Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

From Here to Eternity (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

From Here to Eternity (1953)

In Fred Zinnemann's provocative, Best Picture-winning adaptation of James Jones' 1951 novel - a hefty, 859-page smoldering tale; its sprawling and complex story-line about Army life with its bold and explicit script (with strong language, violence and raw sexual content) was at first considered unsuitable (and unfilmable) for the screen; the ground-breaking film's subjects (ill-suited for television) included prostitution, adultery, military injustice, corruption and violence, alcohol abuse, and murder:

  • the famous, nighttime erotic lovemaking scene during a secretive, torrid affair between career soldier First Sgt. Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) and the base commander Captain Dana Holmes' (Philip Ober) neglected, promiscuous wife Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr); after stripping down, the two went swimming, and then engaged in a horizontal embrace and wave-covering kiss in the Hawaiian beach surf as it broke over them - their bodies were tightly locked and intertwined in an embrace as they kissed each other and the white foaming waves poured over them; afterwards, she rose, pranced up the sand, and collapsed onto their blanket; Warden followed and stood above her, dropped to his knees, and found her lips in his, as she responded breathlessly - Karen: "I never knew it could be like this. Nobody ever kissed me the way you do." Warden: "Nobody?" Karen: "No, nobody."
The Infamous Hawaiian Beach Love-making Scene
  • meanwhile, Robert E. Lee Prewitt ("Prew") (Montgomery Clift) often frequented a private Honolulu 'social club' known as the New Congress Club, stocked with hostesses (another term for prostitutes) - he became close to employee Alma Burke, or "Lorene" (wholesome actress Donna Reed in an 'against-type role), who with low self-esteem claimed she was only a streetwalker "two steps up from the pavement"
  • the scene of the death of Private Angelo Maggio (Oscar-winning Frank Sinatra) in Prewitt's arms, after a month of abuse and repeated vicious beatings at the hands of sadistic, bullying, cruel stockade Sergeant "Fatso" Judson (Ernest Borgnine); after Maggio's escape from the stockade and just before dying, he warned Prewitt: "Fatso done it, Prew. He likes to whack me in the gut. He asked me if it hurts and I spit at him like always. Only yesterday it was bad. He hit me. He hit me. He hit me. Then I-I had to get out, Prew. I had to get out...They're gonna send me to the stockade, Prew? Watch out for Fatso. Watch out for Fatso"
  • the evening scene of lone Prewitt, in tribute to his deceased friend, playing a soulful "taps" (dubbed by Manny Klein) on the company's parade grounds; the camera found the somber, saddened faces of Warden and other soldiers in the barracks as they listened; tears streamed down Prewitt's cheeks
  • the vengeful manslaughter (stabbing) murder of "Fatso" by Prewitt - after Fatso showed no pity over his dead friend Maggio's death: "Oh, the wop?...A real tough monkey"
  • the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when Sergeant Warden took charge and rallied his enlisted men to prepare to fight - barking commands and orders to the non-coms: "I want every man to get his rifle and go to his bunk and stay there. And I mean stay there...You'll get your ears shot off if you go outside. You wanna be heroes? You'll get plenty of chances. There'll probably be Japs in your lap before night. Now get movin'. We're wastin' time"
  • the macho moment when Warden took a charismatic, leadership role, held a heavy, repeating machine gun at his waist and fired at the planes streaming overhead above the barracks during the Pearl Harbor attack - one of his targets crashed in a ball of flames
  • the scene of Prewitt's ill-advised attempt to return to the barracks in the dark, when he left sympathetic hostess/hooker-girlfriend Alma (Lorene) and was accidentally and tragically killed by sentinel guards who reacted nervously to him (thinking that he was a Japanese ground-based saboteur) when he failed to halt and identify himself
Prewitt's Death
Returning to Barracks in the Dark
Killed by Sentinel Guards
Warden's Epitaph
  • Sgt. Warden's reaction to the "good soldier's" demise with praise and a glorifying epitaph, and explained why he didn't stop: "He was always a hardhead, sir. But he was a good soldier. He loved the Army more than any soldier I ever knew." Warden grieved over Prewitt's dead body with a eulogy - he regretfully cursed Prew's perpetual stubbornness and overt individuality that indirectly led to his death - when he couldn't "play it smart": "You just couldn't play it smart, could ya? All ya had to do was box. But no, not you, you hard-head! Funny thing is, there ain't gonna be any boxin' championships this year"
  • the final scene of Karen and Alma leaning on the railing of a Matson ocean liner leaving wartime Hawaii for the mainland to find new lives - after lost and failed loves; on the deck as they forlornly looked back toward the receding island, Karen threw two flower leis into the water from the railing and then explained a legend: "If they float in toward shore you'll come back someday. If they float out to sea, you won't" - the flower leis floated away - they wouldn't be coming back
  • in the film's final lines, Alma spoke about Prewitt, her fiancee - she memorialized him and their aborted affair - and lied (or was deluded) about him when she described him as an idealized, tragic (and romantic) hero who was killed while defending Pearl Harbor - she mentioned his name: "He was named after a general - Robert E. Lee - Prewitt...Robert E. Lee Prewitt. Isn't that a silly old name?"

(l to r): Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster) & Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt (Montgomery Clift)

Karen Holmes' (Deborah Kerr) First Kiss with Sgt. Warden (Burt Lancaster)

Death of Maggio (Frank Sinatra)

"Prew's" Taps for Maggio

Fugitive "Prew" with Hooker-Girlfriend Alma (Lorene) (Donna Reed)

Warden During Pearl Harbor Attack

Karen and Alma at Cruise-Ship Railing, Leaving Hawaii

Alma: "Robert E. Lee Prewitt. Isn't that a silly old name?"

Legend of Two Flower Leis in Water


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