Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Book Review: Making The Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) is one of the most honored and beloved films from Hollywood's
Golden Age. It was released over 75 years ago. Author and film historian, Alison Macor has written a very readable narrative on how this ground-breaking film got made.

It all started with a short article that producer Samuel Goldwyn's wife, Frances read in Time entitled "The Way Home" about returning Marines after the war. Goldwyn wasn't interested in making a film like that but he was shrewd enough to register "The Way Home" as a possible movie title.

While browsing a bookshelf at the Goldwyn studio, the director Willliam Wyler came across the novel Glory for Me written by MacKinlay Kantor. Goldwyn wanted to have playwright Robert E. Sherwood adapt the book for the screen, but Sherwood was busy and wasn't sure the subject of soldiers readjusting to life after World War II would be relevant by the time the production made it to the screen. 

Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews in a crucial scene from
The Best Years of Our Lives

Well, Goldwyn was nothing if not persistent. Eventually, Sherwood would write the screenplay and the whole project would come together under the direction of William Wyler, who was at the tail end of his contract with Goldwyn. Amazingly, everything jelled to create a truly memorable motion picture.

Macor has done scrupulous research in putting the pieces together on how The Best Years of Our Lives came to be. From its beginning as an idea to its casting, everything you ever wanted to know about the making of this beloved classic in Macor's book.

Cinematographer Greg Toland and director William Wyler discuss how
to shoot a scene with Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo.

As someone who truly loves The Best Years of Our Lives (I have my own DVD copy), I was a little uncertain if it would meet my expectations. It did and then some.

If you love The Best Years of Our Lives and/or you love learning how the old studio system worked, Making The Best Years of Our Lives, is a great read and you'll learn a lot.

The book is available from Amazon or wherever books are sold.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ 
    University of Texas Press (June 7, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 240 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1477318917
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1477318911
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.1 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches

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