Well, how much did you know, how much did you remember, about one of the best films of Post World War II?
Pictured above is actress Cathy O’Donnell and Harold Russell, perhaps classic Hollywood’s most distinguished non-pro actor, who really did lose his hands during WW2. It was not in combat, however.
Russell had enlisted in the U.S. Army after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, and learned demolition skills as part of his training as a paratrooper. In June of 1944, while teaching demolition work at Camp Mackall in North Carolina, a defective fuse ignited the TNT he was holding. His hands were amputated three inches above the wrists.
He was fitted with prosthetic hooks, and once he learned to manipulate them, he started making training films. One was seen by The Best Years of Our Lives’ director William Wyler, who took a chance and cast Russell — who had never taken a lesson and never considered himself an actor — as one of three homecoming WW2 vets grappling with returns to civilian life.
The result was declared by Wyler to be the finest performance I have ever seen on the screen. Ok, on to our The Best Years of Our Lives Quiz. As usual to review questions, just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: All films listed were Oscar nominated in 1947, and justifiably so. But our hunch is that as good as Best Years is, (b) Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed has withstood the tough test of time in better shape. This is a subjective question, of course, but something to think about.
2) Answer: Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright played mother-daughter in Best Years even though (d) Loy was only about a dozen years older than Wright.
3) Answer: Although Gregg Toland did a fine job as cinematographer of Best Years, his signature work for the ages is (c) Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.
4) Answer: b) False. Although many actors tired of William Wyler’s penchant for numerous re-takes of scenes, Loy was not among them. She defended his practice because he suspects some wonderful new thing is going to happen — and it usually does.
5) Answer: Harold Russell is almost unique in two respects. b) He is one of only two non-pros to win an acting Oscar (the other is Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian-America doctor who appeared in 1984’s The Killing Fields). Also, (c) Russell, much to the dismay of the Academy, sold off his Oscar statue at auction. He said he needed the money (it drew more than $60,000) to pay his wife’s medical bills.