Filmsite Movie Review
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
The Story (continued)

Meanwhile, during Warden's and Karen's rendezvous, the waves crash in toward the deserted beach for the prelude to the film's most memorable, famous and shockingly torrid (for its day) love-making scene on a sandy Oahu beach. [The scene was shot in Hawaii at Oahu's Halona Cove, also known as Eternity Cove, adjacent to Hanauma Bay. It has been spoofed numerous times, e.g., in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and in Airplane! (1980)].

Karen removes her outer clothing, and looks provocatively at the Sergeant as he strips down to his shorts. For a moonlight-drenched swim, she runs first into the water and encourages him to join her.

In the New Congress Club, when Alma shows a temporary interest in another soldier, Prewitt becomes jealous:

Alma: Now what do you think Mrs. Kipfer hires us for? She pays us to be nice to all the boys. They're all alike. Is it so important?
Prewitt: It is important. We may seem all alike. We ain't all alike. I'm sorry.
Alma: Look. Let's go up to Mrs. Kipfer's parlor and sit there. She lets us use it sometimes for somebody special.

Back at the edge of the Hawaiian beach surf, the waves churn up white caps and breakers. The water rolls up the beach and races toward Karen and Warden who lie together. Their bodies are tightly locked and intertwined in an embrace as they kiss each other and the white foaming waves pour over them. She rises, prances up the sand, and collapses onto their blanket. Warden follows and stands above her, drops to his knees, and finds her lips in his:

Karen: (breathlessly) I never knew it could be like this. Nobody ever kissed me the way you do.
Warden: Nobody?
Karen: No, nobody.
Warden: Not even one? Out of all the men you've been kissed by?
Karen: Now that'd take some figuring. How many men do you think there've been?
Warden: I wouldn't know. Can't you give me a rough estimate?
Karen (sarcastically): Not without an adding machine. Do you have your adding machine with you?
Warden: I forgot to bring it.
Karen: Then I guess you won't find out, will you?
Warden: Maybe I already know.

The scene quickly becomes one of alienation and conflict. His probing denegrates her character - his knowledge of her loose promiscuity and numerable other previous affairs at other outposts nags at him and produces feelings of ambivalence about her sexuality. When Warden accuses her of being a tramp, she counter-accuses him of being brutally insensitive:

Karen: What's the matter? What are you hinting at?
Warden: Why? Is there something to hint at? Maybe there's been a long line of beach parties.
Karen: You must be crazy.
Warden: Am I? What about when you and Holmes were back at Ft. Bliss? Did you ever hear of a soldier named Stark? Maylon Stark?
Karen: Why yes.
Warden: (mimicking) Why yes. (accusatory) You knew him too, didn't ya? Didn't ya?
Karen: I had to go and forget you were like all the rest of them.
Warden: Only it's true, ain't it? Well ain't it?

She turns away, grabs her clothes, and runs away. He pursues and stops her. Finally, she softens and explains her unhappy, unfulfilled and intolerable marriage in detail. Her husband's irresponsible behavior (adultery) contributed to a miscarriage, hysterectomy and future infertility - Warden listens intently and eventually comforts the bitter woman in his arms:

Warden: Why don't you tell me about it? Tell me the story. There's always a story.
Karen: You don't leave a person anything, do you? (She again tries to leave, but he holds on and pulls her back. She attempts to strike at him, but he blocks her. She falls in front of him. He walks back to get his clothes.) Come back here, Sergeant. I'll tell you the story. You can take it back to the barracks with you. I'd only been married to Dana two years when I found out he was cheating. And by that time, I was pregnant. I thought I had something to hope for. I was almost happy the night the pains began. I remember Dana was going to an officer's conference. I told him to get home early to bring the doctor with him. And maybe he would have if his conference hadn't been with a hat check girl. He was drunk when he came in at five a.m. I was lying on the floor. I begged him to go for the doctor, but he fell on the couch and passed out. The baby was born about an hour later. Of course it was dead. It was a boy. But they worked over me at the hospital. They fixed me up fine. They even took my appendix out. They threw that in free...And one more thing - no more children. Sure I went out with men after that. And if I'd ever found one that...I know. Until I met you, I didn't think it was possible either.

The previous scene dissolves into the next - introduced by the circling smoke from Prewitt's cigarette rising upward. In Mrs. Kipfer's parlor, Alma and Prewitt quickly become better acquainted. She opens up about her past, telling him that she was jilted by a wealthy boyfriend in Oregon. Now she yearns for something better - she plans to work at her profession until she can save enough money to leave Hawaii for the mainland with a financially-secure life:

I enlisted too. I came out here on my own to get away from my home town in Oregon...I had a boyfriend. I was a waitress and he was from the richest family in town. He just married a girl suitable for his position after three years of goin' around with me...So I-I left and went to Seattle. When I got there, I met a girl just back from Hawaii and she said she made a lot of money working there. So I caught the first boat. I've been here a year and two months...Oh I don't like it, but I don't mind it. Anyway, I won't be here forever...I've got it all figured out. In another year, I'll be back home with a stocking full of money. Then I'll be all set for life.

Prewitt tells Alma about his harsh, humiliating treatment at the barracks - a result of his refusal to box on the regiment's team after he blinded a friend during a sparring bout a year earlier:

Some of the guys are puttin' me over the jumps 'cause I don't want to fight...yeah, on the boxing team. I don't want to box. I don't even want to think about it...see, I used to fight, middleweight. And I was pretty good and they know it...I used to work out with this guy Dixie Wells. He's a real good friend of mine. Loved to box. People on the outside had their eye on him. He was gonna come out of the Army and go right up to the top. Well, one afternoon, he and I were sparrin' around in the gym, you know, kind of friendly-like. And, he must have been set pretty flat on his feet 'cause I caught him with a, no more'n ordinary right cross, and uh, he didn't get up. He didn't move. He was in a coma for a week, and uh, finally, he did pull out of it. Only the thing was that he was blind. Well, I went to see him at the hospital a couple of times and finally I just couldn't go back. The last time he and I started talking about fighting, and uh, he started to cry. And seein' tears comin' out of those eyes that couldn't see anything.

Back at the base, Prewitt is warned that Holmes spoke to his boxing team - all non-commissioned officers. "From now on, it's no-holds barred. They aim to run you right into the stockade if they got to." During field exercises, Prewitt is deliberately forced to crawl through mud. He also must dig an enormous hole in the ground so that a single newspaper can be buried. Exasperated by unfair harrassment, Prewitt talks back to one of the officers: "I've never liked being spit on, sir, not even by a non-commissioned officer." For his insubordination and for refusing to apologize, he is ordered into "a full field pack, extra shoes and helmet," and hiked up to Kolekole Pass and back - twice. To break him even further, Holmes commands Warden to prepare court-martial papers for 'insubordination to a non-commissioned officer.'

Only it's a shame...It's too bad you got to lose a good middleweight...Even if he gets just three months, he'll still be in the stockade when the boxing finals come up.

Instead of a court-martial, Holmes re-considers and instead prepares to "double up on company punishment." Instead of a stay in the stockade, K.P. duties, street cleaning and garbage details fill most of Prewitt's "life in a rifle company." Acting as a "stooge for Holmes," Warden talks to Prewitt as he scrubs pots and pans in dirty dishwater - he wants Prewitt to surrender and be bribed into boxing:

Warden: Life in a rifle company. Look awful tired, kid. How do you like straight duty?...I just said you look tired, you know, drawn to a fine edge.
Prewitt: Oh, I like this life. It's a great life. If I find a pearl, I'll cut you in. Fifty-fifty, you know what I mean? If you didn't put me here, I'd have no chance to find it, right?
Warden: ...Well, since you like it so much, I'll see if I can find some more for you. How about garbage detail?
Prewitt: Thanks, I had that on Wednesday.
Warden: So you did. What about street cleaning?
Prewitt: Yesterday.
Warden: You got a better memory than me. Of course, if you were smart...
Prewitt: Yeah, but I ain't smart.
Warden: I know, I know. But if you were, you wouldn't have to pull KP or any other fatigue duty for that matter.
Prewitt: If you think you can bribe me into boxing, Warden, you're wrong. You're wrong! Not you, and dynamite Holmes and the treatment.

Between beers during off hours, Prewitt cuts loose with some bugling and beguiles all of the company with his talent. Maggio shows some buddies his family photos and the smiling, villainous, beer-gutted Sergeant "Fatso" Judson again taunts Maggio with an insult about his sister. Another fight breaks out in the barroom between the two after Maggio crashes a bar-stool down on Fatso's head. Before Warden breaks up the struggle between the knife-wielding Fatso and the Italian, the bully threatens: "I'm gonna cut this wop's heart out. Anybody steps in here, I give it to 'em first." With animalistic intensity, Warden challenges Fatso with a jagged, broken-ended bottle: "OK, Fatso. If it's killing you want, come on." The stockade sergeant reluctantly drops his knife. Before it's over, Fatso warns Maggio about how he won't forget:

Tough monkey. Guys like you end up in the stockade sooner or later. Someday you'll walk in. I'll be waitin'. I'll show you a couple of things.

Prewitt becomes more possessive of Alma's time when he has finally been given a pass during a time of intensified treatments. This makes it difficult for her to work under Mrs. Kipfer's rules and enjoy his company: "I can't just walk out, and even if I could, she doesn't like us to date boys on the outside...You haven't any claims on me mister. You're not my husband, you know." Prewitt is visibly upset: "I may not get another pass for months. I've been countin' on this like a kid counts on Christmas." She protests when he calls her Lorene - a name derived from a perfume ad:

Oh, stop calling me Lorene. My name's Alma...Yes, Alma Burke...Mrs. Kipfer picked Lorene out of a perfume ad. She thought it sounded French.

At a rendezvous at the Kalakaua Inn later that night, he is thrilled to see her. Then he attempts to explain to her why he's a soldier. The Army is the only home he's ever known or wants to know - although it coldly doesn't love him back ("A man loves a thing. That don't mean it's gotta love him back"). For Prewitt, communication with his bugle is easier than with words.

Alma: Gee, you must hate the Army.
Prewitt: No, I don't hate the Army.
Alma: Yeah, but look what it's doing to you.
Prewitt: I love the Army.
Alma: But it sure doesn't love you.
Prewitt: A man loves a thing. That don't mean it's gotta love him back.
Alma: Yeah, but a person can stand just so much.
Prewitt: You love a thing, you gotta be grateful. See, I left home when I was seventeen. Both my folks was dead and I didn't belong no place, 'till I entered the Army. If it weren't for the Army, I wouldn't have learned how to bugle.
Alma: To bugle?
Prewitt: Yeah. That's the mouthpiece that I used when I played a taps at Arlington. They picked me to play a taps at Arlington Cemetery on Armistice Day. The President was there. I play the bugle well.

Completely drunk after visiting three bars, Maggio arrives and greets his pals: "Hello, citizens." He is in uniform, but typical of his inability to live by discipline, he continues to drink. Calling himself "the terror of Gimbel's basement," he uses olives as dice for a bar-top craps game. After shooting "snake eyes...the story of my life," he admits that he has walked off guard duty and is AWOL. Prewitt struggles to talk sense with him, but Maggio is resistant ("let's go swimming with a movie star") and defensively combative. Outside, half-undressed and dead drunk, Maggio claims to Prewitt that he is waiting for a movie star to come out of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel closeby:

What's the matter with you? Can't a man get drunk? Can't a man do nothin'? Can't he put his lousy hands in his lousy pockets on a lousy street. A man got to be hounded all his life. Well, I'm tired. I ain't no criminal. I ain't no coward.

MP's on patrol subdue him, arrest him and he is courtmartialed - his fate is to spend six months in the stockade. As he is brought to the prison, Maggio tells the guard:

I'm gonna escape from this dump. Gimbel's basement couldn't hold me, neither can no lousy stockade.

In the Sergeant of the Guard's office, Maggio is greeted by the vengeful, power-corrupted Stockade sergeant - "Fatso":

Hello, tough monkey.

The scene ends with the sadistic Sergeant reaching for his billy-club.

Alma lets Prewitt use her cooperatively-rented home in a very "fashionable district" where he can escape at any time: "You can use it any time you want to, even when I'm not here." Prewitt is pleased by the arrangement: "Hey, this is like bein' married, ain't it?" Alma replies that living together is better than being married: "It's better."

Because they must meet clandestinely and always be on guard, Warden wants Karen to divorce her opportunistic military husband Holmes, but it would only be feasible (and keep him from going to Leavenworth) if the Sergeant became a commissioned officer himself. She urges him to change his military status so that she can divorce her husband and marry him, but he despises the idea of advancing his career and becoming a commissioned officer. They mutually agree that marriage often leads to unhappiness ("so they were married and lived unhappily ever after"), although for the time being they are 'miserably' in love with each other during their romantic, secretive affair:

Karen: It can't go on like this much longer. Even when we sneaked clear across the island tonight, we had to run out like jailbirds.
Warden: If there was only some way we could -- Holmes would probably give you a divorce, but he'd never let me transfer out of his outfit.
Karen: There is a way. I've been thinking about it. You've got to become an officer. You can take the new extension course, the one they passed last May. When you get your commission, they'd ship you back to the States.
Warden: An officer?
Karen: Yes. Then I could divorce Dana and marry you.
Warden: I hate officers. I've always hated officers.
Karen: Well that's a fine and intelligent point of view. Suppose I said I always hated sergeants. That would make a lot of sense, wouldn't it?
Warden: You sure made a complete study of it. OK, suppose I did, and don't think it's a cinch. Then you'd be gettin' your divorce here while I was in the States. We'd be apart maybe six months. We're sure to be into a war by then.
Karen: Why don't you tell the truth? You just don't want the responsibility. You're probably not even in love with me.
Warden: You're crazy. I wish I didn't love ya. Maybe I could enjoy life again.
Karen: So they were married and lived unhappily ever after.
Warden: I've never been so miserable in my life as I have since I met you.
Karen: Neither have I.
Warden: I wouldn't trade a minute of it.
Karen: Neither would I.
Warden: I'll probably make the lousiest officer in this man's Army you ever saw.
Karen: You'll make a fine officer. A remarkable officer.

Previous Page Next Page