“I’ve had that same dream hundreds of times... Am I really home?”
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
“I don't want you to think of this as a Hollywood picture,”
I want something simple and believable.”
So said producer Sam Goldwyn, still minus an Oscar after seven near misses.
Back from the war (the subject of the movie), director William Wyler balked at owing one more film to the man he said would like his credit to read: Sam Goldwyn presents Sam Goldwyn in Sam Goldwyn, written, produced and directed by Sam Goldywn.
The only project Wyler fancied on the shelves was MacKinlay Kantor's Glory For Me. Playwright Robert Sherwood moved into Goldwyn's home to work on the script, although feeling it would be outdated before the film could open. Quite the opposite, said Sam.
Fred MacMurray and Olivia De Havilland were not impressed by the Stephenson couple. “Third banana,” is how Fred described the role that earned another Fred, Fredric March, his Oscar. From his contract stable, Goldwyn made the wife Teresa Wright (“best crier in the business,” said Wyler) with Farley Granger as Homer, the spastic soldier... until Wyler recalled an Army documentary about Sergeant Harold Russell “who'd got into an argument with a block of TNT.” His hands were replaced both hooks.
Russell proved a natural actor. More important, his attitude was right. Homer, like Russell, had adjusted to Civvy Street better than the other two vets, suffering more emotional than physical trauma.
Enter: Russell, forever told by March to
“Keep those godamned
hooks out of my dialogue.”
Shooting took place from April 15-August 9, 1946. The more important date was March 13, 1947 - Oscarnight at the Shrine Auditorium. The film won seven of eight nominations: editing, music, script, supporting actor, actor, director and, finally for Goldwyn, best picture. He also won the Irving Thalberg award and Russell became the first winner of two Oscars for one role (he sold one for $60,000 in 1992 - the first being a special award for “bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans”).
Therefore, Sam called it nine Oscars - “one more than Gone With The Wind!” And Cary Grant asked Russell: “Where can I get a stick of dynamite?”
As part of the hype, Goldwyn went on Bob Hope's radio show. “Well, Mr. Goldwyn how have things been going since I left your studio?” The scripted answer was obvious: “We've had the best years of our lives.”
Sam, being Sam, said: “Things are better than ever”!