Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

 





Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions
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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

In William Wyler's insightful, Best Picture-winning homefront drama:

  • the early scene in the B-17 bomber nose when three returning veterans had their first glimpse of their hometown of Boone City - feeling alienated, aloof and detached from the strange sights and memories of their former home
  • the poignant shot of Homer's mother (Minna Gombell) at the first sight of her double-amputee son's (Oscar-winning Harold Russell) hooks for hands, and her uncontrollable reaction - she muffled a gasp and sobbed involuntarily - but then not wanting to draw attention to his permanent handicap, she blurted out: "It's nothing"
  • middle-class husband Sgt. Al Stephenson's (Fredric March) homecoming reunion scene in which he entered the apartment complex and then the door of his apartment and silenced with his cupped hand the mouths of his son Rob (Michael Hall) and daughter Peggy (Teresa Wright) - and then wife Milly's (Myrna Loy) first realization that he had come through the door: ("Who's that at the door, Peggy? Peggy? Rob? Who is...?")
  • the scene of PTSD, when Air Force Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) experienced fitful, sweaty nightmares of a disastrous bombing run over Germany, and Peggy comforted and soothed him: "There's nothing to be afraid of. All you have to do is go to sleep and rest. Go to sleep. Go to sleep, Fred. Go to sleep and rest"
  • the continuing vow of love from Homer's loyal childhood sweetheart-girlfriend Wilma Cameron (Cathy O'Donnell): "All I know is, I was in love with you when you left and I'm in love with you now. Other things may have changed but that hasn't"
  • the moving sequence in which Homer was being tormented by curious neighbor children - he yelled at them ("You want to see how the hooks work? Do you want to see the freak? All right, I'll show ya!"), and then thrust his hooked hands through a window
  • the offer of a bank job to Al by bank president Mr. Milton (Ray Collins), becoming Vice President of the Cornbelt Trust Company in charge of a new department (small loans to veterans) at a salary of $12,000 a year; after approving a questionable loan to fellow veteran Mr. Novak (Dean White), he had to defend his idealistic, non-collateral loan on the basis of his own judgment: "Novak looked to me like a good bet...You see Mr. Milton, in the Army, I've had to be with men when they were stripped of everything in the way of property except what they carried around with them and inside them. I saw them being tested. Now some of them stood up to it and some didn't. But you got so you could tell which ones you could count on. I tell you this man Novak is okay. His collateral is in his hands, in his heart and his guts. It's in his right as a citizen"
  • and the memorable sequence - at a welcome-home banquet attended by stuffy bankers and their wives - of Al's delivery of a wartime parable to rectify himself in front of his astonished, skeptical audience; he argued about how battles and wars were not won by first demanding collateral from Uncle Sam; he asked his associates to show more tolerance and acceptance toward the less privileged veterans returning from the war, and to not always seek collateral or guarantees for every risk of expenditure
  • the homewrecking efforts of persistent and young Peggy Stephenson, Al's intelligent, articulate, headstrong daughter, to win Air Force Captain Fred Derry away from his mismatched marriage to unloving blonde floozy wife Marie Derry (Virginia Mayo): "I've made up my mind...I'm going to break that marriage up. I can't stand it seeing Fred tied to a woman he doesn't love and who doesn't love him. Oh it's horrible for him. It's humiliating and it's killing his spirit. Somebody's got to help him...He doesn't love her, he hates her. I know it. I know it"
  • the unconventional love scene of Homer with Wilma showing her his difficult nightly routine with his 'hooks' as he prepared for bed; after removing his harness without assistance, he stood helplessly in front of her with what was left of his arms; she gently reassured him of her deep love, paving the way for Homer's acceptance that their love could overcome any misfortune or disability
  • the bittersweet scene of Fred's father reading with pride his son's citation for a Flying Cross honor, for valor and heroism in the skies over Germany: "Despite intense pain, shock, and loss of blood, with complete disregard of his personal safety, Captain Derry crawled back to his bombsight, guided his formation on a perfect run over the objective, and released his bombs with great accuracy. The heroism, devotion to duty, professional skill, and coolness under fire displayed by Captain Derry under the most difficult conditions reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States of America. By command of Lieutenant General Doolittle"
  • the scene of Fred Derry's walk through a junked airplane graveyard where he relived his many wartime memories of bombing missions in the nose of an abandoned B-17 bomber
The Bomber Junkyard Bringing Back War Memories for Fred
  • the film's final scene of Wilma's and Homer's wedding and the skill with which Homer placed a ring on her finger - with the added knowledge that Peggy and Fred - seen in the background - would eventually also marry after his divorce with Marie could be finalized
  • in the final line of dialogue, he realistically cautioned Peggy before they kissed: "You know what it'll be, don't you, Peggy? It may take us years to get anywhere. We'll have no money, no decent place to live. We'll have to work - get kicked around"


Returning Home in the B-17 Bomber

Homer's Awkward Homecoming

Al's Surprise of Milly

Peggy with Nightmare-Suffering Fred

Wilma with Homer

Homer Thrusting His Hooked Hands Through Window

Al's Welcome-Home Speech


Wilma's Steadfast Love for Homer

Peggy and Fred -
Soon to Marry

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