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From Here to Eternity is a 1953 drama film based on the novel of the same name by James Jones. It deals with the troubles of soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, and Ernest Borgnine stationed on Hawaiimarker in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbormarker. Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed portrayed the women in their lives.

The film won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Sinatra), and Best Supporting Actress (Reed).


Lancaster and Kerr.

Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is transferred to Schofield Barracksmarker on the island of Oahumarker. When Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) learns of his reputation as a talented boxer, he pressures Prewitt to join the regimental boxing club that he heads, but the enlisted man stubbornly refuses. 1st Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) suggests that he try to get Prewitt to change his mind by making life as difficult as possible. He gets the other non-commissioned officers to help. Prewitt is supported only by his friend, Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra).

Behind his commander's back, Warden begins an affair with Holmes' neglected wife Karen (Deborah Kerr). As their relationship develops, she asks him to apply for officer training, so she can divorce Holmes and marry him. When he is finally forced to admit that he doesn't want to be an officer, she sadly ends the affair.

Meanwhile, Maggio antagonizes bigoted Staff Sergeant James R. "Fatso" Judson (Ernest Borgnine). When the undisciplined Maggio goes AWOL, he is sentenced to the stockade, under Judson's charge. Judson takes the opportunity to beat the defiant prisoner repeatedly. Maggio manages to escape and find Prewitt; he tells him of the abuse he endured, then dies. Prewitt finds Judson and kills him in revenge in a knife fight, but suffers a serious wound across the stomach in the process. He then goes into hiding in the apartment of his girl Lorene (Donna Reed), a nightclub "hostess" with whom he has become acquainted. His wound refuses to heal.

When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Prewitt tries to return to camp, but is shot dead by a sentry. At the end, Lorene and Karen meet on a ship leaving for the mainland. Lorene tells Karen that her fiancé was an air force pilot shot down in the attack, but Karen recognizes Prewitt's name.


The novel's author, James Jones, had a small, uncredited part.


Legend has it that Frank Sinatra got the role in the movie because of his alleged Mafia connections, and that this was the basis for a similar subplot in The Godfather, although this has been dismissed on several occasions by the cast and crew of the film. Director Fred Zinneman commented that "The legend about a horse's head having been cut off is pure invention, a poetic license on the part of Mario Puzo who wrote The Godfather." More plausible is the notion that Sinatra's then-wife Ava Gardner persuaded studio head Harry Cohn's wife to use her influence with him; this version is related by Kitty Kelley in her Sinatra biography. Sinatra himself had been bombarding Cohn with letters and telegrams asking to play the ill-fated Maggio, even signing some of the letters "Maggio". Sinatra benefited when Eli Wallach, who was originally cast as Maggio, dropped out to appear on Broadwaymarker instead. Sinatra gained the role, ultimately taking a pay cut in the process (earning $8,000, a huge drop from his $130,000 salary for Anchors Aweigh) to star in the film.

Sinatra's screen-test was used in the final cut of the film; the scene included Sinatra improvising with a handful of olives, pretending they were a pair of dice.

The material of the rather explicit novel had to be considerably toned down to appease the censors of the time. For example, in the famous beach scene, it is less obvious that Kerr and Lancaster's characters have actually been having sex than it is in the novel and the later, more frank 1979 miniseries based on the book.

The on-screen chemistry between Lancaster and Kerr may have spilled off-screen; he alleged that the stars became romantically involved during filming.

A rumor has been circulating for years that George Reeves, who played Sgt. Maylon Stark, had his role drastically edited after preview audiences recognized him as TV's Superman. This is depicted in the docudrama Hollywoodland. However, Zinnemann maintains all his scenes were kept intact from the first draft, nor was there ever a preview screening.

The U.S. Army withheld its cooperation from the production (most of the movie was filmed where it was set, at Schofield Barracksmarker, Hawaii) until the producers agreed to several modifications, most noticeably the fate of Captain Holmes. Numerous barracks locations are still intact and still occupied by active duty troops. In both the movie and the book the bar and restaurant called Choy's, where the fight scene takes place in the movie and where the novel opens is named Kemoo Farm, Choy's was chosen by James Jones in honor of Kemoo Farm's head chef. Kemoo Farm is still deeply associated with the adjacent Schofield Barracks and the cast and crew, especially Sinatra, are reputed to have patronized the bar to the point of excess.


Opening to rave reviews, From Here to Eternity proved to be an instant smash with critics and the public alike, with the likes of The Southern California Motion Picture Council extolling: "A motion picture so great in its starkly realistic and appealing drama that mere words cannot justly describe it." Variety agreed, stating, "The James Jones bestseller, "From Here to Eternity," has become an outstanding motion picture in this smash screen adaptation. It is an important film from any angle, presenting socko entertainment for big business. The cast names are exceptionally good, the exploitation and word-of-mouth values are topnotch, and the prospects in all playdates are very bright whether special key bookings or general run."

Of the actors, Variety went on to say, " Burt Lancaster, whose presence adds measurably to the marquee weight of the strong cast names, wallops the character of Top Sergeant Milton Warden, the professional soldier who wetnurses a weak, pompous commanding officer and the GIs under him. It is a performance to which he gives depth of character as well as the muscles which had gained marquee importance for his name. Montgomery Clift, with a reputation for sensitive, three-dimensional performances, adds another to his growing list as the independent GI who refuses to join the company boxing team, taking instead the "treatment" dished out at the c.o.'s instructions. Frank Sinatra scores a decided hit as Angelo Maggio, a violent, likeable Italo-American GI. While some may be amazed at this expression of the Sinatra talent versatility, it will come as no surprise to those who remember the few times he has had a chance to be something other than a crooner in films.

The New York Post applauded Frank Sinatra, remarking that "He proves he is an actor by playing the luckless Maggio with a kind of doomed gaity that is both real and immensely touching." Newsweek also stated that "Frank Sinatra, a crooner long since turned actor, knew what he was doing when he plugged for the role of Maggio."

The cast agreed, Burt Lancaster commenting in the book Sinatra: An American Legend that "His fervour (Sinatra), his bitterness had something to do with the character of Maggio, but also with what he had gone through the last number of years. A sense of defeat and the whole world crashing in on him... They all came out in that performance."

With a gross of $30.5 million equating to earnings of $12.2 million, From Here to Eternity was not only one of the top grossing films of 1953, but one of the ten highest-grossing films of the decade. Adjusted for inflation, its box office gross would be equivalent to in excess of $240 million U.S. in recent times.

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Award Won Nomination Winner
Best Picture Columbia Pictures (Buddy Adler, Producer)
Best Director Fred Zinnemann
Best Actor Montgomery Clift

Winner was William Holden - Stalag 17
Best Actor Burt Lancaster

Winner was William Holden - Stalag 17
Best Actress Deborah Kerr

Winner was Audrey Hepburn - Roman Holiday
Best Writing, Screenplay Daniel Taradash
Best Supporting Actor Frank Sinatra
Best Supporting Actress Donna Reed
Best Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Best Film Editing William A. Lyon
Best Sound John P. Livadary
Best Costume Design Jean Louis

Winner was Edith Head - Roman Holiday
Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture George Duning and Morris Stoloff

Winner was Bronislau Kaper - Lili

William Holden, who won the Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17, felt that Lancaster should have won. Sinatra would later comment that he thought his performance of heroin addict Frankie Machine in The Man With the Golden Arm was more deserving of an Oscar than his role as Maggio.

Golden Globe Awards

  • Winner Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor - Frank Sinatra
  • Winner Best Director - Fred Zinneman

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Winner NYFCC Award Best Film
  • Winner Best Actor - Burt Lancaster
  • Winner Best Director - Fred Zinneman

Cannes Film Festival

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

  • Nominated BAFTA Best Film From Any Source

Directors Guild of America

  • Winner DGAmarker Outstanding Directorial Achievement - Fred Zinneman

Writers Guild of America

  • Winner WGA Best Written American Drama


National Film Registry

In 2002, the United States Library of Congressmarker deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

American Film Institute




  • Buford, Kate. Burt Lancaster: An American Life. New York: Knopf, 2000. ISBN 0-679-44603-6.
  • Dolan Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN 1-57488-263-5.

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