William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) is one of the best films to depict postwar life. Focusing upon the stories of three soldiers who navigate life and its challenges after the war, it remains a powerful and highly poignant film.
Under Wyler’s direction, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell star in this film and offer moving performances. Andrews’ character struggles with PTSD, then dubbed the “veterans problem.” Oscar-winner Russell, a double amputee, adapts to a new life on the homefront building a stronger relationship with the sweetheart he left behind. Showcasing the harsh realities of postwar America, the film was a project near and dear to Wyler, who was also injured at war. Furthermore, producer Samuel Goldwyn would win his only Best Picture Academy Award as a result of this film.
In Making the Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation, author Alison Macor explores the film’s journey from script to screen and its impact on American audiences. While its critique of American ideals garnered controversy, the film was nonetheless a powerful medium in support of reintegrating soldiers with wounds both visible and invisible to the eye.
Macor succeeds in delivering a thoughtful and well-researched portrayal of the complicated influence of The Best Years of Our Lives and the film’s overall impact. Fans of the wartime film will no doubt enjoy this close examination of the film.
Making the Best Years of Our Lives: The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation is available for purchase via the University of Texas Press.