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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
1946 - William Wyler
United States
23
Opening Shot

The setting is an airport as we see a solider returning from overseas and having trouble getting home to his family. Another man comes by to pickup his ticket. The airline attendant suggest the captain try the ATC. He asks where it is and then quickly heads off.

The Film

William Wyler's award-winning, The Best Years of Our Lives is an honest, deeply moving American landmark that is worthy of all it's praise. Told as a straight-narrative of the lives of three unique WW2 Veterans, it's a classic film that manages to fully engage the viewer throughout it's entire three hours. Wyler, who was known as a perfectionist, succeeded in creating a flawless film. From the leagenadry Gregg Toland's beautiful deep focus Black and White cinematography, to the incredible acting from the entire ensemble cast, to the touching, dramatic screenplay. The Best Years of Our Lives is ambitious and powerful from the opening longing to return home scene through it's heart-warming finale. The characters and visual details of the film contain rare depth and complexity. Toland collaborated with Wyler on 7 films (more then he did with any other director), and this is truly the finest of them all. In fact, this ranks among the greatest displays of cinematography ever created! Really, The Best Years of Our Lives is perfect in every aspect of filmmaking. A absolute classic, and so much more. Few films offer as much emotional drama as this memorable masterpiece, which stands as one of the truly greatest films of Hollywood's magical era.

The Filmmaker

One of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the history of American film, William Wyler stands as a historic legend of the Studio era. Today however, Wyler's name seems much less remembered then those during or even after his era (John Ford, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder). Perhaps because Wyler is less known for the auteur status of his peers he is forgotten as a great filmmaker, but this should never discredit his place in history. His films will never be forgotten and even if Wyler's name goes unnoticed, his films have been and are still embraced. His career spanned over 5 decades and he has produced classics in each of them. Wyler began in the 1920s making silent B-pictures (most of which were Westerns). It is here where Wyler would incorporate and eventually master some inventive filmmaking techniques. Wyler may not have had a signature style like Hitchcock, or Wilder for example, but his filmmaking was still mastery in every sense. Wyler is the quintessential classic filmmaker of the era. As he worked these techniques (most notably his long camera takes and sweeping camera movement) into the sound era, Wyler was given bigger budgets in the 1930s. His big breakthrough came in 1936 with one of the very great achievements of the decade, Dodsworth. From that point on, Wyler would make a nearly endless list of classic Hollywood films (including his greatest film- 1946's The Best Years of Our Lives, which is a timeless masterwork in every sense). His three films with Bette Davis made her a screen legend (Jezebel, The Letter, and Little Foxes) and in 1953 he gave Audrey Hepburn her first starring role in which she ultimately won her only Best Actress Oscar with 1953's lovable Roman Holiday. Wyler's accolades are nearly unmatched. To date Wyler has received the most Best Director Academy Award nominations (12- he won the award 3 times), he has generated the most nominated acting performances (35) and the most Oscar-winning acting performances (14). He also directed 13 films that received Best Picture Oscar-nominees (3 of which won the award). In 1976 Wyler received the American Film Institute's 4th Lifetime Achievement Award. Wyler remains a Hollywood legend who's classic films remain unforgettable pieces of Hollywood history.

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