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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that by modern standards of sexuality, language, and violence, this classic film would not be considered objectionable, however, it still contains highly intense situations, including the mistreatment and death of some of its strongest and most likeable characters. There are multiple scenes of bullying, fist fights, and knife fights, though none is bloody or gory. Even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is only moderately violent. Airplanes strafe the military compound in wide shots; rifles, machine guns and artillery are used to fight back, but very little in the way of “hits” or aftermath is seen. Sexuality is limited to passionate kissing, embracing and references to adulterous behavior. There is a great deal of drinking, drunkenness, and smoking throughout; in almost all instances it is seen as acceptable behavior given the time (1941) and place (a military compound in Hawaii).
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What's the story?
War is hell. Being stationed in Hawaii directly before a war, however, is not hell. If FROM HERE TO ETERNITY is remotely accurate, Hawaii in the 1940s was a pretty hot scene -- the drinks were cold, the passions were high, and the ladies were at least as lovely as the scenery. The star-studded ensemble piece follows several plots. Frank Sinatra plays the rebellious Pvt. Angelo Maggio. Montgomery Clift plays Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt, a former bugler who romances Alma Burk (Donna Reed) and undergoes hazing as his peers try to force him into a boxing match. Deborah Kerr gives an icy hot performance as Karen Holmes, neglected wife of Capt. Dana "Dynamite" Holmes (Philip Ober).
Is it any good?
This film is not a work of feel-good boosterism; instead it's a collection of human dramas set against the backdrop of a Hawaiian U.S. Army base in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor. As the characters fight, drink, smoke, begin and end affairs, they act in ways that are familiar and easy to relate to.
The direction of Fred Zinnemann helped sculpt the movie, which won eight Oscars, many for the exceptionally talented cast. This is one of those movies that everyone should see, even if it's not their preferred style or genre, simply because the film is so heavily referenced in mass culture. A steamy scene of Karen Holmes kissing Milton Warden on the beach is particularly resonant. And, though the pacing of the movie might be difficult for younger viewers, From Here to Eternity is overall captivating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues of class raised by the officer/enlisted man hierarchy as well as Alma's story of being romantically rejected because she wasn't a "proper" wife. How are issues of class visible in the military setting? How do these issues affect romances and other plot lines?
Another topic for discussion is Prewitt's refusal to box. Prewitt explains his refusal to the other men, but they refuse to listen. Did Prewitt have any better options for addressing this issue?
What do you notice about the difference between modern movies and classics like this one? How have times changed? How are cultural changes reflected in film?
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