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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
William Wyler’s moving saga of the postwar lives of three World War II vets was a boldly frank film for 1946 (when it earned an Academy Award for Best Picture), and it remains the definitive film about veterans readjusting to civilian life. Al (Best Actor Oscar winner Fredric March, shown) comes home to a loving wife (Myrna Loy), but he feels estranged from his grown children and his job (in a bank that regards his fellow vets as figures on a balance sheet), so he turns to drink. Fred (Dana Andrews) finds his wartime heroism as a bomber pilot doesn’t count for much when he’s trying to find work or impress the war bride (Virginia Mayo) he barely knows. And Homer (Harold Russell) feels like damaged goods, having been maimed in combat. Russell, an amateur actor who really did lose both of his hands in the war, earned an honorary Oscar for ”bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans,” then beat the competition to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, making him the only performer to win two Academy Awards for the same performance.
Image Credit: Everett Collection
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