Steve Silverman So Mary Jane, I said what my favorite scene is, what was your favorite scene in the movie?

Mary Jane So my favorite scene takes place at the very end of the movie, and I’m going to try not to give too much away but it’s where there’s a family gathering in a home, and it’s very intimate. And at one point, the character of Homer Parrish has to do this very basic task. And it seems like everyone in the room kind of holds their breath. They’re not sure he’s gonna be able to do it, because he’s using his hooks to do it. And he does succeed, I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is, but, and then there’s this kind of a sigh of relief from everyone. And they know, at that moment, that he’s going to have a happy life. He’s going to succeed, even though he has this terrible disability. And I just think the message is very positive. It’s almost, I feel the whole movie is a bit of a love story to the American soldier. And the message is, it’s going to be all right, you know, the ending message. And I just think it’s, it’s a great way to finish it. And I really was very impressed with that actor. And I do call him an actor, even though he was an amateur actor. So that’s my favorite scene. I hope I didn’t give away too much.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I will add to that. I did read that he fumbled his line at that point. And he decided to leave it in because it made it more human, you know, made the ending more realistic.

Mary Jane Yes, I think, as I said earlier, I think they took a bit of a gamble, working with someone who is a non-actor, but he made the film. He made the film.

Steve Silverman I totally agree. So as you know, I always include three additional short stories at the end of each podcast. So I thought it’d be interesting to see what the critics thought of this movie when it was first released. Now, we’re not going to read them in their entirety. We’re just going to read excerpts of each. So Mary Jane, why don’t you start with the first one.

Mary Jane This is from the December 26 1946 publication of the LA Times. “What most differentiates The Best Years of Our Lives from other post-war emprises is the presence of Harold Russell, the ex army paratrooper. He appears as one of the three central male figures whose stories are related. While his is not an acting part of great exactions, he succeeds in bringing enormous impact through the utter simplicity and sincerity of what he does. His work endows The Best Years of Our Lives with factual power. The Russell adjustment to the civilian environment is a deeply wrought thing. The most moving and central development in the plot. What the war brought him, besides an ephemeral glory, is a physical tragedy that has beset many men – loss of hand or foot or other permanent disability.”

Steve Silverman Wow, that was very well written. Let’s do another one. This is from an article written by Marjorie Adams that appeared in the December 26, 1946 publication in the Boston Globe. “The Best Years of Our Lives, which had its Christmas Day opening at the Esquire Theatre is one of the best pictures of all time. There are a few films which have such unqualified appeal to men and women of every walk of life – to the connoisseur of the cinema and to the everyday picture-goer, who is looking for entertainment and doesn’t particularly care how superior is the technique as long as there’s an engrossing story.” The article continues, “The picture runs three hours and they are good hours. There are few films that can stand up against such a test but The Best Years of Our Lives is so heartwarming that everyone who has already seen it in the preview room has already made arrangements to see it again at the Esquire Theater.” The article concludes, “The Best Years of Our Lives” is an eloquent tribute to returning veterans: a magnificent brilliant contribution to motion pictures as an art and a Christmas present handsomely wrapped in silver paper with crimson ribbon and gold stars for audiences who don’t get excited about art but who do love a fine film.” Mary Jane, why don’t you read the last one. This is from the November 22, 1946 publication of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Mary Jane “It is not only the most significant film story yet told about veterans of World War Two seeking their places in the post-war world. It is also one of the few brilliant films of the year, combining a fresh and utterly human drama with beautiful acting, heartwarming writing, gentle, unpretentious directing, and the fine technical touches, photographic scenic and sound that nearly always are to be found in a Goldwyn production.

Steve Silverman Okay, so we’re titling this Bad Apples. So, on a scale of 1 to 10 bad apples, how would you rate it?

Mary Jane You know, before you and I talked, I definitely thought it was an eight. I think it’d be nice to see some more films because we’re just starting this. Maybe I would actually up it a little but right now I’m putting it at an eight.

Steve Silverman Okay, that’s where I put it, as an eight. I think the movies excellent. I really really liked this movie but you have to put yourself in a 1940s frame of mind because it is a black and white movie. Some of the acting is his typical 1940s, not like acting is today. So you know, if you take that little bit out, it’s a great movie. So would you recommend this movie to others?

Mary Jane I would recommend it to someone who really likes history and is willing to watch a black and white film. I thought it was very interesting.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I would definitely recommend it, also. I would just say anyone who wants an action movie, this is not for you. And, you know, I do know, having been a teacher for 30 years, there are some people, particularly, you know, students who will not watch black and white movies. They just, as soon as they see black and white, they just turn it off. So that could be a problem also, but I do recommend the movie. I think people should, if you have even the slightest interest, you should just go to archive.org and pull up The Best Years of Our Lives. I think you’re really going to like it. One thing that really, I was thinking throughout the movie, and it’s kind of spooky, is that not a single person that you’re looking at on the screen there is alive anymore.

Mary Jane Yeah. We talked about that.

Steve Silverman Yeah, I mean, Teresa Wright, who I always remember as a young woman, I mean, she was probably in her, you know, mid to late 20s when this movie was made. I mean, every movie, I’ve seen her and she’s been a young woman, and she’s not alive anymore. I mean, probably the only people who could be alive are the little kids in the movie, and they just have very, very minor roles in the movie. So every single actor is no longer live. And that’s kind of sad to think about.

Mary Jane It’s kind of it’s kind of spooky. Yeah.

Steve Silverman So I’d like to thank my wife, Mary Jane, for being part of this show.

Mary Jane You are very welcome, Steve.

Steve Silverman Occasionally, you’ll hear her doing some French pronunciations, or some Spanish for me in the podcast throughout the years. But overall, this is the biggest role she’s played, other than being forced to listen to every episode before I post it.

Mary Jane Right.

Steve Silverman So let me know what you think about this segment. Should we keep doing these Movie Reviews? And if you saw the movie, what did you think about the movie? Did you like it? Did you dislike it? Just let me know. I’d be curious to know what other people think. You can post your comments on Facebook, you can go to my website, which is uselessinformation.org, and there’s a link there to contact me, or you can email me directly at steve@uselessinformation.org. That’s steve@uselessinformation.org. Again, the movie is The Best Years of Our Lives. And it’s available for free on archive.org. There’s lots of great movies there, TV shows, old-time radio, and so on.

Mary Jane It’s a great source.

Steve Silverman Yeah, you do have to be careful on archive.org because they have no filters. There’s a lot of adult material, so you don’t want your child roaming around there. But anyway, you can also stream it through Amazon and RedBox. I’m not really sure if Netflix had it. But Amazon and RedBox both charge $2.99 to watch the movie. You can also check your local library. I checked our local library and they can pull in DVDs from libraries in the region. And they have three copies available within basically a 20-minute drive of our home. So I suspect that your library will have it in stock also. Anyway, thanks for listening and thanks again to my wife for participating.

Mary Jane You’re welcome, Steve.

Steve Silverman Yes. And take care everyone.

Mary Jane Okay, bye bye.

Lost Coat Found

 

An amazing coincidence was told in the news on May 23, 1932.  While on a flight from Russia back in November of 1920, a man named Alexis Davidoff gave his trench coat to someone in need.

What happened to that coat after that is unknown, but imagine his surprise when he saw that same coat being worn by actress Miriam Hopkins eleven years later while Davidoff was serving as the technical director on the movie set for “The World, the Flesh, the Devil.”

Apparently, the wardrobe department at Paramount Studios had been purchasing garments from Russian refugees for the past decade and his coat was among the several hundred they had obtained.