(1953, b/w) Every cinema fan can recall the brief but unforgettable love scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling in the surf in a secluded cove (or a photograph of it) - "Nobody ever kissed me the way you do" - but not the plot of director Fred Zinnemann's dramatic movie (eight Academy Awards - including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, & Supporting Actor & Actress - out of 13 nominations) filmed on location in Hawaii, based on (screenplay from Daniel Taradash) James Jones's novel, of the weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Murderous animosities within the ranks produced killers preceded the invasion. This version includes scenes with George Reeves as Sgt Maylon Stark, which were excised before theater distribution because of Reeves's popular role as Superman on TV.
Transferring (for personal reasons) with loss of rank from stateside into an infantry rifle unit at Schofield Barracks, Pvt Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), with over five years of enlistment for what he expects will be a 30-year commitment, known for his gift as a bugler and prowess as a middleweight boxer, reports to Capt Dana "Dynamite" Holmes (Philip Ober) and his topkick 1st Sgt Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster).
Expected to join G company's inter-regimental boxing team, Prewitt immediately disappoints the company commander (looking for promotion to major) by refusing, saying he's quit fighting in the ring. "In the Army," Capt Holmes reminds the private, "it's not the individual that counts." Sgt Warden concurs: "You'll fight …" However, not even punishing weeks of extra fatigue duty and continuous harassment manage to change hard-headed Prewitt's conviction.
Reunited with his buddy, Pvt Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), a hard-drinking, scrawny runt of a soldier, introduces Prewitt to the New Congress Club ("gentlemanly relaxation with the opposite gender") off base where he makes acquaintance ("We may seem all alike," the jealous soldier says, "but we ain't all alike") with Lorene (Donna Reed), who will later tell him her hard-luck story and real name, Alma Burke.
A parallel romance develops between Capt Holmes's neglected (aware of her spouse's cheating on her), childless wife Karen (Deborah Kerr) and Sgt Warden: "I just hate to see a beautiful woman go to waste." From Sgt Stark, Sgt Warden learns of Karen's infidelities at Ft Bliss, Texas, about which Stark claims intimate, first-hand knowledge.
About to order a court-martial for Prewitt's "insubordination," Capt Holmes asks Sgt Warden (who secretly despises his superior and all officers): "Do you see any other way of breaking him?" As for Prewitt: "I ain't gonna complain … not gonna give them the satisfaction."
A bar brawl breaks out when James "Fatso" Judson (Ernest Borgnine), sergeant of the guard and stockade, calls Maggio a "Wop," stopped by Sgt Warden; but "tough monkey" Angelo ends up in Sgt Judson's brutal hands after walking off guard duty.
In love and wanting to marry Alma but needing to regain rank to resume privileges, Prewitt ("Nobody ever lies about being lonely") contemplates boxing again to enter the December 15th pugilistic competition, while Karen develops a plan to divorce her husband if Warden will apply for an officer's commission, allowing them to transfer back to the mainland. Unfortunately, war has a way of smashing people's lives.
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