What movie did you use to help commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day?
I opted for an unconventional one in that it was a movie about the post-war, not the landing on Normandy.
My choice? William Wyler’s “The Best Years of Our Lives.”
This film chronicles three servicemen, a navy man, an airman, and an infantry sergeant as they travel back to their hometown of Boone City after being discharged by their respective armed forces.
The sailor had lost his hands, replacing them with hooks. He has to overcome his fear of stares and uncomfortable situations from his family and long-time girlfriend who have been waiting for him.
The airman, a captain, returns to his pre-war bride of 20 days with lots of angst and apprehension about having to get to know his wife who has lived for years without him.
The army sergeant returns to his wife of twenty years and two grown kids whom he doesn’t seem to know.
Their stories become intertwined in Wyler’s 1946 classic which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. While the overall story lacks some believability at times, still it works, and it represents an excellent and gripping example of how our servicemen returned from war not knowing what to expect. Likewise, it shows how the families of the servicemen also struggled with how to cope with a person changed by the war.
One of the great side-benefits of watching this film is to see post-war America in all its glory and contradictions. The footage of America of that era is priceless. The endless fields of discarded war airplanes being sold for scrap – the drug stores and soda fountains – the crowded night clubs – the haves and the have nots. It’s all there, and it’s fascinating.
And it’s a great way to remember the sacrifices made home and abroad fighting for freedom.
“The Best Years of Our Lives” – I recommend it!