1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives was the most successful movie at the box office in its decade, second only to 1939’s Gone With the Wind in obtaining the biggest grosses on its initial theatrical release.
In our recent blogs we have been highlighting the most successful films of their respective decades. The Best Years of Our Lives was seen by 40% of the people in the country. Think about that: nearly half the entire U.S. population at the time.
We can’t completely vouch for this but the movie’s producer, the formidable Samuel Goldwyn, supposedly said of his film: I don’t care if it doesn’t make a nickel. I just want every man, woman and child in America to see it. He almost got his wish.
The Best Years of Our Lives has a glittering cast: Fredric March, Dana Andrews (pictured above right), Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright (above left) and Virginia Mayo. It also boasts of a fine script by Robert Sherwood and MacKinlay Kantor, based on his own novella. (A former war correspondent, Kantor also wrote the script for the classic 1950 film noir, Gun Crazy.)
With a story about the difficult post-war social re-adjustments of three servicemen, The Best Years of Our Lives set a high bar for movies about the terrible things war does to those who wage it.
Let’s see how much you know about this hugely successful film. As usual questions today and answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Oscars (not including a related “Honorary Award”) but some critics now say another title nominated in the “best picture” category really deserved to win. Which one? a) The Razor’s Edge; b) It’s A Wonderful Life; c) Henry V; or d) The Yearling.
2) Question: Why was the casting of Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright as respective mother-daughter considered daring at the time? a) Because they detested each other off-camera; b) Because their age difference was so great; c) Because they both voted Republican; or d) Because they were actually pretty close in age.
3) Question: Gregg Toland, the cinematographer for Best Years is best known today for his cinematography for: a) The Little Foxes; b) Wuthering Heights; c) Citizen Kane; or d) The Grapes of Wrath.
4) Question: Best Years’ director William Wyler’s insistence of multiple re-takes of each scene drove Myrna Loy nuts. a) True; or b) False?
5) Question: Harold Russell, the non-pro who plays the war-wounded vet in Best Years, is unique in which respects? a) He is the only actor to appear in a major film with prosthetics that replaced his war-mangled hands; b) He is one of only two non-pros to win an acting Oscar; c) He is the only Oscar-winner to sell his statue at auction; or d) He quit work as an actor immediately after the completion of Best Years.