The Best Years of Our Livesis a 1946 American drama film about three servicemen trying to piece their lives back together after coming home from World War II . It won the 1946 Academy Award for Best Picture . It had one of the highest viewing figures of all time, with ticket sales exceeding $20.4 million.
Samuel Goldwyn was inspired to produce a film about veterans after reading an August 7, 1944, article inTimemagazine about the difficulties experienced by men returning to civilian life. Goldwyn hired former war correspondent MacKinlay Kantor to write a screenplay. His work was first published as a novella,Glory for Me, which Kantor wrote in blank verse .
Robert Sherwood then adapted the novel as a screenplay.The film was directed by William Wyler , with cinematography by Gregg Toland . The film won seven Academy Awards , including those for best picture, director, actor, supporting actor, editing, screenplay, and original score.
In addition to its critical success, the film quickly became a great commercial success upon release. It became the highest grossing film in both the USA and UK since the release ofGone with the Wind. It remains the sixth most attended film of all time in the UK, with over 20 million tickets sold.
The ensemble cast includes Fredric March , Myrna Loy , Dana Andrews , Teresa Wright , Virginia Mayo , and Hoagy Carmichael . It also features Harold Russell , a U.S. paratrooper who had lost both hands in a training accident.
After World War II, demobilized servicemen Fred Derry ( Dana Andrews ), Homer Parrish ( Harold Russell ), and Al Stephenson ( Fredric March ) meet while hitching a ride home in a bomber to Boone City, a fictional Midwestern city, patterned after Cincinnati , Ohio .Fred was a 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, where he lost both hands from burns suffered when his aircraft carrier was sunk. For replacements, he has mechanical hook prostheses (as Harold Russell had, so no artifice was required). Al served as an infantry platoon 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 in Boone City. He is a mature man with a loving family and comfortable home: his patient wife Milly ( Myrna Loy ), adult daughter Peggy ( Teresa Wright ) and college freshman son Rob. Al now is having trouble readjusting to civilian life, as do his two chance acquaintances, and he is showing signs of alcoholism .
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 loan to a veteran with no collateral, Al's boss Mr. Milton 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 depositors' 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."